Art Deco In and Around Kansas City

From the Nelson-Atkins exhibit to the Power and Light Building, Art Deco is all around KC.

KC power and light building vintage postcard

The glow of the Power and Light Building has lit up downtown for almost a century.

Postcard via Bill McDevitt, founder of the KC Art Deco Society

Kansas City has no shortage of buildings and artwork inspired by Art Deco style, as civic leaders and architects in the 1920s and 1930s were working to establish KC as a major metropolitan city. Stylistically, Art Deco has a presence that is forward-thinking, bold + extravagant. It has the fast-paced spirit of the early 20th century that continues to embody the nature of KC.


Art Dec·o /ˌärt ˈdekō/ - noun:

The predominant decorative art style of the 1920s and 1930s, characterized by precise and boldly delineated geometric shapes + strong colors, used most notably in household objects and in architecture.
Oxford Languages

During the Industrial Revolution, the shift from heavy agriculture to mass factory production caused an increase in architectural importance, especially as World War I was ending. Enter the mid-1920s — enter Art Deco.

Art Deco held an admiration for the modernity of the machine and the inherent design qualities of machine-made objects. Think: chrome, stainless steel, stucco, terracotta, and opaque plate glass. The style is known for its use of materials like ivory, jade, limestone and marble, arranged into simple shapes with sharp angles and lines, geometric patterns and repetitive designs.

Nelson-Atkins Exhibit

The Nelson-Atkins Museum current feature exhibit “American Art Deco: Designing for the People, 1918-1939” runs now through Jan., 8, 2023. Tickets can be purchased here.

Nelson Atkins Art Deco Exhibit sign

Jump back in time at the Nelson-Atkins.

Photo by KCtoday Team

This exhibit shows the way Americans (and Kansas Citians) embraced a freer, more open society. It reconsiders a complex and tense era in our nation’s history through a collection of Art Deco objects. The exhibit features everything from glassware to gowns and even automobiles from the Art Deco era — many of which came to life right here in KC.

Art Deco in KC

Municipal Music Hall Upper Mezz Level

The upper mezzanine is an Art Deco-lover’s dream.

Photo by Bob Barrett

Municipal Music Hall

The Municipal Music Hall opened in 1936, with a large proscenium theater showing off a streamlined Art Deco interior — seating an audience of 2,363. The hall hosts touring Broadway shows, visiting symphony orchestras + opera and ballet companies. Fun fact: the hall is home of the 1927 Robert-Morton Theatre Pipe Organ, originally located in the Midland Theatre.

KC Power and Light Building

A staple of downtown KC.

Photo by Bill McDevitt

Kansas City Power and Light Building

The Power and Light Building — one we all know and love — is an Art Deco legend. The landmark skyscraper is located in Downtown KC. Built in 1931, its initial purpose was to promote new jobs in the downtown area. The building is crowned by an intricate Art Deco lantern, featuring prismatic glass panels that shine glowing lights at sunset.

Jackson County Courthouse

Built in 1933 and designed by Wight and Wightlocated at 415 E. 12th St. — this limestone courthouse embraced the hopeful tone of KC during the building boom. Featured characteristics of the building include detailed paneling, rich ornament, and bronze + white metal plaques.

Postcard of Court House and City Hall at night KC

Check out this postcard illustration from the 1930s.

Postcard via Bill McDevitt

City Hall

City Hall is currently one of the tallest city halls in the US. The interior of the building is where the Art Deco style really shines – with marble stairways, intricate light fixtures, and bronze features nodding to KC’s history. Our favorite part? The brass elevator doors, sculpted to depict the four major modes of transportation that serve the city.

Bryant Building

The Bryant Building was designed by a firm based in Chicago — Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. Fun fact: the building design is an adaptation of Eliel Saarinen’s second-place design in the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower design competition. With the brass revolving doors, elaborate chandeliers + intricately designed elevator doors (do you see a theme?), this building embodies Art Deco.

Jenkins Music Company Building in KC

Music to our ears, Art Deco to our eyes.

Photo by Bill McDevitt

Jenkins Music Company Building

Designed by the local architectural firm Smith, Rea & Lovitt, this building has Art Deco decorative elements that earn a spot on our list. The building was intended to serve as an office space for the instrument and publishing firm, Jenkins Music Company. The west-facing exterior of the building is the most ornate, featuring eight-story step backs that create an eye-catching vertical effect.

The outside of The Drum Room in KC

Ba-dum tss.

Photo by Bill McDevitt

The Drum Room

Drum roll, please. The Drum Room is a cocktail lounge located inside The Hotel President. The hotel itself was built in the 1920s and is not Art Deco, but The Drum Room was added in the early 1940s with late, streamlined Art Deco design details throughout. The lounge hosted music greats like Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey, making it a well-known music destination in downtown KC.

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