Adams Express Building

U.S. National Archives, Kansas City

By U.S. National Archives

Union Station Complex under construction 1911-1914U.S. National Archives

The National Archives at Kansas City is one of 12 research facilities across the nation that serves as a depository for records created or maintained by Federal agencies. The holdings document actions, activities and events of national, state and local importance.

Adams Express Building circa 1990sU.S. National Archives

Like most regional archival facilities, the National Archives at Kansas City was established through the Federal Records Centers, a division of the National Archives and Records Administration which oversees temporary custody of records belonging to the originating Federal agency. In the mid-1960s the Federal Records Center in Kansas City, established a small archives for research that has grown into a full archival program serving the four state region of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. By 1969, a regional archives system was officially established by the Archivist of the United States with the goal of making original historic Federal records available for local public use.

Today the National Archives at Kansas City serves educators, genealogists, historians, journalists, lawyers, students and others, who are researching historical information.

Situated in the heart of the Kansas City Crossroads District, aptly named for a railway terminal area, is a former storage building that has been converted into an archives. The Adams Express Freight Building is a part of Kansas City’s Union Station complex, an area that served as a point of the convergence for railroads, including the Kansas City Southern, the Atchison-Topeka-Santa Fe, Union Pacific and Burlington Northern. Currently the Kansas City Southern Railroad still operates and utilizes the rail yard nearby in the middle of a busy metropolis.

The Adam Express Building is one of several freight storage structures established as a part of the original Union Station complex built from 1912-1915 in a Beaux-Arts style by Jarvis Hunt, a Chicago architect. Hunt, a well known proponent of the City Beautiful movement during the early 20th century, designed numerous train stations across the United States including Dallas, Oakland, and Joliet, IL. The Adams Express building, as part of the entire railway complex, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Former tenants include the building’s namesake, a freight shipping company, along with Wells Fargo and American Express.

The original façade of the Adams Express building featured 8 bays and both the east and west sides had 3, respectively. These were ideal for loading and unloading goods and freight coming off of rail cars for storage. These support facilities were necessary so that Union Station could focus on serving passengers who need rail service. Hunt designed the Adams Express structure to fit into the site and align in design with the other nearby buildings including the Power House, now home to the Kansas City Ballet.

The original tenant, Adams Express, remained in the building for many years and offered services including money handling; transfers and deliveries; mail distribution; grain storage; livestock trade; dry goods shipment; and produce marketing. Records from the Kansas City Terminal Railway Company indicate that demand for increased milk distribution convinced the Alfalfa Creamery Company to locate its facilities within the Adams Express building in 1918. Later, during World War II, a portion of the Adams Express building was used as a temporary morgue.

Through the use of Federal historic tax credits the National Archives began an adaptive reuse process in 2007 and relocated in 2009, opening to the public in a space with education, exhibits, and programming space. Previously the Archives had been located in a Federal complex that was not as easily accessible. Kansas City architects Peckham Guyton Albers and Viets worked to design a building that gutted the original structure to its frame, exposing the concrete exterior walls which served as a shell. An additional structure was added to the north to provide a temperature and humidity controlled archival stack area that complies with strict National Archives environmental standards for records preservation.

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