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Southmoreland Neighborhood

 

Southmoreland Historic District

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The Historic Southmoreland Neighborhood is located in Midtown Kansas City from Thirty-ninth Street on the northern boundary to Forty-seventh Street on the southern, the west side of Main Street to Gillham/Rockhill Road on the east. The general boundaries of the Southmoreland Historic District are generally the east of Walnut; north of 45th Street; west of Rockhill Road; and south of 43rd Street. The district contains 61 conforming structures and 5 non-conforming structures.

 

In 1886 William Rockhill Nelson, publisher of the Kansas City Star purchased almost thirty acres of land at 44th, between Oak Street and Rockhill Road. His palatial residence “Oak Hall” was constructed on the site now occupied by the Nelson Gallery-Atkins Museum. In 1889 South Moreland in the Town of Westport was platted. The earliest extant resident in the district was the Augustus Strein residence at 420 E. 44th Street. It was built in 1889. August Meyer constructed his house at 4415 Warwick in 1895-6. It was designed by the national known firm of Van Brunt & Howe. In the late 1890’s Southmoreland Park, an area of approximately 6.5 acres, was given to the Town of Westport by William Rockhill Nelson, and acquired by the Kansas City Park Board after Westport was annexed by Kansas City in 1897. The W.A. Rule residence at 4306 Oak Street was constructed in 1899. The four acre site comprising its grounds encompassed a full block from 43rd to 44th; and fro Oak to Hyde Park, (now McGee). The architects for the Rule mansion were Gunn & Curtiss.

The houses located on Locust Street were constructed principally between 1900 and 1905, and are much more modest in size than others in the neighborhood. The majority of the residences in the District were constructed between 1904 and 1914. Eight were built prior to 1901 and 34 were built between 1901 and 1910. Some of the prominent architects who designed residences in the district include: Louis Curtiss, Walter Root, Henry Hoit, Shepard & Farrar, Matt O’Connell, Van Brunt & Howe, Clifton B. Sloan, Shelby Kurfiss, Owen & Payson, J.H. Martling, and a sizable concentration of work of Albert Turney (4300 block of Warwick and the 4300 block of McGee), and Victor DeFoe (4300 block of Rockhill). Some of the architectural styles represented in the district include: Kansas City Shirtwaist, bungalow, Georgian Revival, Colonial Revival, Art Noveau, Mission, Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne.

The post World War I apartment building boom made some inroads into the single-family residential character of the neighborhood, with the construction of several apartments and duplexes. The duplexes were tastefully designed to maintain the character of a single family dwelling, and provide us with a concentrated collection of designs in a variety of period styles by local architect Victor DeFoe.

In 1922, the north part of the Rule estate was purchased and the grounds used for the construction of apartments by the Zurn Building Company and the Ralph Realty Company, in an effort to capitalize on the considerable value of the land. The Rule estate was reduced to a plot of ground measuring 88 x 150 feet, and after several years of steady decline, the mansion was razed.

Through a provision in the will of William Rockhill Nelson, “Oak Hall” was demolished, though the grounds remained intact. In 1928, the City took control of the land, and in 1930 through the bequests of the Nelson family, the Nelson Gallery-Atkins Museum was constructed. In 927, when the widow of August Meyer offered the Meyer residence for sale, the site of the Nelson Gallery had already been selected. The close proximity of the Meyer residence to the Gallery made it an ideal location for permanent quarters of the Kansas City Art Institute, which had moved from leased quarters several times since its organization in 1886. Speculators and apartment builders were also interested in the eight and one half acres of land that constituted the Meyer estate. The Art Institute proposed to preserve the grounds intact, in an effort to preserve the character of the neighborhood and as a means to prevent the subdivision of the land for less desirable projects. Residents of the neighborhood pledged $31,000 ensures the Art Institute’s financial ability to acquire the property. Philanthropist

Howard Vanderslice purchased the house and grounds in 1927 for $140,000, and donated the property to the Art Institute. An agreement, which accompanied the sale of the property, stipulated that the ground would be maintained, and that the character of any additional buildings to be erected would be in consonance with the rest of the neighborhood.