Home ARTICLES Misc

Round Hill to Sion Hill—An Estate Evolves by Susan Jezak Ford, January 2002 PDF  | Print |

At the turn of the century, the area known today as central Hyde Park was the newly fashionable suburb for he wealthy and socially prominent. Few current midtown residents, however, know the history of “Round Hill,” the once-magnificent four-acre estate of banker Henry C. Flower, located at 38th and Locust.

Henry C. Flower was one of Kansas City’s most prominent businessmen. Born in 1860, he came to Kansas City in 1885 and began practicing law. Despite having letters of introduction tot he city’s leading lawyers, he was unable to find employment in a law firm. He established his on office at Sixth and Delaware streets and his business quickly grew. He developed an acquaintance with New York financier James Stillman, who encouraged Flower to organize a bank in Kansas City. Upon this advice, the Fidelity Trust Company resulted, representing at the time of its charter more money than any corporation in the state. Flower served as president of the bank until 1919, when it merged with the National City Bank and became the Fidelity National Bank & Trust, where he served as chairman of the board.

Flower acquired a large tract of land south of Janssen Place in 1910 and immediately began transforming the site to suit his social standing. Building permits totaling $8,000 in anticipated expenses was submitted in 1910 to remodel and repair an existing house and to build a stone garage on the north edge of the parcel of land. Further construction occurred in 1913, as Flower expanded the front of the house with a two-story addition. The new addition was designed by Henry F. Hoit, one of Kansas City’s foremost architects who had designed homes for R.A. Long (Corinthian Hall and Longview Farm) and whose firm would be chosen to design the Kansas City Power and Light building in 1931. The property was renamed “Round Hill” and the entrance was moved from 38th and Janssen Place to 3823 Locust. The estate’s newly expanded home featured a sprawling Italian Renaissance design with a symmetrical stucco facade, columned porches topped with balustrades and an elaborate broken pediment over the main entrance. Brackets and dentil moldings provided ornamentation to the house&rsqup;s simple, graceful lines.

Flower and his wife had two daughters, but the couple eventually divorced. In 1925, Flower donated Round Hill to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Sion in exchange for another property owned by the sisters—the former home of Kirkland Armour located on the northwest corner of Armour and Warwick Boulevards. Each of the exchanged properties was valued at the time at $150,000. The grounds of Round Hill were described as “the most beautiful in the city.” Laid out ten years earlier by the renowned landscape firm of Hare & Hare, the gardens extended east of the house just south of the Janssen place retaining wall and included hedges, a large flower garden, terraces and a pergola.

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Sion began building their new school in 1927 in a “Modern French” style. The three-story building, placed in front of the Flower home, was considered quite elaborate, constructed of buff brick and trimmed with stone. The building included three cafeterias, a kitchen, a swimming pool and a great hall, in addition to classrooms and dormitories. An enclosed passageway was built to link the new building to the former Flower home, which was used for office space. Over the years, the open porches of the house were closed in and second-story rooms were added to the side porches, as the building was adapted for various uses by the school. Still visible today, despite the changes, are the features that made this a distinguished house—the stretches of carved molding, the grand staircase and a library lined with bookshelves.

The historic lower school of Notre Dame de Sion still sits on Round Hill, now known as Sion Hill, above 39th and Gillham Road. The school provides a Catholic multicultural education to preschool through 8th grade students and has recently renovated its third story to accommodate a new science center. The fate of the Henry flower home remains unknown at this time, as the school has listed as a goal its removal and replacement with a multipurpose gymnasium building.

Note: The house was razed in 2003-4 in preparing for a new building.