|In 1880, E. N Ewing with financiers Kersey Coates, T. F. Oakes and Colonel C. F. Morse & Associates |
constructed the smelter on a twenty acre site in the newly plotted townsite later called Argentine. The
buildings were a series of structures designed for their beauty but adopted to the business of separating
marketable metals from ore and base bullion.
At one time the smelter colony included more than one half of the town's total population of 6,000.
Work never ceased; day and night were only known by the changing of the gangs of men.
Ore was shipped by rail from Mexico and Canada, as well as from various parts of the United States, but ore
from the mining districts of the Colorado mountains provided the bulk of the Argentine import.
At the smelter the ore and base bullion were crushed, separated and refined.
A year after its construction, August R. Meyer gained controlling interest of the smelter. Mr. Meyer was a
pioneer in the development of the modern Kansas City, Missouri park system. Meyer Boulevard and the
Circle Fountain were named after him.
Mr. Meyer's former home at forty-forth and Oak Street designed in German manor house style by VanBrunt &
Howe, is now occupied by the Kansas City Art Institute.
The people of Argentine even elected one of the smelter workers its mayor. He was Charles W. Green, who
came to Argentine in 1898 from the mining camps in Colorado to be superintendent of the Argentine smelter.
Mr. Green was elected to four separate terms as mayor of Argentine, served as councilman from the district
immediately following its annexation, was elected the first finance commissioner of Kansas City, Kansas and
was then elected its mayor in 1913.
Mr. Green's career paralleled closely that of August Meyer who also got his start in a Colorado smelter. Both
men came to the Kansas City area about the same time. Although each rose to a position of outstanding
leadership in public affairs, Green never achieved the financial status of his employer.
In its hey day of 1898, the Smelter boasted a total production of 7,889,029 ounces of silver valued at
$4, 970,088; 242,736 ounces of gold worth $5,017,360; and 39,947 tons of lead priced at $3,195,760, which
was one fifth of the nations total lead output. About 10,000,000 tons of blue vitriol and more than 200,000
pounds of zinc also were produced that same year. The smelter was shipping out about a ton of silver bricks or
ingots and $20,000 in gold each day to places as far away as India and Japan.
In 1899, under Meyer's leadership, the smelter company constructed the stack shown in the background of
this web page. It was the largest brick smokestack in the United States, its height being 187 and one half
feet,the base 26 feet square, and 15 feet across the top. It contained 700,00 bricks and cost $20,000 to
build. The smokestack was located at Metropolitan Avenue and *21st Street.
(*Before incorporation with Kansas City, Kansas in 1910, this was 1st Street)
Originally another stack was situated on top of the hill to the south at 23rd (3rd Street before 1910) and
Lawrence. Brick passageways wound their way up the steep hillside and into the solid rock below the stack. A
tunnel carried the flue under Metropolitan Avenue, Silver Avenue, and many of the homes and buildings in the
valley. The entire system of tunnels was more than a mile long. The second stack was built to replace the older
stack and its tunnels. Since the new stack was closer to the smelter, it did not require any tunnels.
The new stack was used only for a short period of time with the closing of the Smelter in 1901 by the
Guggenheims, a German metal tycoon family with whom Meyer has merged. Two factors contributed to its
closing were that it became cheaper to ship Mexican ore by water to the East than by rail to Argentine and
that the Colorado ore was being refined in new smelters constructed nearer the ore mines in the mountains.
But during its operation for two decades, it gained the distinction of being the greatest ore smelting and
refining plant in the world.
For more than a half century, the stack was a prominent landmark in the Argentine district until it was razed
in 1958 to make room for a $2,000,000 storm sewer improvement.