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curiousKC | What’s the Oldest Known Photo of Kelly’s in Westport?

It’s Older Than You Might Think

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Above image credit: This is the oldest known photo of Kelly's Westport Inn, according to the Kansas City Public Library. (Missouri Valley Room Special Collections | Kansas City Public Library)

When Sheree R. was 5 years old, her grandpa would take her to Kelly’s Westport Inn for a cold Coca-Cola. 

Her grandpa was a regular there. 

“Good memories like that probably influenced my career choice of bartender/server/cook through most of my work-life so far,” she said.

Sheree, who preferred to remain anonymous, is from Kansas City and worked in Westport throughout the ‘90s. This is why she asked Flatland to find the oldest photo that exists of Kelly’s. 

Thanks to Michael Wells, librarian with the Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Kansas City Public Library, we were able to track it down. 

This photo, from 1885, is the oldest photo of Kelly’s Westport Inn that the Kansas City Public Library has on site. (Missouri Valley Special Collections | Kansas City Public Library)

Kelly’s Westport Inn caused a buzz last summer because of its possible ties to the enslavement of Black and Native people in the area. The Westport Historical Society shared what they knew with the owners of the bar, which they shared in a Facebook post last July. 

The brick building where Kelly’s operates was originally built by Albert Galladin Boone, who was known to be pro-slavery and owned slaves. The building at Westport Road and Pennsylvania Avenue is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to a statement by Kelly’s owners, they are aware of the original builder’s past and his affiliations. 

“We acknowledge there are parts of our building’s history that are a painful reminder to the Black community, and for that we are deeply sorry,” their statement read. 

As a first step, the family decided to cover the plaque dedicated to Boone and said they will continue to learn how to best serve the community. 

The Kelly family’s history dates back to 1926 when Randal Kelly moved to the U.S.  

“In 1947, Randal began bartending at the building. He called this Irish pub ‘the poor man’s playground’ where people of all walks could gather,” according to a statement.

For Sheree, it was just that. A place where people of all walks of life could gather. 


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