Through acquisitions, restructuring and name changes, KCP&L emerged strong, efficient and ready for growth.
In the early 1900s, Kansas City was undergoing a transformation. The parks and boulevard system was constructed and expanded under landscape architect George Kessler’s direction. J.C. Nichols planned Ward Parkway and opened the Country Club Plaza.
In 1900, packing company heir J. Ogden Armour bought the Kansas City Electric Light Company. An owner of the Metropolitan Street Railway Company, Armour focused on acquiring competitors and building capacity to help supply electricity to his railway. By 1904, the company had built several power plants, including the Grand Avenue Station.
In a different part of the Midwest, another utility dynasty was beginning. The Solomon Valley Milling Company in Osborne, Kansas began selling electricity in 1902 out of a single mill. Run by Lemuel K. Green and his descendants, the company strategically expanded into untapped markets. The Green Light and Power Company would become the West Missouri Power Company, Utilicorp and finally Aquila, where its path with KCP&L would eventually unite.
In Kansas City, Armour found operating both a lighting system and the railway challenging. Increasingly, the railway’s demands took precedence and the light company began to pay the price. So in 1916, the company spun off the railway business and emerged as the Kansas City Light & Power Company. Though Armour would sell his interest in 1923, he first made a very smart hire. Joseph F. Porter became the company’s manager in 1917 and focused on developing additional capacity and more efficient plants. Following reincorporation and the acquisition of the Carroll County Electric Company, the company underwent its final name change to the Kansas City Power & Light Company in 1922.
The company thrived under Porter’s leadership. The service area expanded throughout western Missouri and eastern Kansas and generating capacity increased from 60 to 260 megawatts. Bolstered by the success, Porter ordered the construction of a new headquarters building. The 32-story Kansas City Power & Light Building opened in 1931 as the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. By 1948, the company had 199,603 customers.