TWA Corporate Headquarters’ Building

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TWA Headquarters shortly after opening. (1)

General Information

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TWA Building today. (2)

History

Before TWA decided to put their headquarters on a parcel bounded by Baltimore Avenue on the west, Main Street on the east, 18th Street on the south and existing buildings on the north, the famous Muehlebach Brewery occupied the site.

TWA itself had its base of operations in Kansas City from its founding and formally established headquarters at the Kansas City Municipal Airport (Downtown Airport) in 1932. By the 1950s, the company was moving as fast as the jets it was transitioning to as the main form of air transportation.  They needed more space, especially with over 5,000 employees in the Kansas City area.

Entire construction of the building only took a year due to extensive use of pre-fabricated concrete and by fall of 1956 the building was ready to handle 700 employees. One of the distinct features of the building was a 35′ tall rocket placed on the roof, Moonliner II. The Moonliner I was a much larger rocket placed in Disneyland and sponsored by TWA.

Changes in the airline industry during the 1960s swept the executive headquarters out of Kansas City and to New York City in 1964. The operational headquarters effectively remained in Kansas City until 1969 when those functions were also moved and began the first vacant period for the building. TWA never owned the building, so they simply canceled their fifteen year lease. The building was owned by the Kansas City Life Insurance Company, and ground had already broken on the building before TWA became interested in occupying it.

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Interior of building before renovations. (3)

The building would remain vacant for six years, until the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals Regional Development Center moved into the building in 1975. It’s not clear what happened to the building after that except an addition of a stucco exterior in 1981, and the building was vacant with badly peeling paint at the time of its 2002 NRHP nomination.

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Building covered in stucco around 2002. (4)

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Another picture from around 2002, with stucco removed. (5)

Shortly after being placed on the NRHP, the building was renovated to resemble its original appearance by El Dorado Architects at a cost of over $15 million. Renovations included removing the terrible stucco, creating a green roof, and building a replica of Moonliner II to place on the roof. The quality of the renovations were rewarded with a National Preservation Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Barkley advertising agency moved into the building in 2006 and continues to occupy the building today.

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A rendering of the green roof. (6)

Resources for this article include:

Additional Photos and Credits

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West side before renovations. (7)

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West side after renovations. (8)

(1), (4), (7) are from the Architect Magazine Article
(2),(8) are from myself
(3), (5), (8) are from the NRHP nomination form

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