McElwain Barton Shoe Co ghost sign

An often overlooked Historic District in Kansas City is the Garment District. This area is located in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri to the east of Quality Hill, across Broadway Boulevard. In the 1930s several large clothing manufacturers clustered here, making Kansas City’s garment district second only to New York City in size. Its old industrial buildings have since been redeveloped into loft apartments, office, and restaurants.

This ghost sign from the McElwain and Barton Shoe Co. is located in the heart of the Garment District on the West side of the Armour and Volker building at 308 W. 8th (built in 1902 – architect William Rose), Kansas City, Missouri.

This sign can only be seen from a few locations…. from the top of the May Street garage, from the alley on the North side of the Armour-Volker building, from the rooftop deck of the Soho Lofts, or from windows in adjacent building.

Examining this ghost sign, you can faintly see the the name McElwain on the first row, Barton on the second and Shoe Co on the third, and an interesting painted shape below the lettering.

Investigating this sign, I discovered that this mystery shape is the remnants of the McElwain Shoe Co logo. Here is a picture of the McElwain logo from the 1920’s. At this time the McElwain Shoe Company was the largest manufacturer of shoes in the world. The McElwain Barton shoe company had operations in several building in the Garment District, including the building at corner of Wyandotte and 6th street, which held their offices, and their manufacturing plant located at corner of 8th and Washington.

This post is a twofer … if you scroll to the right in the 360° picture above (or the tour below), you can also see the ghost sign for the William-Volker Company, which is located on the North side of the 6th floor of the Bond Shoe Co. building (built in 1899 – architect Van Brunt and Bro) at 316 W. 8th St, Kansas City, MO.

William Volker  was an entrepreneur who turned a picture frame business into a multimillion-dollar empire and who then gave away his fortune to shape much of Kansas City, MO, much of it anonymously, earning him the nickname of “Mr. Anonymous.” The Volker frame and molding company had a factory in the Armour-Volker building. Both of these buildings (Armour-Volker and Bond Shoe Co buildings) are now part of the Soho Condominiums property.

Here is a link to a Google Tour of this ghost sign with “Points of Interest” that link to more information about the art, architecture and history of the surrounding area. Click on the photo to take the tour… or just click the link below!

Click on link for photo to take 360° tour –

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