Wednesday, May 30, 2012

1940: 1908 Main Street

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Another in a series of posts based on the tax reassessment photos of 1940.  Learn more here.
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For more than a dozen years the second floor of this simple yellow-brick building on Main has been ground-zero for political power in Kansas City and beyond. Has been. Downstairs, the Southwest Linen Company is still dispensing hotel tablecloths and such, and next door you can still grab a bite at the Ever-Eat Cafe, just like Boss Tom. But Boss Tom has been locked up in Leavenworth and the center of civic gravity has shifted north, back to City Hall.

Since 1927 this has been the home of the Jackson Democratic Club, presided over by Thomas J. Pendergast, successful businessman and corrupt political boss. Although his official place of business is the Ready Mixed Concrete Company on West 25th Street, this is where you can come with your request for a favor – be you unemployed laborer or member of Congress – three days each week from 6 a.m. to noon. Or you could, once upon a time. Boss Tom has been doing 15 months in prison for income tax evasion, a result of his gambling obsession.

Now he's free, three months early for good behavior. Just a couple months ago, before the April election for mayor and city council, the Kansas City Star worried about the goings-on inside "1908 Main Street, from which Kansas City was ruled these fourteen years past, and which has been spoken of only in whispers in recent days ... Sitting on the dusted-off throne seat of the imprisoned boss was his nephew, Jim Pendergast – receiving reports from the ward leaders, giving the last-minute instructions ..."

All for naught, as it turns out. A new regime of reformers has taken over City Hall. And 68-year-old Boss Tom is spending his days not at the Jackson Democratic Club, but at the Ready Mixed plant, banned from politics by the terms of his probation, telling the Kansas City Journal that "I intend to be on the job attending to business every day. My office is open to those who desire to discuss business and personal matters, but not politics."
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For what's been happening in 2012 at 1908 Main, see this article in the Star

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