The block is bounded by Sunset Drive, 51st Street and 52nd Street.
The large homes set on big wooded lots were intended by their developer to attract those who could afford the most exclusive addresses in Kansas City, and J.C. Nichol’s plan worked.
The Sunset Hill neighborhood had been planned by Nichols as “the most highly restricted part of the Country Club District.” The neighborhood grew out of the 400 acre Ward estate. W Nichols made a sales pitch for it in a local newspaper in 1916.
“The character of Sunset Hill is entirely its own. In far-reaching, scientific development together with its size, its permanency, elevation, convenient location, beautiful topography, forest trees and its surroundings, no district in America equals or even approaches it,”he promised.
The first tract of land that Hugh Ward sold from his farm stood on this block at 640 W. Fifty Second Street facing Loose Park. The home was designed by the architectural firm of Shepard, Farrar & Wiser. Advertising man Frank B. Nutter lived there with his family and then sold it to Edward Carpenter, proprietor of the Kansas City House and Window Cleaning Company, who lived there when this photo was taken in 1940.
The elite of Kansas City moved into the block as development began, and the neighborhood continued to be an impressive address. In 1940, the year these photos were taken, some of the families living on this Sunset Hill block included:
- William E. Durham, a lawyer, his wife Lenore, and mother-in-law Anna L. Hezlitt.
- Joseph C. Williams, vice-president of a bank, his wife Nona, two daughters and two sons.
- Edward E. Carpenter, president of a cleaning company.
- Albert R. Hill, a retired educator, his wife Vassie and a Filipino hired man.
- Charles Baird, a retired banker.
- Benjamin Adams, vice president of a gas service company, his wife Rachel and daughter.
- Lawyer and civic leader Maurice Winger and his wife.
The slideshow below shows the remaining homes on the block as they looked in 1940.
As part of our Uncovering History Project, the Midtown KC Post is taking a look at 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).
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.