21c Museum Hotel Kansas City by MGallery

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Discover the 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City by MGallery, which encompasses the former Savoy Hotel and Savoy Grill, a favorite of Harry Truman.

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21c Museum Hotel Kansas City by MGallery, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2019, dates back to 1888.

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Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City by MGallery is a spectacular holiday destination. The building’s fascinating origin story is a tale involving two distinct venues. Consisting of a historic hotel and its accompanying restaurant, this stunning location has been in operation for more than a century. The hotel itself actually predates the restaurant, having occupied the site since 1888. It was founded by John and Charles Arbuckle, who rose in prominence throughout Kansas City due to the success of their business, the Arbuckle Coffee Company. (The men were even known all over the community as the “Coffee Kings.”) To further enhance their economic prosperity, the brothers decided to construct an upscale hotel in the center of what is now the city’s financial district. The Arbuckles hired the architectural firm Van Burnt & Howe for the project, who subsequently designed the building with Art Nouveau-style architecture. When the Savoy Hotel finally debuted in the 1890s, the hotel featured a number of amazing architectural features that included a magnificent series of stained-glass windows that are still present today. Yet, due to the rising popularity of the Arbuckle family’s hotel, John and Charles Arbuckle had to hire Van Burnt & Howe again to oversee a massive construction project. The firm specifically remodeled the hotel’s interior lobby and added on an entirely new sixth floor. It even created space for an upscale barbershop to operate from the building’s ground floor!

The restaurant appeared shortly thereafter in 1903, when the Arbuckles added on the current western wing. Opening as the “Savoy Grill,” the restaurant rapidly emerged as a beloved attraction in Kansas City. Patrons were quickly enamored with the establishment’s delectable menu of seafood and steak, as well as its stunning carved oak bar and high-beamed ceilings. The Savoy Grill soon attracted many famous American luminaries, including W.C. Fields, Will Rogers, and John D. Rockefeller. The restaurant also developed a close following among the nation’s leading statesmen, as several U.S. Presidents frequently visited the Savory Grill. Even the great Harry S. Truman began visiting the Savoy Grill while running his short-lived haberdashery in downtown Kansas City. Truman fell in love so much with the restaurant that he and his wife, Bess, became regular guests. Harry S. Truman would continue to visit the Savoy Grill upon his return trips to the community as President of the United States three decades later, often eating inside the No. 4 Booth. (The No. 4 Booth is also known as the “Presidents’ Booth, as it has been the host to other U.S. Presidents, such as Warren G. Harding, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan.)

The Park Central Investment Company eventually purchased both businesses from the Arbuckle brothers during the 1940s, maintaining its status as a renowned destination in downtown Kansas City over the next few decades. But while the Savoy Grill kept its prestigious reputation for some time thereafter, the hotel increasingly declined in popularity. A local restauranteur named Don Lee attempted to revive interest in the hotel when he bought the entire location during the 1960s. Lee decided to heavily renovate the building, adding on additions to both the restaurant and hotel over the next twenty years. He even converted the hotel into a bed-and-breakfast in a bid to rekindle its allure. After owning the building for the better part of six decades, Lee decided to sell both businesses to a new generation of hoteliers. In cooperation with local real estate developers, 21c Museum Hotels acquired the site from Lee in 2014. 21c Museum Hotels subsequently initiated its own spirited series of renovations that completely reinvigorated the entire facility. Upon completing its own ambitious renovation of the entire location, 21c Museum Hotels debuted both the hotel and restaurant together as the “21c Museum Hotel Kansas City” in 2018. Now a member of Historic Hotels of America, the 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City is once again among the finest places to visit in Kansas City, Missouri.

  • About the Location +

    Kansas City is among the most historic cities in all of the United States, dating back to the first decades of the 19th century. French fur traders led by the Chouteau family traveled up the Missouri River from St. Louis to create a trading post in the area at the start of the 1820s. It was later joined by a rival settlement founded by John Calvin McCoy some ten years later called “West Port.” West Port gradually evolved into an important embarkation point for settlers eager to cross the Great Plains, serving as the starting location for those destined to travel along such famous historic frontier routes like the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon trails. Enough people had moved to the area that the State of Missouri incorporated the two communities together as the “Town of Kansas” in 1853. It continued to play a major role in facilitating the settlement of the West, even as the political turmoil of the American Civil War tore at the very cultural fabric of its population. Given Missouri’s status as a slave state and its proximity to both the free states of Kansas and the Old Northwest, the city was fiercely divided between Confederate and Union sympathizers. As such, northern and southern armies targeted the area throughout the conflict, due to its strategic significance. The Union quickly established its headquarters for its District of the Border military department as a means of combating any local dissent. But Confederate forces nevertheless tried tirelessly to wrestle control away from the federal army. Rebel guerilla fighter, William C. Quantrill, conducted numerous raids around the city in order to weaken the North’s hold over the community, building a notorious reputation in the process. Then, in 1864, Confederate general Sterling Price led an army of 8,500 soldiers in a campaign along the Missouri River that had the city as its ultimate prize. Fortunately for the Union, General Samuel Curtis managed to route Price at the Battle of Westport that October, finally securing Missouri’s southern borders. (The battle itself was the largest one fought in the Trans-Mississippi Theater and is often regarded as the “Gettysburg of the West” by military historians.)

