Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hoofing It Around the Garment District

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to keep a gang of twenty or so photographers together? They wander. They meander. They hyper focus on brick work or the light hitting a window, the details. They seem to intently stare into space. They look toward horizons and vistas or tiny fascinating cracks in the sidewalk. They are in your world and yet in their own world behind the lens. Framing and sculpting the image they see into the image they can capture. Focusing and tweaking, setting apertures and speeds, switching lenses, laying on the ground or climbing up on ledges just to get that perfect shot. The photo club that Joe is part of hosted a walking tour of the Historic Garment District in downtown Kansas City a couple of weekends ago. And I felt bad for the very gracious and knowledgeable guide, Nancy, from the Historic Kansas City Foundation, who led us around the area. Her audience was constantly scattering. Chasing down the next shot.  Oh, we listened closing at the beginning but as the tour continued it was hard to keep us all wrangled together.

The two and half hour tour extended into three as Nancy tried to wait for the group to reconvene before she told her next story or explained the next beautiful brick structure. She had to give up though and just plow on with her anecdotes without everyone at attention, otherwise we would have been there for days. She talked through the different buildings and the dates they were constructed. She talked about the huge number of employees that worked in the Garment District in it's heyday, more than 3,000 in the textile mills and fabric stores, and she very patiently, if with a expression of bewilderment, tried to keep us all within sight of each other. On a Saturday morning, this area is quiet. It was crisp and overcast and silent. As we ran across streets, jumped curbs, wandered around corners and gazed up at scrolled iron fire escapes it felt like we almost had the city to ourselves. A few cars drove by, giving our motley group some strange looks and a few honks and hoots out the window, but being there in this less populated part of the city, quietly recording these gorgeous historical buildings was wonderful. So let's get to the photos. Joe's are first.

We took a ton of photos between the two of us. If you want to see the full sets, click here and here. Joe pulled a few of his best shots. (Out of like 400!) He used a wide angle lens for much of the morning so his shots tend to be grander, broader and more dramatic than mine. I love these.

This is the monument to the Historic Garment District in the little park where our tour started.

The New England Life Building, built in the 1880's, it's dark red and covered in New England themed motifs, like anchors and ships.


This is probably my favorite sign in Kansas City. I remember seeing that little fox as a kid and thinking it was adorable.


Too bad it's not 7 Days right now.


The Phoenix is one of the many jazz clubs in KC. Thick velvet curtains welcome you in.



This Hardware store looks like it came straight out of the 1930's.


Another classic jazz club and steak house, the Majestic. The upper window frames and ledges are all covered in copper and when the sun hits it they light up like they're on fire.


And these are mine. I like little details. Joe set me up with the 18-200mm lens so I couldn't capture a lot of wider shots, but I had plenty of room to get in close and still catch some full shots of buildings and the skylines.

There were some beautiful condominiums facing the park where we started the tour right above here. I could see living down in this part of the city. It's gorgeous and more residential.



This dark red entryway to an old dress manufacturers shop. I loved this vintage ad. Why don't women get to wear hats anymore?


Gaggle of photogs.

Peeking in the windows of Harry Epstein Co. is like stepping back in time.


Bunker Building

This building was under construction/repair. Nancy, our guide, was very concerned that they weren't taking the building down since it was a registered historic site. It looked like they were taking it apart brick by brick. She panicked a bit. It was kind of cute. 

Mural along the wall of The Phoenix Piano Bar


Feeding the meter

Being a tourist in our own city was eye opening. I think of other cities as historic and beautiful. Cities like San Francisco are easy to get poetic about. The allure and the history are right there, smacking you in the face everyday with stature and relevance. Kansas City is more subtle than that. You have to dig a bit to find the history these days, with suburban sprawl and glossy commercial districts like Power and Light,Westport and the Plaza, places geared more towards dining and shopping and drinking, their history just a little plaque on the wall, or a bubbling fountain. But when you dig and look closely, and escape those typical spots, the history and the beauty is right there waiting to be rediscovered. I'm thankful to live here, in this charming, friendly little cow town.

1 comment:

Nae said...

Oh wowza ---- so many great shots!!! Thanks for this blast from the past...I haven't been to the Phoenix Bar in ages, but am proud to say I have been. Also you already know how i feel about the Spaghetti Factory...tee hee. PROMISE you will take me to see that button and needle. I pledge this week to go on Flickr and comment about the images in more detail. Thanks for sharing!