Star Theater, 1615-1617 East Eighteenth Street, Kansas City, Jackson County, MO
1615-1617 East Eighteenth Street, Kansas City, MO
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Documentation compiled after 1933.
Survey number HABS MO-1924
Building/structure dates: 1912 initial construction
Building/structure dates: 1923 subsequent work
Building/structure dates: 1945 subsequent work
Significance: The Star Theater (Gem Theater) is significant as one of the first and most enduring movie theaters constructed in Kansas City, Missouri, for an African-American clientele. The Star was built in 1912 in the 18th and Vine commercial district, an area that developed to serve Kansas City's African-American community at a time when many "white" businesses and services were closed to black patrons. Like the surrounding neighborhood, the theater thrived during the hey day of jazz clubs and dance halls in the decades prior to World War II. A major remodeling in 1923 reflected the increased prosperity of the surrounding community. The simple, one story, brick and stucco theater was transformed into the most ornate building in the area with the addition of a baroque, white terra-cotta front. Upon completion, a local newspaper touted it as "A Work of Art and Triumph of Engineering." Streamlined and Moderne elements were added to the theater following the war, as architectural fashions shifted from historically inspired designs to images of the Modern Age. While the entertainment district began to fade just prior to World War II, the theater survived. When the Star Theater (Gem Theater) closed its doors in 1960, it had endured longer than any other movie theater constructed for Kansas City's African-American community.
Motion Picture Theaters
Morley, Patrick J.
Van Vleck, Kristina, Field Team
Bradley, Dennis, Field Team
Dougherty, Aaron, Field Team
Swalwell, Stephen J., Photographer
Rosin, Elizabeth, Historian
Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress)
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