A Kansas City landmark is about to go through a complete restoration.
The El Torreon and its historic ballroom at 31st and Gillham is being given new life.
“Any town of any size had a Dance Hall,” Developer Scott Peterson said.
El Torreon, which means ‘the tower’ in Spanish, was a huge 1920’s era dance hall.
“It saw the likes of Bennie Moten, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington,” Peterson said.
Peterson, the developer overseeing its restoration, says it is a huge part of Kansas City’s music history.
“A place for them to come together and listen to music and dance,” he said.
The developer and his group spent more than a year getting the building on the National Historic Register, which qualifies it for state and federal funds of more than $5 million.
“It’s much more environmentally sensitive to restore something that’s already existing,” the developer said.
The downstairs currently hosts weddings and other events, but upstairs the ballroom has been everything from a roller skating rink, a flea market and even classic car storage. The group says that with the street car coming to the area, now is the time to restore it.
“We’re not trying to re-create the EL Torreon necessarily, but we’re trying to bring it back to life so that people can enjoy it,” Peterson said.
Built in 1927, the building is still almost entirely original and has one very important distinction.
“This was actually the first venue in Kansas City where black musicians played to white audiences,” Peterson said.
He says history like that is important to this community.
The project could wrap up in 2025 to coincide with the opening of the streetcar extension.