The 3700 block of Troost and Forest today plays an important role in Kansas City life, as the site of the DeLaSalle Education Center. The same block holds other important history: it was once the home of a man who made his fortune by believing in Kansas City’s future, and later the home of a Catholic high school dedicated to serving all children in the urban core of Kansas City.
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. This week we’re focusing on the block from Troost to Forest, from 37th Street to Manheim Road. Often these stories rely heavily on these photos, but many of the photos of this part of town aren’t available. In fact, the only photos from the 1940 collection of the block are three images of auto-related businesses that dominated the block.
However, newspaper articles and old maps tell the early history of the block. William Stewart amassed 100 acres of land between 36th and 42st, Troost and Paseo, in today’s Squier Park neighborhood. In 1881, he sold sixty acres of the land to James J. Squier.
Squier was born in Pennsylvania, served in the Union army, and was in the dry goods and hardware businesses in Ohio and Chicago. According to his obituary,
“It was while in Chicago that Mr. Squier’s attention was attracted to Kansas City. The town was then forging ahead with rapid strides and he was so impressed with the future possibilities and so positive was he of Kansas City’s coming greatness that he heavily invested in real estate here in 1872 and came here to live. He engaged in the livestock and real estate business.”
Squier’s confidence in the future of Kansas City paid off for him. When he died, his estate was estimated to be worth between $350,00 and a half a million dollars.
Many people knew the Squier home, a big white frame house J.J. built in the block between Troost and Forest, Manheim Road and Thirty-seventh Street. When he moved in, the home was far from town; the nearest street car line was a mule car on Eighteenth Street. The rural Squire property, its deer park a popular attraction, remained heavily forested as the city grew around it. By 1919, when plans were made to raze the Squier home so that Thirty-fourth Terrace could be built, the Kansas City Star called it “one of the landmarks now surrounded by the city in the sweep of the residence district southward.”
Squier left the property to his daughter, Cora A. Jones, whose husband Robert Jones developed Squier Park.
In 1941, the Lillis High School opened on the former Squier home site. A year earlier, four Benedictine Sisters from Atchinson, Kansas, under the leadership of Sister Jerome Keeler, had been sent to open the school. Originally on the second floor of a business building at 3627 Main, the school moved when the building facing Forest was completed.
Sister Mary David McFarland, who helped found Lillis, told the Kansas City Star in 1976 Sister Jerome set the tone of the school’s philosophy to serve the needs of the central city.
“I remember Sister Jerome saying over and over again, “We want anyone who wants to come to us. We want to serve everybody.”
When Lillis closed in 1979, the DeLaSalle school moved in.
Do you have memories or more details about this block of Troost or Forest, the Squier home or the Lillis School? 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. Order the book
Historic photos courtesy Kansas City Public Library – Missouri Valley Special Collections.