Early maps of this Valentine neighborhood street show most of it once was owned by Nellie G. Nelson, the daughter of Kansas City pioneer A.B.H. McGee. Nellie married William W. Nelson, himself the son of a pioneer family, in what was one of the most celebrated weddings in Kansas City history in 1890. Nellie later lived at 3765 (later 3711) Pennsylvania.
As part of our Uncovering History Project, the Midtown KC Post is taking a look at the 1940 tax assessment photos of each block in Midtown, including a set of 1940 tax assessment photos which is available for many blocks. (Many people seem confused by the tax assessment photos, which all include a man holding a sign. Here’s the story behind them).
This week, the focus is on the east side of Pennsylvania from Valentine Road to 38th Street in the Valentine neighborhood.
The early history of the Valentine neighborhood is dominated by the name of A.B. H McGee.
James H. McGee was one of the earliest settlers and once owned 1000 acres of what became downtown Kansas City.
One son, Allen Burr Harrison McGee, lived on Broadway near 37th Street. A January 17, 1972 Kansas City Star article described the home:
Allen Burr Harrison McGee was a kind, hospitable, neighborly man who would take his enemies home and feed them so he wouldn’t have to fight them. In the Indian business all his life, he surveyed boundaries for the Osages with J.C. McCoy and operated the Sac and Fox Indian Agency in Westport as well as a store there. Indians camped on the lawn of his home, which stood at what is now 37th and Broadway. The southern mansion was always open to travelers, particularly dignitaries and functioned as an unofficial hotel until the Harris House was erected in Westport. It later became the Rochembeau Hotel, now razed.”
In 1890 McGee’s daughter Nellie married William W. Nelson, the son of another pioneer family. The wedding was major news in Kansas City papers. One article in the Oct. 30, 1890 Kansas City Times was called Amidst a Bower of Roses, and devoted an entire page to a description of the importance of the wedding, the decoration of the A.B.H. McGee home, and the important people who attended.
The bride and groom, it said, were “among the most prominent, most popular and most wealthy young people of the city.” The church was packed with relatives and friends of the two old families. “Attendants are many in number, handsome in appearance and attired in harmonizing costumes;” the paper wrote in explanation for the great interest in the event, “where the wealth and beauty of the city grace the occasion; where one of the most beautiful of modern mansions, enhanced with luxurious furnishings and wreaths of flowers, is thrown open for the reception, the event has become a public interest that penetrates far beyond the circle of friends and acquaintances.”
“It has interest of romance to a younger generation and an interest in reunion among those who have figured in the struggles and progress of this now city,” the Times concluded.
Nellie G. Nelson was living at 3711 (earlier 3767) Pennsylvania in 1914 when she divorced Nelson.
By then, the street had filled in with other homes occupied by middle-class families. The 1920 census gives a glimpse of those who were Nelson’s neighbors, including:
- 3787 Pennsylvania: Adelbert P. Nichols, a real estate agent and his wife Laura, daughter , two sons, and mother, as well as an Irish servant named Mary Ryan.
- 3783 Pennsylvania: Fred Carrier, a wholesale lumber merchant and wife Elizabeth.
- 3719 Pennsylvania: George H. Hope, a medical inker, wife Ida and an Irish servant.
- 3767 Pennsylvania: William Brace, an automobile wholesaler, and his wife, daughter, father-in-law and three roomers.
- 3655 Pennsylvania: Edward E. Holmes, a financial agent for a trust company, and his wife, son, father-in-law and a servant from Missouri.
- 3649 Pennsylvania: Searcy Ridge, a life insurance agent and his wife Elizabeth.
- 3632 Pennsylvania: Joel Witmer, a manager, and his wife and two children.
- 3625 Pennsylvania: Frank Lott, a real estate agent, his wife, son, daughter, and a servant.
- 3617 Pennsylvania: Thomas J. Radford, a retail druggist, and his wife and and one servant.
Most of the homes on the block were built around 1910 and are still standing. The slideshow below shows the homes as they looked when this set of photos was taken in 1940.
Historic photos courtesy Kansas City Public Library/Missouri Valley Special Collections.
Do you have memories or more details about this area of Midtown? Please share them with our readers.
Would you like us to focus on your block next week? Send us an email.
Our book, Kansas City’s Historic Midtown Neighborhoods, is available now. Let us know if you want us to come to your neighborhood association or organization’s meeting to share what we’ve learned about Midtown neighborhood history and tell your members how they can help preserve Midtown history. If you’d like to order the book, email Mary Jo Draper at firstname.lastname@example.org.