    The community recovered swiftly once the conflict had ended, emerging as a prosperous manufacturing center, specifically for the meatpacking industry. One of the greatest factors contributing to its economic renaissance was the arrival of the railroads in the 1860s and 1870s. Many entrepreneurs sought to create commercial enterprises that would make Kansas City an attractive place for railroad executives to open train stations. A number of new skyscrapers appeared in downtown Kansas City, as well, specifically in the neighborhoods that resided near the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. Some of the most recognizable landmarks in the locale opened at the time, such as the R.A. Long Building, the Scarritt Building, and Commerce Bank. Other magnificent venues debuted, too, including the famous Kansas City Zoo and the prestigious Country Club District. Its population continued to swell as such, inspiring the community to re-charter itself as “Kansas City” in 1889. Among the new wave of people migrating to Kansas City at the time were African Americans, who spent the first few decades of the 20th century relocating to the area. They specifically established a vibrant community in the vicinity of 18th and Vine streets, opening a series of successful businesses. And at the height of the Roaring Twenties, the neighborhood developed a separate reputation for its lively social clubs. Many musicians often played nightly shows inside the venues that proliferated throughout the district, giving rise to Kansas City-style jazz. Among the musicians who got their start in the neighborhood were Bennie Morten, Charlie Parker, and Count Basie. (Part of the reason why the city built such a reputation for its nightlife was that its mayor, Tom Pendergast, often disregarded federal Prohibition ordinances caused by the 18th Amendment. His loose enforcement of the law is now the subject of many legends.) Today, Kansas City has maintained its place as one of America’s most noteworthy destinations. It is home to countless cultural attractions, including The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Arabia Steamboat Museum, and the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial.


  • About the Architecture +

    Constructed in the early 20th century, the 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City by MGallery displays some of the finest Art Nouveau architecture in all of Kansas City. Part of the greater cultural phenomenon known as the “Belle Époque,” Art Nouveau architecture was among the most popular styles in Europe from the 1890s till the outbreak of World War I. It quickly appeared in both North America and Europe, referred to by such names like “Glasgow Style,” “Modern Style,” and “Sezessionsstil.” And some of the most prominent architectural minds employed Art Nouveau architecture. Perhaps the greatest example Hector Guimard’s wonderful Castel Béranger in Paris, France. The term itself was derived from an article published in the L’Art Moderne to introduce the work of architectural collective Les Vingt toward the end of the 19th century. Architects who embraced the Art Nouveau were among a growing demographic of intellectuals that yearned to create novel artistic forms that broke with the imitative historicism of the past. More importantly, they wanted their new architectural motifs to reflect imaginative creativity, especially as Western society on both sides of the Atlantic became increasingly more structured and industrialized. Over time, those professionals created a design aesthetic characterized by its curvaceous lines and use of organic shapes. Objects from nature were featured prominently throughout the façade of every structure, too, including the likes of insects and exotic plants. Surfaces often contained terra cotta coverings, and ornate tile moldings spread throughout the interior. Sloped arches also defined the windows and doors, while fantastic mosaics existed on nearly every ceiling. Asymmetrical layouts structured many Art Nouveau buildings, as well, providing for a unique appearance in many of the West’s sprawling cities. Art Nouveau architecture was eventually phased out during the 1920s in favor of a new style known as “Art Deco.” Its emphasis on modernity seemed to better represent Western culture as it emerged from the aftermath of World War I.


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    John D. Rockefeller, founder of the Standard Oil Company.

    W.C. Fields, comedian known such films like The Bank Dick, It’s a Gift, and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.

    Will Rogers, actor known for his roles in such films like Judge Priest, In Old Kentucky, and Steamboat Round the Bend.

