a rare look at burnham & root's kansas city board of trade building shortly before its demolition in 1968

rarely seen richard nickel photographs of burnham and root's kansas city board of trade building (1888) shortly before it was demolished in 1968. 

a year before, the building owners terminated maintenance, turned off heat and electricity, and chained the doors shut. thankfully ornamental iron (bower-barff finish) located throughput the skylighted concourse (fabricated by the winslow brothers) was salvaged during the building's demolition. i'm not sure if any of the exterior's red terra cotta ornament survived. would love to see. 

original john wellborn root-designed ornamental cast iron kansas city board of trade building (1888) staircase baluster, executed by the winslow brothers foundry. the burnham and root building was demolished in 1968. bldg. 51 collection.

the images of the grain trading hall are hard to look at. the gargantuan stone mantel is/was stunning. the ornamental door hardware was fabricated by the yale & towne mfg. company. i'm so thankful nickel made the trek down there to document the exterior/interior (in great detail based on the number of contact sheets). it's all we have... the images and some ornament.

nickel prints and ornament courtesy of the ryerson and burnham library archive, john vinci collection and bldg. 51 museum collection.


over fifty architectural firms participated in a competition to design the new headquarters of the kansas city board of trade. some of the more notable respondents to submit drawings and/or plans, included peabody & stearns of boston, george b. post of new york, and john root of chicago, who was awarded the commission in 1886.

built at a cost of $700,000, the twelve story board of trade building was designed on an h-plan, with two major wings joined by a monumental entrance arch, skylighted concourse, and a soaring elevator tower.

original board of trade office doorknob with largely intact "rust-proof" bower-barff finish. the building's custom-designed hardware was executed by the yale & towne mfg. company, stamford, ct.

after weeks of negotiating, i managed to purchase an original john wellborn root-designed kansas city board of trade building (1888) panel for the bldg. 51 architectural ornament collection. when the combination cast and wrought ornamental iron header panel arrived the other day, i spent nearly all afternoon documenting it. in my humble opinion, this is some wellborn's very best ornament - akin to louis sullivan's mccormick house radiator grille. chicago-based winslow brothers executed the board of trade's ornamental iron work - including the oversized panel (it measures ten feet in length by three feet in height). the bower-barff finish wore off long ago - with the weathered panel exhibiting allover rust and light pitting, restoration work will be necessary. william winslow's chicago-based foundry (founded in 1887) fabricated some of the finest metalwork during the late 19th and early 20th century, including sullivan's mccormick grille, the owatonna bank teller cages, guaranty building and stock exchange ornament, and so on.

richard nickel photographic print of burnham and root's kansas city board of trade building (1888). the ornamental iron (bower-barff finish) located throughput the skylighted concourse or lobby was fabricated by the winslow brothers.

inside was a two-story lobby with a skylight supported, in part, by cast-iron columns. marble stairways on either side led to a gallery serving the mezzanine offices, while passage through the lobby led to the elevators. the building design is closely related to the rookery (1888) in chicago.

original undated chromolithograph of burham & root's rookery building (1888). possibly from american architect and building news. collection of john vinci.

rookery building's hand-carved red granite rooks designed by john wellborn root. the rooks flank the building's lasalle street arched entrance. building completed in 1886. burnham and root, architects.

architectural historians consider the board of trade building in kansas city to be an important step in the evolution of john roots design work, which eventually led to his greatest achievement - the extant 1892 monadnock building in chicago. 

burnham and root's monadnock building. photographed by richard nickel.

south entrance ornamental terra cotta - monadnock building (1891-1893). fabricated by the northwestern terra cotta company. burnham and root, and holabird and roche, architects.

exterior cornice detail.

monadnock building (1893) interior lobby bare bulb ceiling pendant. comprise of cast aluminum (unusual at the time). fabricated by the winslow brothers, chicago, ills.

original historically important cast aluminum monadnock building (1891-1893) doorknob and backplate (far left) designed by john w. root. the mondanock was one of the earliest commercial buildings to use aluminum as ornament. burnham and root, holabird and roche, architects. the lettered doorknobs (i.e., m,k, and w) indicated which building offices resided in ( "k" represented mount kearsarge in new hampshire). collection of tim samuelson.

like the venetian (1892) and isabella (1894), the monadnock (burnham & root, 1891) was outfitted with ornamental aluminum in the lobby and copper-plated cast iron on the upper floors. the ornament in all three buildings was fabricated by the winslow brothers. a single flight of stairs - top floor on south end of building has been restored to the original finish. the newels, balusters, risers, and stringers on the remaining floors retain the old black paint (not bower-barff) finish. courtesy of the bldg. 51 museum collection.

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