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Hyde Park Historic District, National Register of Historic Places PDF  | Print |

List of significant structures in the historic district.

The Hyde Park Historic District is located in the center of Kansas City, Missouri in an area that was platted and developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is bordered by four major thoroughfares: Armour Boulevard on the north, 39th Street on the south, the southbound lane of Gillham Road on the west and Troost Avenue on the east. The boundaries are recognized by the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association that refers to the area as central Hyde Park to distinguish it from north Hyde Park and South Hyde Park, areas later added to that Association. Located within the above named boundaries is the Janssen Place Historic District, which is in the National Register of Historic Places.

The boundaries for the district were set by an apparent physical change in the type of development and construction in the surrounding areas, rather than by historical precedent. To the north, along Armour Boulevard, large, high-rise apartments were erected in the 1920’s and the character of that boundary with its wide boulevard lined with tall structures is significantly different from that of the Hyde Park Historic District. To the east, the property facing Troost Avenue is zoned for commercial development and a variety of modern commercial structures line that street making the rear property line of the properties on Harrison Boulevard a logical boundary. To the south, again a busy thoroughfare, 39th Street, forms a boundary. The development south of 39th Street, in south Hyde Park, was built lightly later than the Hyde Park Historic District and the lots and houses are smaller and the architectural design is of different character. To the west, the Hyde Park city park forms a natural barrier and there are modern apartments lining the western edge of Gillham Road.

The structures in Hyde Park are residential, primarily single family. They are frame construction with various veneers: brick, cut stone, clapboard and shingle, and are executed in a wide variety of styles: Colonial revival, Shingle style, Queen Anne, Victorian Romanesque, prairie School style, Bungalow and the Kansas City Vernacular “shirtwaist” style house. These structures are almost all 2 1/2 stories high and are located on fairly large lots measuring approximately 125 feet x 5 feet; they are set back from the street approximately 40 feet, creating a visually uniform streetscape.

On the eastern boundary of the district is Hyde Park, a public city park that is located between the north- and southbound lanes of Gillham Road and bounded on the north by 36th Street and on the south by 39th Street. Park property also runs diagonally through the district on either side of Harrison Boulevard.

The Hyde Park Historic District consists of 291 significant structures and the park property that remain virtually intact from the time of their construction at the turn-of-the-century. Later structures dating from the 1920’s have been included because they are not visual instructions and their style materials and workmanship conform to the earlier structures.

Statement of Significance

Hyde Park is a well preserved; turn-of-the-century neighborhood characterized by large residences built n a variety of architectural styles, which reflect the work of many leading local architects. The design, detail and methods of construction are of high quality and represent some of the best residential design in Kansas City at the time of construction. The neighborhood was developed by and for some of the city’s most prominent citizens and reflects their taste for conservative, but excellent design and craftsmanship. There are also a number of houses executed in the local Vernacular style—the Kansas City “Shirtwaist” style-which are smaller and not architect-designed but are representative of a particular time, style, material and level of craftsmanship important in Kansas City’s architectural development.

They Hyde Park park is also significant as the first park designed in Kansas City by George E. Kessler, the landscape architect who later designed Kansas City’s exemplary parks and boulevard system. This park was not originally part of that system, but was a “proving ground” for the young architect.

The park and neighborhood have survived with very few changes in their original appearance making the Hyde Park one of he best preserved examples of early 20th century residential design and planning in Kansas City.

HISTORY

In the mid-1880”s real estate speculation in Kansas City reached near-hysterical proportions. Land south of the city, extending to the town of Westport, three miles distant, was sold and resold at fantastic profits. Among the subdivisions platted her in 1886 was one called Hyde Park located midway between the two cities. This original Hyde Park subdivision was located west of Gillham road, outside the present day boundaries of the Hyde Park neighborhood and Historic District. To the east of Gillham road, Kenwood, Hampden Place, and several smaller subdivisions were also laid out. Between Hyde park the eastern subdivisions, lay a ravine down which ran a small creek, and to the south ran the old Independence-Westport wagon road used by Santa Fe and Oregon Trail travelers. Kenwood Place and the adjacent plats were girded without regard to the natural, rolling topography. Streets ran east-west; north-south. The first houses were built n 1887, but construction lagged afterwards as a result of a decade-long real estate depression. In 1900 less than 35 houses had been erected, but by 1907, when the market had recovered, this number had increased more than five times. In 1891 part of the area as annexed by the city of Westport which in turn was taken into Kansas City six years lager. For many years this entire area was know generally as “Hyde Park” without reference to the specific subdivisions. Later the application shafted eastward until the term today only refers to the area east of the original Hyde Park subdivision. The formation of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association helped to promote the name Hyde Park for this area.