    Elizabeth “Bess” Truman, First Lady to former U.S. President Harry S. Truman (1945 – 1953)

    Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the United States (1921 – 1923)

    Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States (1945 – 1953)

    Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States (1974 – 1977)

    Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States (1981 – 1989)


  • Art Collection +

    Specially commissioned site-specific works by some of the contemporary art world’s most exciting artists can be found throughout 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City. As guests enter the building, guests are greeted by Lufterk’s Linear Sky, an immersive light installation that leads people inside the hotel. The light fixtures vary in length, producing an anamorphic optical illusion of an expanding, outward pattern of line and color. The LEDs are programmed with a lighting sequence inspired by the changing hues of the outdoor skies above the urban landscape of Kansas City: the palette of bright morning saturates the walls that greet visitors, while the glow of waning daylight colors envelop those en route to the outdoors. Evoking the span from dawn to dusk and back again, Linear Sky juxtaposes day and night, nature and technology, past and present, welcoming visitors into a space of the future. The vertical light fixtures installed on monochromatic walls reference the aesthetics of Minimalism, and create a strong, contemporary contrast to the historic patterning on the floor and the ornate pilasters on the walls. The geometric interplay of the vertical and the horizontal within this narrow, ramp leading to and from the lobby both highlights and transforms the architecture, offering visitors views of a new horizon from either direction. As guests enter the dome gallery they will encounter Ken and Julia Yonetani’s Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations (U.S.A.), a massive chandelier comprised of glowing uranium glass. Part of a larger body of work looking at the nuclear capacity of all of the nuclear nations, the size of each chandelier relates to the scale of each country’s nuclear power capacity. Now, beneath the historic Tiffany glass dome in 21c Kansas City, this work references nature, artifice, technology, and various manifestations of power, expressing the artists’ interrogation, “In the future, what should we wish for?”

    The Savoy, the restaurant and lounge at 21c Kansas City, highlights the building’s historical elements while bringing new life and energy to the space known for its famous patrons, including Harry Truman, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, and John D. Rockefeller. Within this historic space, Brad Kahlhamer’s sculptural installation Super Catcher, Vast Array, takes the form of multiple Native American dream catchers, made of wire and bells. Associated with both Ojibwe and Lakota traditions, dreamcatchers were used as talismans to protect sleeping people, usually children, from bad dreams and nightmares. Native Americans believe that the night air is filled with dreams — hung above the bed in a place where the morning sunlight can hit it, the dream catcher draws all sorts of dreams and thoughts into its webs. Good dreams pass through and gently slide down the feathers to comfort the sleeper below, while bad dreams are caught up in its protective net and destroyed, burned up in the light of day. The beads used in dream catchers are thought to symbolize either or both the spider (the web weaver itself), or the good dreams that could not pass through the web, immortalized in the form of sacred charms. Originally small in size and made with natural materials such as feathers and beads, many dreamcatchers for sale today are often oversized and made of cheap plastic materials. Many Native American cultures still consider the dreamcatcher to be a symbol of unity and identification, while others have come to see dreamcatchers as a symbol of cultural appropriation. Working at a large-scale to create intricate, wire and bell sculptures that shimmer and cast shadows as the light passes over and through the space, Kahlhamer subverts commercial association. Rather, his work affirms the magical, mythical spirit of the dreamcatcher, expanding its power. Super Catcher, Vast Array is a superhero—delicate yet strong, heavy with history yet light with new hopes and dreams.

    Brad Kahlhamer, an artist born to Native parents and adopted by a German-American family, was raised in Arizona and Wisconsin. The artist draws from a broad range of artistic sources, from Native American aesthetics and Abstract Expressionism, to graffiti and popular culture. His references to Native culture cut across tribal traditions and Kahlhamer views himself and his art as “tribally ambiguous.” His installation at 21c Kansas City, Super Catcher, Vast Array, highlights the role of the artist as healer or shaman, bringing a sense of balance, compassion, and inclusivity to a space originally designed to celebrate European-American expansion and the mythology of manifest destiny, as illustrated in the historic murals in the historic Savoy lounge. As the artist explained, the installation of his Super Catcher, Vast Array will “create a visual ‘football game’ with a more level playing field, invoking a multiplicity of histories, visions and voices.” The presence of Kahlhamer’s work transforms a space of the past into a forward-focused one of the present, acknowledging the complexity of history and the potential for progress, a reminder of the advances made since the restaurant’s first incarnation — visual confirmation that art is the highest form of hope.


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