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Newbern Hotel, National Register of Historic Places PDF  | Print |
Athenaeum Club House The Newbern Apartments (Hotel), 525 East Armour Boulevard, consists of two nine-story towers constructed with reinforced concrete, brick and terra cotta designed in the Sullivanesque style. The primary facade faces north onto Armour Boulevard and a second decorated facade faces east onto Cherry. The south and west facades are undecorated. The buildings was placed on the Kansas City Register of Historic Places on November 16, 1978 and the National Register of Historic Places on September 23, 1980.

Statement of Significance

The Newbern apartments are architecturally significant as one of the few buildings constructed in Kansas City in the Sullivanesque style. the quality of its design and craftsmanship of ornamentation are exceptional.

In the 1920´s Armour Boulevard was developed into a street lined wit luxury high-rise apartments and hotels. The Newbern is an integral part of this streetscape and is representative of this phase of architectural development which commenced in Kansas City in the 1920´s. Its unusual design with the curving facade and rich terra cotta ornament make it singularly significant as an architectural artifact embodying the distinctive characteristics of the Sullivanesque style.

HISTORICAL DATA

The apartment-hotel at 525 East Armour Boulevard was constructed in 1921-23 by the Armour Building Company, controlled by C.O. Jones. it was to be called "Le Pavonien" meaning "iridescent or resembling a peacock´s train" after the two 6-foot terra cotta peacocks surmounting the two entrances, but was actually named the Peacock hotel. it retained this name for only a short period, however. In 1925 Biene H. Hopkins, an Iowa landowner, bought the Peacock and renamed it the Newbern. The terra cotta peacocks, which were referred to as "unfortunate 6-foot birds" in a news article of 1925, were said to have offended some hotel guests to the point of turning them away.

Ernest O. Bronstrom of the firm of Brostrom and Drotts designed the Peacock Hotel in 1921. He also designed the terra cotta ornamentation which was executed by the old Kansas City Terra Cotta Company in the Blue Valley district.

When the two buildings were joined in 1925, Bronstrom was again the architect for the one-story barrel vaulted connecting hall and its terra cotta ornamentation. One of the peacocks which were removed from the building at that time was taken by Mr. Bronstrom for his garden.

Original plans and detailed drawings by Ernest Brostrom for the design of th Newbern are existing and are in the possession of the building´s owner.

ARCHITECT

Ernest Olaf Bronstrom, a native of Sweden, came to Kansas City in 1907 from Sioux City, Iowa to manage a branch office of the Eisentraut-Colby-Pottenger Company, architects. Although he had no formal training in architecture he developed into a talented and prolific architect designing numerous residences, commercial buildings, and churches. Two well recognized examples of his work are the Jensen-Salsbery laboratories at 520 W. 21st Street built in 1918 and the Rushton Bakery at 814 Southwest Boulevard, Kansas City, Kansas, completed in 1920. In 1920 he formed a partnership with Phillip T. Drotts called Brostrom & Drotts. In the 1920´s this firm designed many apartment-hotels like the Newbern. Brostrom wrote an article on apartments which appeared in the Kansas City Star on July 20, 1930. He also wrote a book entitled Churches in which he published his thoughts on church design and used examples of the many churches he designed in the Kansas City area.

SIGNIFICANCE

The Newbern apartment was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places because of its particular architectural significance. The style, integrity of design, location, setting, materials and workmanship reflect an important development in Kansas City´s architectural heritage. The Newbern embodies distinctive characteristics of a type; the luxury high-rise apartment hotel; a period: the 1920´s when the high rise structure was being developed along side tree-lined boulevards such as Armour Boulevard; and a style: the Sullivanesque, which is important nationally and locally with only a few examples in Kansas City. and it was designed by a prominence and prolific Kansas City architect, Ernest O. Bronstrom.

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EXTERIOR

The two structures are basically rectangular in plan, the east tower having a curved corner on the north east at the intersection of Armour Boulevard and Cherry. The two towers are connected by a one-story barrel vaulted hall forming a U-shaped over-all-plan.

Decorative Details

Evidence of the Sullivanesque style is found in the following:

  • The structure is articulated by three definite "zones": ground story, intermediate floors,and attic or roof level.

  • Intermediate floors are arranged in vertical strips by means of projecting brick pilasters running from stories two through eight.

  • Intricate wearing of linear and geometric forms with stylized foliage in a symmetrical pattern which is the most unique element of the Sullivanesque style.

Decorative surface ornamentation consists of the following:

  • Detailed terra cotta arch surrounding the door of the main entrance.

  • Eight-over-one sash windows with decorative terra cotta sills.

  • Cut and dressed limestone first story.

  • Terra cotta decoration along the parapet of roofline.

  • Terra cotta decoration along cornice.

  • Wrought iron and glass light fixtures on either side of the entrances.

  • Leaded art glass transom over main entrance.

  • Brick pilasters with terra cotta decoration at top (on ninth floor) and bottom (on second floor).

  • Curvilinear design of the northeast corner of the main facade.

  • Terra cotta decoration on either side of secondary entrances.
INTERIOR

In 1980 there were 132 three- and five-room units. The lobby had been remodeled, but retained much of its original character. Dark stained wood is used in ceiling beams, at corners, and for trim. Wood pilasters ae surmounted by geometric capitals in the Prairie School style. Light fixtures in the ceiling consisting of three hanging globes are also reminiscent of that style. Particularly interesting is the portion of the lobby that is curved on the northeast corner of the east tower.

The entrance hall is covered by a ribbed barrel vault which is richly decorated with plaster in the Sullivanesque style. There are leaded glass transoms at either end of the barrel vault.

There is low buff-colored marble wainscoting throughout the lobby. Floors are of terrazzo.

ALTERATIONS

There were originally two separate towers with no connection at th lobby when the apartments were built in 1921. The entrances which are now side entrances were the main doors in each building. Above each door was a large multi-colored peacock measuring 6-feet in height. In 1925 the ground floor of the two structures was extended across the 36-foot interval with separated them by means of the barrel vaulted hall. The terra cotta arched main entrance was added at that time. The peacocks were removed and replaced with plain lintels. The original entrance doors were of leaded glass. These have been replaced by modern plate glass doors.