Today marks the long-awaited opening of the renovated Thomas Corrigan Building at 19th & Walnut. The project, which began in April 2015, is just the latest completed project in Helix’s longstanding experience restoring historic buildings in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District.
Photos of the historic Thos. Corrigan Building, taken in 1981 for the building’s National Register of Historic Places application.
The 10-story Thomas (Thos.) Corrigan Building, completed in 1921, was originally developed by the Corrigan family and designed by Keene & Simpson architects. The four brothers, often referred to as the “Corrigan boys,” came to Kansas City from Canada in the late 1800’s. The family, and especially Thomas, would play a major role in developing Kansas City’s street railway lines, first with mule-drawn cars in the 1870’s, and then later electrical cars in the 20th Century — creating the city’s first streetcar franchise, the Metropolitan Street Railway Company. The historic connection between Kansas City streetcars and Thomas Corrigan makes the KC Streetcar stop outside of the new Corrigan Station come full circle back to its namesake. The original building was reportedly built for Corrigan’s four daughters, and was managed by his grandson Colonel Thomas C. Bourke for many years.
From Left to Right: Initial mule-drawn carriages in Kansas City in 1870. 12th & Walnut, populated with streetcars in 1930. Thomas’ brother and partner in railway development, Bernard Corrigan.
The building’s primary tenant from 1921-1931 was the Gateway Station Post Office — hence the choice of Corrigan Station for the development’s new name.
In the 1930’s and 40’s, the Donnelly Garment Company occupied the building. The brand was founded in 1919 by Nell Donnelly Reed (Nelly Don) and quickly became known for its ready-to-wear dresses that were as beautiful as they were functional. She was quoted by the New York Times stating a goal to “make women look pretty when they are doing the dishes.” The company would later become the largest manufacturer of women’s clothing worldwide in the 1950’s and one of the most famous companies in Kansas City.
The factory operated out of Corrigan station during it’s prime production years.
As the most notable tenant in the history of the Corrigan Building, the Nelly Don dress company occupied the building from 1927-1948. The brand was the inspiration for a large wooden wall installation in the main lobby. The installation, fabricated by Hinge Woodworks, is an abstract take on a loom, the device used to weave cloth. The ‘loom wall’ creates visual interest and imitates the appearance of thread being manipulated through the wooden fins. The piece is meant to appear as though you’ve caught a loom in action, with the ‘threads’ moving up from the floor to the ceiling.
By 1947, Nelly Don outgrew the building and was replaced by the Veteran’s Administration – who leased the entire 123,000 square foot building for over 10 years. At that time, Col. Bourke was still managing the property and made several updates the structure, developed site parking to the west and eventually sold in 1977. In 1981 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places by it’s then owner, Alan J. Bronfman, president of Distributors, Inc.. From that time — on with very few short-term tenants — the commercial use of the building gradually declined until it was purchased in 2013 by co-developers Copaken Brooks and 3D Development.
The renovation features 9-stories of office space and a 1-story of ground level retail space. The design team worked to preserve the historic character of the building in accordance with National Park Service preservation guidelines. We imagine the Corrigan family would be extremely proud to have their 100-year-old building restored — and with excellent connectivity to downtown Kansas City, via the new streetcar stop located within steps of the doors.
In addition to renovating the existing 123,000-square-foot structure, Helix designed the adjacent three-story structure. Once constructed it will provide additional retail space and covered parking on the first floor and expanded floor-plates of 25,000-square-feet on the second and third floor for office tenants. An event space was added on the rooftop to serve building tenants and host special events.
What an extraordinary project for the Main Street corridor and the continued revitalization of downtown Kansas City!