Last Man Standing: A salute to the Rockhill Theater ruins

Photo by Mike Sinclair, 2007

Photo by Mike Sinclair, 2007

by Lucas Wetzel

I never knew what this building was until it was torn down. As Charles Ferruzza reported last September in The Pitch, the structure was the last remaining section of the once-thriving Rockhill Theater. To me it was always just “that tower on Troost,” a bizarre, elegant architectural fragment on the fringes of Hyde Park. Like a column in the Roman forum, the Troost tower pointed to an earlier era; a sharp contrast to the nearby Walgreens, Quik Cash and KFC.

Rockhill Theater

Photo by Jennifer Wetzel, 2010

At some point after the building around it was torn down, the tower’s metal dome was resurfaced and the window arches filled in with plaster, giving it a more stately appearance than other partial ruins on the avenue. In summer months, a plumage of leaves tumbled down its side like a rakish feather boa. While walking around the tower, you kept expecting it to reveal an additional sign, entrance or wing of the building to help it make sense. But the Rockhill ruins just stood there; a monument without inscription.

Photo by Dale Monaghan, 2000

In their 2007 survey of Kansas City, Where Are You Supposed To Be?, photographer Mike Sinclair and writer Hesse McGraw speculated about why this remaining section of the theater was left to stand at all, observing that it no longer served any utilitarian use. To me it was precisely that lack of function that made the tower interesting. You could imagine it as the home of a modern-day Rapunzel, maybe, or a fortress from which to lay siege to the neighboring Walgreens.

For now, the tower on Troost can still be visited using Google Street View, though eventually that too will be wiped from the map. In the spirit of whomever allowed the Rockhill theater column to enjoy its whimsical, disembodied afterlife, Kawsmouth presents these images as a reminder of the Rockhill Theater ruins — a unique, inscrutable landmark, now disappeared.

 

Categories: Essay, Visual