HARMONIZING ARCHITECTURE

A history of classic design in Kansas City.

IN THE 1920S, VISIONARY DEVELOPER J.C. NICHOLS ACQUIRED THE LAND ON BOTH SIDES OF BRUSH CREEK IN KANSAS CITY. ENAMORED BY THE MOORISH ARCHITECTURE HE ENCOUNTERED DURING A BICYCLING TRIP THROUGH SPAIN, NICHOLS BEGAN DESIGNING A SHOPPING AND RESIDENTIAL HUB THAT MIRRORED WHAT HE HAD SEEN, INTENDED FOR THE WEALTHY LUMBER BARONS AND INDUSTRIALISTS SETTLING IN THE AREA.

The Raphael Hotel, Kansas City, Missouri — Hotel No. 14

By 1927, the McCanles Building Company purchased three lots on the south side of the creek and commissioned local noted architect Alonzo Gentry to design luxury apartments to harmonize with the Spanish and Mediterranean motifs employed for the nascent Country Club Plaza.

Perhaps others would have continued the Spanish motif, but instead, Gentry grasped the symbolism of two great European nations, each with distinctive cultures and artistic style, separated by a body of water. He chose the ornate Italian Renaissance Revival style, popularized in the first quarter of the 20th century. The Villa Serena Apartment opened in 1928 at a cost $600,000 — approximately $8.2 million in 2016 currency. The Locarno and Riviera apartment buildings were completed in 1929.

 

Nearly a quarter of a century later, the J.C. Nichols Company, under the direction of the visionary founder’s son, Miller Nichols, purchased the Villa Serena to be repurposed as a hotel for national and international travelers attracted by this unique destination. The property was reborn as The Raphael, named for the famed Italian Renaissance painter, on September 8, 1975, following a renovation that preserved its architectural historic, such as its handmade wrought iron gates, twin watchtowers atop the red-tiled roof, and twin canopies adorning the entrance. In the lobby, the mahogany-paneled ceiling, ornate woodwork, and travertine marble floors were restored to their original splendor.

Delve more deeply into the history of The Raphael Hotel. Explore their website.