Among the early residents were the nationally know architects, Henry Van Brunt, who built a house at the corner of Gillham Road and 37th Street in 1888; Arthur Stilwell, a railroad magnate; John Barbour White, president of one of the largest lumber corporations in the nation; and A. A. Mosher, a partner of Stilwell”s. These latter three had residences on adjoining lots. They were joined by Fred Harvey, operator of the railroad restaurant chain; Missouri Governor Herbert S. Hadley; Congressman E. C. Ellis; and Mayors Thomas T. Jenkins, nationally prominent minister and author; Nat Milgram, founder of a large grocery chain; the brothers Katz whose drugstore chain was equally large and, nearby lived Kirkland B. and Charles Armour of the meatpacking family. Their residences were designed by such locally prominent architects as Louis S. Curtiss, Frederick C. Gunn, John W. McKecknie, H. I Goddard, Clarence E. Shepard, and Edgar P. Madorie. Architecturally styles are predominately of two kinds; modifications of Colonial Revival n brick, stone and occasionally all-frame and the Kansas City “Shirtwaist” Style house with stone or brick lower story and frame upper, often with a bellcast gable roof. Other styles represented are Victorian, Romanesque, Queen Anne, Shingle Style, and Prairie School Style.

The Hyde Park city park was planned as an exclusive park for the residents of the surrounding fashionable neighborhood. The northern part of the ravine between the original Hyde Park subdivision and Kenwood Place had been included in the Hyde Park plat. To prevent the erection of unsightly shacks on the steep slopes, the developers acquired the southern section a year later. They engaged George E. Kessler, (1862-1923) a young landscape architect, to develop it into a private park. Kessler landscaped the 7.8-acre gully into a pleasant and attractive park, with walks, benches, playground, tennis courts, and planting. He circled it with a roadway to encourage homeowners to build fine residences three. “He . . . accepts the . . . storm-worn gully,” wrote a contemporary, “encourages grass and foliage to grow . . . moves not a cubic yard of dirt if he can avoid it [and uses] artistic screens of shrubbery and . . . clumps of trees. He created vistas and emphasized viewpoints.”

The park became the Hyde Park Country Club and was surrounded by a high fence. Adjacent, the first golf course in Kansas City was laid out after Stanly Young, a Scotsman, had introduced the game to residents. The entire stream valley, including the park was acquired by the parks system of Kansas City in 1902. A parkway, named for Robert Gillham, an early (1895-1899) park commissioner, was built down the center and around the tiny park. The sloping sides, ranging form 75 feet to 500 feet in width were landscaped as parks themselves by Kessler. Kessler became the first planner of the Kansas City Parks Department and was architect of the parks and boulevards concept of the turn-of-the-century “City Beautiful” movement form that came Kansas City’s outstanding parks system. He later helped plan the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, was instrumental in the design of the City’s Forest Park and the Parks and boulevard systems of Indianapolis, El Paso, Cleveland, Cincinnatti, Syracuse, Denver, Wichita Falls, Texas, and Mexico City. He planned the entire city of Longview, Washington, and remained, until his death, one of the premier park planners of the world. This little park was the first of that long list and as such is a hallmark in the history of American park design.

South of Kenwood Place, running in a southwesterly, direction, lay another creek valley. Along the north rim, a wagon road from Independence to Westport, a mile away, had been laid out in 1827 and was used by travelers going to Santa Fe and Oregon. This valley, too, was landscaped by Kessler and added to the boulevard system in 1908 as Harrison Parkway.

By the beginning of World War II many of the originally homeowners in Hyde Park had died or moved away to newer addresses of quality. Their large old homes wee divided into apartments and sleeping rooms to house war workers. The decline continued after the war as suburban developments grew. Three luxury garden apartments and several duplexes were built there in the 1950’s and ’60’s, which helped stabilize the neighborhood by bringing in young professional people. In 1969 a neighborhood association was formed and the next year the city appropriated $595,000 in Community Development funds for replacement of curbs and sidewalks, planting of trees and park landscaping. During the 1970’s houses were purchased by persons wishing to restore them to their former glory. Real Estate values have spiraled as they did a century ago, until today, this is one of the liveliest markets in the older city.

The Hyde Park Historic District is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places as well-preserved turn-of-the-century residential neighborhood, which has retained its unique, original character. Many individual structures and the district as a whole possess integrity of location, design, setting, material, workmanship that preserve that period in Kansas City’s architectural development.