Offbeat

Offbeat

Allan Winkler

Cut-outs | Private property — visible from the street

Besides cutting paper and metal images, Allan is a ceramic sculptor, a painter, a quilt maker, a clothes designer, a batik artist. He has played drums for jazz groups and rock-and-roll bands, acted in plays, made prize-winning films and videotapes, taught art in college, written articles and lengthy literary journals.

And his house is an ever-evolving piece of art as well.

1600 Madison Ave
Kansas City, MO
816 221-1732
winklerart.com

Bull Tower

Beef satay

We are called “Cowtown” for a reason. Sure, it could be because of the Livestock Exchange down in the West Bottoms, but I like to think it’s the glowing American Hereford Association’s mascot that earned us the title. You can see it from I-35 downtown.

Long before KC International Airport opened up north, the downtown Municipal Airport was the hub for air traffic, and the big beef stood sentry over downtown. Imagine landing or taking off and needing to clear this illuminated bovine on a 90-foot stick. Holy cow!

Visible from Bee-Line and Jefferson
Kansas City, MO
hereford.org

Giant Head of Charlie Parker

Jazz great tribute | Visible from the street

“Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.”

The words and influence of Charlie “Bird” Parker have echoed through generations of musicians. The legendary saxophonist’s electrifying sound took the jazz world by storm in the 1940s and carried on until his death in 1955. Bird’s musical ideas and instrumental prowess provided the foundation for the sound that became known as “bebop.”

17th Terrace and the Paseo
Kansas City, MO
americanjazzmuseum.org

Giant Needle and Button

Erected in 2002, this 22-foot tall homage is tucked away on a pedestrian plaza in KC’s own Garment District.

Back in the 30s, Kansas City was considered the “Paris of the Plains” employing over 4,000 people in the garment industry alone. One pioneer was Nell Donnelly, a woman whose company, “Nelly Don,” was the largest dress manufacturer of the 20th century.

Nelly Don was one of the first companies to apply assembly line techniques to clothing manufacturing. As an employer, Nell was also ahead an business innovator by offering medical benefits to her mostly female employees, unheard of at the time.

404 W 8th St.
Kansas City, MO

Glore Psychiatric Museum

Offbeat museum

OK, technically this should be in the “day trip” section, but it is just too good to be relegated to the back of the book. When George Glore first devised the museum, this was part of St. Joseph State Hospital. Now, it sits in a building of its own, using props and dioramas to portray some of the less enlightened ways mental patients were treated in days of yore. But the best part (aside from the gift shop) is the art made by patients and an incredible tapestry of swallowable items removed from one poor girl’s stomach – over 1400 pieces in all!

3408 Frederick Avenue
St. Joseph, MO
(816) 232-8471
stjosephmuseum.org/glore.htm

Steeple of Light

Frank Lloyd Wright design

Based on a parallelogram, the design of the Community Christian Church began with Frank Lloyd Wright, whose original plans included a steeple of light. It was conceived after church’s former structure on the corner of Forest and Linwood burned to the ground on Halloween night, 1939.

Wright eventually quit after too much interference (ok – building costs overruns didn’t help matters, but he vehemently objected to the building being sheathed in a lightweight form of concrete.) Edward Buelher Delk, architect darling of JC Nichols, stepped in to complete the project, sans a spire of light (since it was technically impossible at the time.) Delk also designed the buildings on the Plaza, as well as Starlight Theatre, so he was a safe bet after the mercurial Wright. It was completed in 1942.

1990 brought artist and Art Institute instructor, Dale Eldred, in to resurrect the Steeple. Tragically, he died in a fall at his studio in the West Bottoms in 1993, before he could see the project actualized. His wife, Roberta Lord saw Dale (and Frank’s) vision through to completion.

The Steeple of Light was finally completed in 1994, as it was originally conceived over 50 years before. Calculated to beam at 3 miles above earth, (about half the height jets fly,) it can be seen on weekends until midnight, and during the holidays.

