Do you know the history of this Plaza block, 47th to 48th and Summit?

In 1940, this house stood at 47th and Summit, an block of the Plaza where homes have been replaced by businesses.

In 1940, this house stood at 47th and Summit, an block of the Plaza where homes have been replaced by businesses.

A row of three iconic apartment buildings at the back of the Bloch Cancer Survivors Park on the Plaza is threatened by demolition, as we reported last week. So we’re taking a look back at the two blocks around the apartments, from W. 47th to W. 48th Streets, from Roanoke Parkway to Jefferson, to get a sense of their place in history.

A 1917-19445 map of the blocks.

A 1917-19445 map of the blocks.

These blocks have two unique features –they contain buildings that are part of the Nelle Peter’s Thematic Historic District and photos from 1940s show a surprising number of modest homes in an area that has since been taken over by shining high rise buildings.

Beginning with the apartment buildings on the two blocks, a cluster of buildings are part of the locally-recognized Nelle Peters Thematic Historic District. This 1917 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of the area shows 5 apartments: the David Copperfield, Rousseau, Cottesbrook, Cezanne and Vanity Fair Apartments within the district.

 

The same blocks today seen from above.

The same blocks today seen from above.

These apartments were one of the many developments by Charles E. Phillips, who also built the Phillips Hotel downtown. Phillips began building six-plex buildings on Armrour Bouelvard, but in the late 1920s, he turned his attention south to the Plaza, where the more affluent families of Midtown were moving. “He envisioned housing for more than 1000 families, to be a compact development on the west edge of the Plaza,” The Kansas City Star reported in his 1955 obituary.

“In his previous operations, Mr. Phillips had exhausted suitable names for buildings. He was pondering the subject one day, perhaps in his library, when the thought occurred to him to name

A 1989 view of the three apartments that may be headed for demolition.

A 1989 view of the three apartments that may be headed for demolition.

his new structures for favorite authors and painters. Thus Kansas City’s literary row of apartment buildings came into existence. Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, Eugene Field, James Russell Lowell, Robert Browing, Cezanne and Rousseau are some of the names Mr. Phillips gave to buildings,” the newspaper said.

But today, the buildings are remembered not as much for Phillips’ involvement as that of their architect, Nelle Peters, one of the few women architects of the day. Peters designed many apartments and other buildings in Kansas City, including the “literary block” off the Plaza.

The three long blue buildings on the map are best known because they create a backdrop for the Bloch Cancer Survivors Park between 47th and 48th and Roanoke Parkway. These three buildings are not part of the historic district and appear to be slated demolition.

This slideshow shows the apartment buildings on these two blocks as they looked in 1940.

In addition to the apartments, a set of 1940s photos shows nine modest homes lining the two sides of Summit Street. This block is tucked away today between taller buildings and all of these homes are gone. But here’s how they looked in 1940.

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. (Many people seem confused by the tax assessment photos, which all include a man holding a sign. Here’s the story behind them).

 There’s still a lot more to learn. Do you remember this block? What special memories do you have of this section of Midtown? What questions do you have about it? Let us know and we’ll share your history and help to preserve it on our website as part of our Uncovering History project.

Would you like us to focus on your block next week? Send us an email.

 Our new 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. Order the book  

 All photos courtesy Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley special Collections.

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