2 postcards of the old and new Fidelity National Bank buildings
An old post card pictures the Fidelity National Bank Building, 911 Walnut, as it appeared when completed in 1932. It was Kansas City's second-tallest building at the time, rising 35 stories to a height of 453 feet 9 inches above the sidewalk.
Holt, Price & Barnes were the architects of the building, which Henry F. Hoit described in a paper, Under the Old Town Clock: The structure will be of the highest-type steel frame and will rest upon solid rock 26 feet below the street. The frame will be fireproofed with concrete and floor slabs will be of reinforced concrete.
The first five floors, handsomely finished in marbles, ornamental metals and decorated plaster and with woodwork of walnut and African mahogany, will be used as the bank's quarters. Corridors and elevator lobbies will have terrazzo floors and marble wainscoting.
A telegraph office, cigar store and barber shop were located in the building. Street cars and buses stopped almost at the door.
The site is a historic one. Purchased in 1879 by the U.S. government for a federal building, the massive, gray stone structure housed a post office, U.S. courts, a customs office and other government offices. It was completed in the mid-1880s.
This first building had in its twin towers the old town clock and bell, purchased by public-spirited citizens because there was no U.S. appropriation at the time for the clock and bell. The clock was said to be the largest clock west of the Mississippi River. The old bell first rang in the New Year of 1884.
President Grover Cleveland, the first U.S. president to visit Kansas City, spoke from the balcony of the historic structure to a crowd of 5,000. He made the oft-quoted statement, There is no limit to what a community living in such a place, and actuated by such a spirit, can do.
In 1902 the federal government built a new post office at 9th and Grand, and sold the old three-story building to the Fidelity Trust Company, which used this location until it was outgrown. The old clock continued to ring out the hour on its 3,900-pound bell. Then in 1929 the trust company decided to raze the building and build the current skyscraper. In 1931, as the Fidelity Bank building neared completion, the old clock was installed in the twin towers, the four faces looking out over the city in four directions.
In 1946 the federal government bought the Fidelity Bank Building. The clock continued to tick away, but during the mid-1950s it was decided that the manpower needed to keep the clock in operating condition could be better used elsewhere. The clock was turned off. In August 1972 government officials feared the stained glass face of the clock might fall into the street 35 stories below, and it was dismantled.
Today 890 federal employees work in the building, which houses 18 agencies.
Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri
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