KC’s City Hall offers a bird’s-eye view

Photography by Zach Bauman.

There are lots of reasons to head to the observation deck topping Kansas City City Hall, not the least being the incredible city-wide views.

The 1937 structure is an architectural gem worth a visit in its own right, whether you make it to the 30th-floor observation deck or not. The building is a complementary mix of both the Beaux-Arts and Art Deco styles. Designed by Wight and Wight, a popular Kansas City architecture firm at the time, the building replaced an earlier city hall at the same location. It was one of the tallest buildings in KC and Missouri when it was first built. Sitting on a hill, the 443-foot building (525 feet if you count the antenna), remains the fifth-tallest building in KC today and one of the tallest city halls in the country, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

KC City Hall was one of many government buildings built to counter the effects of the Great Depression. It was constructed under the influence of KC’s most notorious political boss, Tom Pendergast, who owned the company that provided the immense amount of concrete needed for the steel and concrete slab construction method.

The interior is elaborate, with marble stairways and bronze architectural details. The structure cost $6 million at the time, far exceeding the $4 million bond allotted for the project. Imported Italian and French marble and hand-distressed oak and walnut veneer paneling are just some of the awe-inspiring particulars. Others include custom brass door knob plates, elaborate light fixtures and sculpted brass elevator doors depicting the city’s major modes of transportation. The overall effect is that of a big-city metropolis building —so much so that if you do ride the elevator to the 28th floor and climb the two flights to the top, you start to believe you might even see Superman do a flyover.

The open-air observation deck wraps around the entire building and provides sweeping views of the city and surrounding suburbs. The deck is open to the public, weather permitting, via a tour guide. If you’re lucky, you might get a guide who has lots of knowledge and can regale you with stories from the past, such as when a man proposed to his girlfriend on the deck to everyone’s surprise.

Tour reservations are required and can be made via email. For more information, visit kcmo.gov.  

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