4601 Main Street
Kansas City, MO
816-561-6531
community-christian.org/index.htm

Monkey Head Wall

Folk art, Embedded concrete | Private property — Visible from the street

Once upon a time, the privacy fence wasn’t there – but you can still see a few sections of a pretty cool embedded concrete wall, adorned with animal faces, with an emphasis on monkeys. Years ago, I chatted with the owner who was none too happy to have all of the attention that her art wall was garnering (and apparently still isn’t thrilled.) The wall was constructed with molds made from Halloween masks, particularly ones from the “Planet of the Apes” era.

Just be careful, respectful, and park down the street.

8th and Puckett
Kansas City, KS

TWA Moonliner II

During TWA’s heyday, its corporate headquarters building was easily identified by the 22-foot-tall TWA Moonliner II rocket that stood on the roof’s southwest corner. It was modeled after the original 76-foot-tall, one-third scale TWA Moonliner at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland attraction. (TWA was the Moonliner’s corporate sponsor until 1962.)

Their replica was then removed from the building’s roof by the airline’s new owners, shortly after Howard Hughes sold his controlling interest in the airline. The iconic rocket was then sold to SpaceCraft, a Kansas City, MO travel-trailer company, who left it out to pasture.

The deteriorated rocket replica was later sold and restored by its new owner, a longtime Disney collector. It is on display at Kansas City’s National Airline History Museum located at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport.

The historic restoration of the TWA headquarters building (now ad agency, Barkley) led to the fabrication of a brand new Moonliner II replica that stands proudly on the same roof location as the original. Yep, this is a replica of the replica, but still pretty cool.

1721 Baltimore Ave
Kansas City, MO
816-842-1500

The “Or House”

Found material environment | Private property — visible from the street

This stellar example of urban pioneering (the building was last home to a porn shop) is part gardens and part recycled sculpture yard. The guys from KCPT’s “Rare Visions” christened it the “Or House” because of the large orange letters salvaged from an Osco Drug Store standing out front amidst a massive wall of pallets and bottles that Laurie and Linda, who own the place, have used to encircle their plot.

An ever-changing environment, it is worth a drive-by.

3314 Troost Avenue
Kansas City, MO

Propaganda3

We could be considered quite an attraction and definitely a bit offbeat, especially for folks looking for killer digital production… Or just call to stop by and pet one of the many dogs roaming the offices.

415 Delaware 415E
Kansas City, MO
816-474-6333 
talk@propaganda3.com
propaganda3.com 

Westport Flea Market (Hamburgermobile)

Art Car and Hamburgers

The burgers are juicy and the beer is icy cold. Westport Flea Market once was a small hamburger joint tucked inside a midtown flea market. During the 80s, infamous serial killer Bob Berdella ran a booth in the flea market during his off-hours from mayhem.

And about that giant Burger Mobile? Here it is straight from the owner, Joe Zwillenberg:

“I was in New York with my wife and was around Time Square when I saw this car covered with vegetables. … I just had to approach the owner [Sculptor Matt Targon]. I was [there] for an entire week and so had some cash and offered him $800 as a down payment. He couldn’t believe it — that some stranger would hand him cash. But it was obvious he was talented and I kept saying, “I trust you man.” We shook on the deal right there. An hour later he called me to say that he didn’t know there were still people like me willing to do deals with a stranger on a handshake. And he said, “I’m going to make you the best hamburger vehicle ever. You’re going to love it,” and he delivered.”

817 Westport Rd
Kansas City, MO
816 931-1986

Union Station Massacre

Historic gun battle

On June 17, 1933, 30 seconds is all it took for the The Union Station Massacre to go down. “Pretty Boy” Floyd and Adam Richetti were gunmen as convicted felon Frank Nash was transported from Arkansas to the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, (from which he had escaped a few years earlier).

Nash and four law enforcement officers layed dead in the aftermath of the historic shootout. Floyd was shot dead later in Ohio. Richetti was convicted for the murders, and died in Missouri’s gas chamber. You can still see the bullet marks on the front of Union Station.

