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Willis Wood Theatre

Photo from the Kansas City Public Library collection.
118 W 11th St
Kansas City MO

Demolished 1918
Record #10559  
 Opened: 1902
 Closed: 1917
 Demolished: 1918
Architect(s): Louis Curtiss
Architectural Style(s):
National Register:
Current Organ: none
 Also Known As:

Information for this tour was contributed by Kansas City Public Library.

Col. Willis Wood had made a fortune in wholesale dry goods and the manufacture of clothing in St. Joseph before he came here and built the ornate $400,000 theater that bore his name. It was located at Eleventh street and Baltimore avenue and he lived at the Baltimore hotel across the street, during construction. Louis Curtiss was the architect.

The theater was opened the evening of August 25, 1902, and the occasion was remembered as one of the most brilliant society events in Kansas City. Colonel Woods, with his ruddy face and gray mustache, took bows from his private box.

The boxes took up the front row of the second floor after the manner of the "diamond horseshoe" in New York's Metropolitan Opera house. Amelia Bingham was the star of the opening show in "A Modern Magdalene." O.D. Woodward was the lessee of the playhouse.

Advertisements from old Willis Wood programs stir memories: "Morton's café for after-theater club sandwiches and oysters-1024 Main"; "Get your carriage checks from the footman, he will call your vehicle after the performance"; "Tunnel entrance to right as you pass out of this theater, (to Baltimore hotel bar)"; "Photos by Miss Reineke"; "Hotel Kupper, 11th & McGee, half a block from Emery Bird's"; "The Chocolate shop, Hot Drinks & Lowney's Chocolates, 20 Petticoat Lane"; "Derby Turf exchange, bookmaking on racing events"; "Latest high buttoned and high lace shoes"; "Mohair waists with panel & English skirts made to order, John Taylor's"; "Matinees Wednesdays and Saturdays"; "Accordion, side & box pleating, sunburst a specialty"; "Take the Wabash right to the gates of the World's fair (St. Louis), round trips daily $6.00"; "Morledge's Fish & Oyster house, theater parties a specialty"; "Rock's Flower store, Beauties, Violets and Orchids."

The Willis Wood theater had the first-class field to itself until 1906 when the Shubert theater was built. In late years stock companies played the theater, burlesque had a fling in 1913-14, then motion pictures. At the end stock companies again trod the boards. The relatively brief career of the theater ended with a disastrous fire in January, 1917. "In Old Kentucky" was the bill at the final show.

Demolition began in 1918 to make way for the new 20-story Kansas City Athletic club. Today it is the Hotel Continental.

Kansas City Star
January 18, 1969

 Images remain the property of the Member and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the Member.

Postcards from the Kansas City Public Library collection.

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Last featured 3/8/2005. Last edited 9/6/2014.

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