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"Hyde Park: Then and Now" Westport, May 1978 PDF  | Print |

By Greg Patterson, executive director of Westport Tomorrow, Inc

Mrs. Robert Menees

There’s something new about old Hyde Park. To long-time, loyal residents like Mrs. Robert Menees, the changes of the mid-seventies are welcome and mark the first time, perhaps since the Depression and certainly since World War II, that the75-year-old neighborhood has been on the upswing.

The Hyde Park neighborhood, as established by the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association in 1969, includes the area from 31st to 46th Streets, Gillham Road to Troost. The original Hyde Park subdivision was platted roughly from Linwood Boulevard to 39th Street, Broadway to Gillham Road.

Some of Hyde Park is nearly as it was 75 years ago. Much of it, however, has disappeared. Genteel residents once made use of tennis, croquet and archery facilities at Hyde Park Country Club, predecessor of the Kansas City County Club. Located in the present day park between the lanes of Gillham Road, the Country Club introduced golf to the area with a nine-hole golf course just to the east. The Westport City Council even passed a herd law to keep cows off the greens!

The Menees home [55 Janssen Placer] was one of the 19 original homes of Janssen Place. Mrs. Menees’ father, Guy M. Cowgill moved his family to Janssen Place in 1930. Mr. and Mrs. Cowgill were the second owners of a house built to order for Dr. W. H. Schutz in 1911.

When the Cowgills moved to Hyde Park, Mrs. Menees was a school girl and Westport High School was the best of Kansas City’s schools. She grew up with the sons and daughters of Kansas City’s influential families. It as a time when entertainment in the home was the fashion and activities ranged from casual conversation with neighbors to elaborate balls and weddings. Mrs. Menees, like the two daughters of the Schutz’s before her, was married in her magnificent home. On her wedding day, the groom probably first glimpsed the bride when she appeared on the imposing staircase.

Following her marriage to Dr. Robert E. Menees, Vivian Menees was to leave Janssen Place for only a short time. Her husband was a young dentist and worked downtown. Dr. Menees later moved his practice to the Plaza and the Meneeses moved back to Janssen place.

Gradually, despite its single family zoning, the control of the lot owner’s association, and its “world unto itself” relationship to the rest of the city, Janssen Place began to experience unwanted changes. Most of the original homes builders and owners had died or moved to other prestige addresses. As these people left, Mrs. Menees recalls they were sometimes replaced by people interested primarily in income property.

This trend persisted following World War II until recently. Happily, the tide has been stemmed and new people with different attitudes about Hyde Park and in-town living have moved in.

The new residents and old loyalists, like Vivian Menees, see the value in homes with materials that are irreplaceable and design and construction on a scale virtually beyond reach today. And the assets of Hyde Park go beyond the homes and the restoration possibilities in them. The area’s location in the city’s cultural heart near the Nelson Gallery, the Art Institute and the conservator of Music, puts a musician and art-lover like Mrs. Menees within a long walk of her greatest interests. Moreover, for years she has delighted in shopping on the Plaza and now increasingly enjoys the offerings of Crown Center.

As new neighbors settle around Mrs. Menees in Hyde Park and Janssen Place, the values of different generations form an interesting mix with surprising commonalities. Much of the action today belongs to the visionary new residents with their determination to preserve and to construct positive aesthetic and social additions to a place they, too, are coming to know and love.