KANSAS CITY, Missouri — The 21c Museum Hotel chain — which combines luxury hospitality facilities with contemporary art mini-museums — continues its culture march across the American heartland. In mid-July, its newest location opened in downtown Kansas City during the course of a weeklong press tour and community celebration. Open to the public 24 hours a day, the Kansas City location came loaded with its own unique set of possibilities and challenges.
“This is our eighth property,” said co-founder and 21c magnate Steve Wilson, in an interview with Hyperallergic during the opening week festivities, “but it’s the first time we’ve every reinterpreted a restaurant — so that was a challenge. And when I first saw this room, I didn’t know we would have to save it, for historic reasons.”
Wilson refers to what was once the Savoy Grill — a Kansas City fine dining restaurant, part of the Savoy Hotel, built in 1903. Over a century of operations, the restaurant’s dining room retained its original elements, including opulent woodwork, art deco stained glass windows, and, most contentiously, the Savoy Murals, painted by artist Edward Holslag in 1903. Wrapping around the entire upper register of the former dining room, the murals depict a cowboy-heroic mythology of pioneers on their journey along the Santa Fe Trail. The Savoy Grill was shut down after a kitchen fire in 2014, and as the 21c earmarked it for a new location, they had to contend with both the protections of the National Register of Historic Places, and the sentimental attachment of longtime locals to this legacy establishment.
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