The History of 18th & Vine in Kansas City

18th and Vine in Kansas City, Missouri is internationally recognized as one of the cradles of jazz music and a historic hub of African-American businesses. Along with New Orleans's Basin Street, Beale Street in Memphis, 52nd Street in New York City and Los Angeles's Central Avenue - the 18th and Vine area was a midwife to the birth of a new style of jazz. The jazz that evolved in the 18th and Vine district was distinctive. Simmered in the blues, Kansas City's jazz was a riff-based sound fueled by jam sessions in the district's crowded clubs. Many notable jazz musicians of the 1930s & 1940s made 18th and Vine their home, Charlie Parker being the most notable of the era from Kansas City. However, many call the city home or got their start in the city. The national historic district encompassing 35 contributing buildings was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

Ada Brown

Ada Brown

Located just east of Downtown Kansas City, it is the Kansas City metropolitan area's historic center of African American culture at 18th Street and Vine Street. It has been the focus of more than $30 million of civic investment since the late 1980s, but the district's redevelopment has struggled.In the 1990s, parts of the film Kansas City were filmed there, and façades left from the movie remained on most of the dilapidated buildings until the end of the decade. As of 2018, partial façades still remain.

Today, the 18th and Vine district includes the Mutual Musicians Foundation, the Gem Theater, the long-time offices of African-American newspaper The Call, the Blue Room jazz club, the American Jazz Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Smaxx Restaurant, a restaurant inside the Juke House and Blues Club, and several apartments and condos. 

The district is also home to the Historic Lincoln Building which served as a hub of professional and business activity in the Black community. The building was restored in the early 1980s by the Black Economic Union of Kansas City, and continues to serve this purpose today.

Six blocks to the north, the former intersection of 12th Street and Vine has been immortalized in the Willie "Little Willie" Littlefield song "Kansas City Lovin'", and Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller published song, "Kansas City." 12th Street and Vine Street no longer intersects with 12th Street, as a housing project now stands at the site. The city, however, has since erected a street sign in a park near the housing project to mark the spot where 12th Street once crossed Vine.

Learn more about the Historic Individuals of 18th & Vine here.