The savage massacre marked the birth of the F.B.I. It gave J. Edgar Hoover the federal funding to launch the fledgling program with full force.

Enough of the interesting gangster history, what about the station itself? Due to its central location, Kansas City was a hub for both passenger and freight rail traffic, serving 12 railroads at the turn of the 20th century, so the massive scale of the building reflected this status.

Jarvis Hunt, a proponent of the City Beautiful movement, was chosen as the architect. The Beaux-Arts design included the Grand Hall, with its 95 feet high ceiling, three chandeliers each weighing 3,500 pounds, and the main clock with a six-foot diameter face. Union Station opened on October 30,1914, as the second-largest train station in the country.

Today, Union Station is home to Amtrak, as well as the Science Museum and a variety of traveling exhibits, as well as Pierpont’s restaurant.

30 W Pershing Rd
Kansas City, MO
(816) 460-2020
unionstation.org/exhibitsevents.html

Workhouse Castle

Stone castle | Visible from the street

Built in1897 by architects Wallace Love and James Oliver Hogg, originally as the city prison, or workhouse, for petty criminals to work off their sentences. Also called “Brant’s Castle”, after Major Alfred Brant, Superintendent of the Kansas City Workhouse, it replaced the old workhouse which was located across the street.

At only $30,000, the design was basically a whim, since it didn’t cost anymore to make it look like a castle. It remained a workhouse until 1918, when it was converted into city office space through the 1970’s. Then the city abandoned it, bricked up the doors and windows, and removed the floors. Today, it is a very cool shell of its former self.

2001 Vine Street
Kansas City, MO

World’s Largest Ball of Twine

A postal worker named Finley Scott did the winding — with string — which isn’t the same as twine, mind you. He had it certified by Guinness, took it out in a parade or two (judging by the pictures) and then the ball pretty much went into hiding in a storeroom in O’Malley’s Bar since the 1970s.

The guys at the pub were adding a nice outdoor deck, knocked down the walls around it, and suddenly the world record holder had an audience once again.

500 Welt Street
Weston, MO
816-640-5235

World’s Largest Ball of Video Tape

Big ball number 2 | By appointment only

It started like this… in 1982, the guys from the PBS travel show, “Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations” made a pilgrimage to Cawker City, KS for a twine-a-thon to add girth to the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. Seems there were other balls in other places making claims to be the “world’s largest,” and by winding twine together, townfolks hoped to regain the title. Inspired, the boys decided to create a record-holder of their own, using something they had plenty of close at hand at the time: 3/4-inch videotape.

Today, it weighs in at a whopping 68.5 lbs., and resides at the KCPT studios. Give Randy a call to see…

125 East 31st Street
Kansas City, MO
816-410-1100

World’s Largest Bookshelf

The glass elevators for the Kansas City Public Library’s parking-lot-turned-bookshelf act as bookends for the 22 titles that loom 25 feet tall. Be sure to note the stairs of cast concrete books as well.

Random library fact – While living in Kansas City (1919-1923), Walt Disney checked out three books from the Kansas City Public Library – the then newly published “Animated Cartoons – How They Are Made Their Origin And Development” (You can flip through an entire copy of the 1926 edition here) and two Eadweard Muybridge books, “The Human Figure In Motion” and “Animals In Motion.”

112 W. 10th St.
Kansas City, MO
816-701-3400
kclibrary.org

World’s Largest Cap Gun

Hanging over the sidewalk near artist lofts in the West Bottoms, this homage to the childhood toy was created by artist Brock Venti.

1219 Union St
Kansas City, MO

World’s Largest Shuttlecocks

Big stuff | Visible from the street

These 4 Claes Oldenburg sculptures are on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, with the building acting as a giant “net.” Each shuttlecock weighs 5,500 pounds, stands nearly 18 feet tall and has a diameter of 16 feet. No climbing!

4525 Oak Street
Kansas City, MO
816-561-4000

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