You travel around Kansas City and wonder: What goes on in there?
The Star has been asking questions along the lines of “What gives here?” and “How does that work?” since the first edition rolled off the press on Sept. 18, 1880.
That’s 136 years ago today.
The city barely stretched south of 20th Street back then. Now there’s a lot more to explore — old buildings you’ve never entered, high-tech operations that bend the mind, businesses in which you’ve never quite figured out the purpose.
In coming issues of our new Spirit section, we’ll take you behind the scenes of local places you may have always wondered about. (Send an email if you have a suggestion.) And for this inaugural edition — just to prove we wouldn’t ask others to do what we wouldn’t do ourselves — we’re starting with The Star.
The big green building: Public editor Derek Donovan says one of the biggest misconceptions about The Star is that its staff works in the big green glass building overlooking the Interstate 670 loop between McGee and Oak streets. That’s the Press Pavilion, which turns 10 this year. It is “almost exclusively a production facility — a newspaper factory,” he says. The news and advertising staffs work in the old brick building at 18th Street and Grand Boulevard.
Presses keep rolling: Four German-built presses with the brawny name KBA Commander rise nearly seven stories up and stretch more than 150 feet long in The Star’s Press Pavilion. The two-block building stores 2,000-pound rolls of newsprint, each 50 inches in diameter. The Star uses 60 rolls a day and more for the Sunday edition. In addition to The Star, several other publications are printed here: The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Lawrence Journal-World among them.
Newsroom: The Star isn’t just a newspaper. It’s a media company, with online readers now outnumbering print subscribers. Kansascity.com had its best month ever in August with 5.7 million unique visitors. Reporters file stories throughout the day and can view in real time how many people are reading them online. The editorial board is separate from the news gathering team and drafts its opinions independently of reporters and other editors.
Two buildings in one: The 18th and Grand building was erected in parts beginning in 1911. For a time there were two buildings bisected by an alley. The gap was filled to make one building, but the floors on the west side are at different levels than the floors on the east side. The building also is home to other publications such as Ink, Spaces, KC Weddings and The Phoenix.
What’s in the tower? OK, if we’re really going behind the scenes, here’s a spot where few have gone but many wonder about. Overlooking the fountains out front, the building has a tower that once held a water tank for a sprinkler system. The tank was disassembled in the 1980s. For this shot, David Pulliam climbed a ladder along the tower’s interior — maybe the first human in there since the Reagan presidency.
Literary legend: A teenage Ernest Hemingway arrived from Illinois to write for The Star 99 years ago. He covered police, General Hospital and Union Station but stayed just half a year. In April 1918 he was off to Italy to drive ambulances in World War I. His name appears on this plaque honoring Star employees who served in that conflict.
The Star’s Press Pavilion turns 10 this year, and in celebration the building will be open for public tours from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Oct. 7. That coincides with First Friday and The Star’s Food Truck Friday, in our parking lot off 18th Street.