Before the current shopping center was built there in the 1960s, the corner of Westport Road and 43rd Street was home to the Kansas City Orphan Boys Home.
Even earlier, the land was known as the Roger homestead, a nearly-five-acre tract of land with a big orchard behind it. The 12-room frame home, according to a 1896 Kansas City Star article, was shaded by a big forest and surrounded by a lawn of blue grass.
A group of Kansas City women, however, began working to create an orphanage for young men. They found the perfect location in the old Roger Westport homestead. The same Star article described how the community saw the need for such an institution.
“A boy whose home is not respectable, or who is not altogether harmless, frequents the streets and places where “toughs” congregate, is easily led to commit petty crime. He serves a term in jail, where his association with criminals encourages him in evil, and when he is released the little fellow is “tougher” than when he was Imprisoned, and thus manhood finds him a first-class criminal. To keep children of this class from the streets, to raise them under Christian influences and to teach them to earn an honest living is the object for which the charitable and public spirited women banded themselves together and purchased the home in Westport.”
One of the women leading the charge was Mrs. John Perry. Once the women had bought the home, she served as the director. “
“The sisters of the order of Vincent de St. Paul care for the children and Sister Mary Joseph is in control. It is not a reformatory but a home and a school. It is the plan of the good women who founded the home that when its boys had finished the course of school studies they would be taught useful trades and not be thrown upon their own resources until they were fully prepared to earn a livelihood,” the Star explained.
In a tragic twist to the story, Mrs. Perry and her four children Florence, Sadie, Katherine and Albert Perry, died in 1898 when the French transatlantic steamer La Bourgogne sank in the ocean. Her husband John Perry, general manager of the Central Coal and Coke company, gave $25,000 to the Orphan Boy’s home in honor of his family. The old home was replaced with a new structure which stood until the 1960s, which included dormitories for the boys, class rooms, reception rooms, and rooms for the sisters.