Empire Building


Built-in 1870, the Empire Hall (Empire Opera House) served as the home to theatrical performances as well as numerous social and political events. The theatre occupied the upper floors while the lowest level, at 204 and 206 Holden, hosted various businesses. It’s one of the many buildings that arose along the Holden Street corridor in conjunction with the railroad’s arrival in Warrensburg in 1864.

A few years after construction finished on Empire Hall, its significance became readily apparent after the election of Francis M. Cockrell to the United States Senate. Cocknell was born in Johnson County in 1834, roughly two years before the platting of Warrensburg, and he began practicing law in Warrensburg in 1855, the same year Warrensburg became incorporated. He later ran for the U.S. Senate and won. The city of Warrensburg provided Cocknell with a parade and lavish reception held at Empire Hall.

Empire Hall was also home to New Year’s Eve masquerade parties, formal balls, theatre productions, concerts, and more. For instance, In 1879, the ladies of the Old School Presbyterian Church hosted an oyster dinner. In 1882, people skated in a skating rink assembled in the theatre during the cold months, which transitioned into a roller skating rink during the warm months. In 1883, the theatre hosted a Statewide Prohibition Convention.

Several movie theatres opened in 1907, which dramatically affected the popularity of the Magnolia Opera House and Empire Hall in Warrensburg. Still, businesses on the lower floor continued to enjoy success as they sat in the city’s central business district. While the theatre space occupied the upper floors, businesses on the lower included 204 Holden, a drugstore (1895), Clark’s Ice Cream Factory (1913), Rundle Drugstore (1931-1958), and a shoe store (1963-1972). Russell Brother’s Clothing (1931-1972) occupied 206 N. Holden from 1931 to 1972. Attorneys Harris, Harris & Sommer, LLC moved into 206 N. Holden in 1976 and continue to occupy the building in 2021.


Built c. 1870, alterations to the original building c.1980

The three-story two-part commercial block has brick cladding and a flat roof. A projecting brick string course and terra cotta tile coping ornament the cornice. The primary (east) elevation has seven bays; the upper-story fenestration defines the bays. The first-story storefronts on the north and south halves of the first story have a non-historic brick infill; a non-historic wood door pierces the center of the first story. Paired, glazed wood doors flanked by display windows fill the north storefront; a non-historic wood pierces the south end of the south storefront. Fabric awnings shade the storefronts and doors. Two over-two double-hung round-arch windows with stone sills fill the second-story bays; fixed, multi-light Roundarch windows with stone sills fill the third-story bays. Businesses housed in this building included a drugstore (1895), Clark’s Ice Cream Factory (1913), Rundle Drugstore (1931-1958) and a shoe store (1963-1972) at 204 N. Holden, and Russell Brother’s Clothing (1931-1972) at 206 N. Holden. Alterations to the primary façade of the building, such as the brick veneer infill and storefront reconfiguration, compromise its integrity and its ability to communicate its historic function and the era in which it was constructed, rendering it non-contributing to Holden and Pine street historic district.