Photograph - Photography
Kansas City’s Imperial Brewery officially opened in the spring of 1902. At its peak in 1910, the brewery produced 338,300 barrels in one year. However, during the National Prohibition of 1919, the brewery sold to the Seaboard Milling Company, producing flour until the mid 1980’s. The building has stood vacant for decades, but very old equipment was left in place, still there even after all these years. The barn that once housed the draft horses that pulled beer delivery and stables inside still remain on the site today. The Imperial Brewing Company building received certification from the National Historic Society in the spring of 2011.
I passed the Old Imperial Brewery Building thousands of times during my life in Kansas City. It was definitely one of my favorite buildings. This six story brick building with beautiful arched windows is a recognizable Kansas City icon. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore. This was a place I had always wanted to see more of or know more about ‘someday’. I woke up one morning this summer and decided it was time. I was determined to get some shots of this place, although not even the exterior was easy to access.
Fortunately a chain of events led me to the opportunity to shoot inside! It was a dream come true for me, better than a kid in a candy store. Completing many hours of shooting and working on hundreds of photos was extremely gratifying. What a fortunate experience.
This morning I turned on the news to hear “Historic Kansas City building destroyed in overnight fire.” I knew before they said the words ‘Imperial Brewery’ what it had to be. My heart sank.
Just before midnight December 27, 2012, the building became victim of a three-alarm fire. Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas firefighters fought the flames. Witnesses said it was one of the largest fires they’d ever seen in Kansas City. The brewery sits near I-35 near Southwest Boulevard on the north side of the railroad tracks. The location created a problem for firefighters. Hoses had to be pulled across the railroad tracks and all trains had to be stopped.
My affection for this place had grown stronger as I became very familiar with it, in and out. It was like going back in time. So much of the interior had still been intact for decades. After the brewery became a flour mill, much of the equipment running throughout the building still remained. It was incredible.
I think the plan was always to find someone who would purchase and renovate it. Dean Realty, Co., the current owner of the brewery, did extensive work on this building over the past year. Investors considered converting this unique location into office space. I wonder what will happen to it now. I truly hope it is in some way salvageable. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
February 27th, 2013
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