November 10, 2016

Kelly's Westport Inn in Kansas City, Missouri

Kelly's Westport Inn

photo by: Lindsey Walser

Built in 1850, the building that houses Kelly's Westport Inn is believed to be the oldest building in Kansas City.

It’s hard to imagine now, but at one point, the road outside Kelly’s Westport Inn in Kansas City, Missouri, was a dirt path, with horses and covered wagons traveling up and down. And in those days, there was no Kelly’s Westport Inn—which is also hard to imagine, given how deep the bar’s roots run in the city. Sitting at the bar today, you feel like it’s been there forever.

No, long before it became an Irish pub, the small brick building at 500 Westport Road was a store that sold provisions to those traveling west along the Santa Fe and Oregon trails. It was built in 1850 by traders George and William Ewing. They sold the building four years later to Albert Gallatin Boone, grandson of Daniel Boone, who ran it as a provisioning and outfitting operation until 1859. After that, it continued functioning for a number of years under various owners as various businesses—a mercantile and trading business, a grocery store, a hardware store, a drug store.

In 1947, three retired Kansas City police captains took over the space and began serving provisions of the alcoholic variety. Westport Inn was born. A gentleman by the name of Randal Kelly was hired as a bartender and quickly became a beloved local figure. Eventually, he became a partner in the business.

The bar was officially renamed Kelly’s Westport Inn in 1977. And from there, it was a family-run operation. Kelly’s sons, Kyle and Pat, own the building and the business today and run it with the help of their children.

Not much at this Irish pub has changed since its earliest days, save for the addition of a rooftop bar and deck several years ago. And while there was one point in time when Kelly’s Westport Inn closed on St. Patrick’s Day for fear of overcrowding, that’s hardly the case today. Its St. Patty’s Day celebrations are legendary.

But there’s a crowd gathered here most every night. With live music, cheap drinks, and pizza sold by the slice, it’s no wonder so many Yelpers call it the city’s own version of Cheers.

Location: 500 Westport Road, Kansas City, MO 64111

Hours: Seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.

You’re Having: A pint of beer from Kansas City’s own Boulevard Brewing Company

Best Yelp Review: “It's a beautiful bar, old, worn and unpretentious, just the kind I like. Lots of good beers, at decent prices. And pizza in the back to soak up all that alcohol. What's not to love?”

Kelly's Westport Inn

photo by: Kelly's Westport Inn

A view of what is now Westport Road from 1892.

Kelly's Westport Inn

photo by: Kelly's Westport Inn

The building that now holds Kelly's Westport Inn, as seen in 1904.

Kelly's Westport Inn

photo by: Kelly's Westport Inn

The Westport Inn in 1950.

Lauren Walser is the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

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