Building the Excavated City: Material Extraction and the Making of Kansas City, Missouri

Starr, Ethan, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Putalik, Erin, Architectural History, University of Virginia

Quarried stone is a ubiquitous presence in the built landscape of Kansas City, Missouri, just as prominent limestone walls and outcroppings serve to define many of its public spaces. Indeed, the rough-hewn texture of this stone masonry is such a fundamental component of the city’s sensory experience that few venture to ask how, exactly, this material palette of ‘native’ stone came to be so widespread among the city’s homes, churches, public buildings, and parks structures. This thesis endeavors to formulate a cultural and environmental history of the material application of limestone extraction in the local landscape, scrutinizing the relationship of this principal vernacular building material with the rapid development of Kansas City, Missouri in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With that aim, the text investigates various human-driven processes of excavation, as well as the application of quarried materials in built structures, concealment of former sites of extraction, and negotiation of the aftermath of these activities. It concludes by arguing for recognition of processes of excavation as the central defining factor in the growth and development of Kansas City. Accordingly, physical sites of interest to this project are distributed throughout the city center, from quarry sites and public parks to entire neighborhoods of homes, shops, and churches, cataloguing physical evidence of the centrality of excavation in the cultural, social, and economic history of Kansas City.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
excavation, extraction, mining, bluffs, limestone, City Beautiful, Kansas City, native stone
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