Gardeners Once Flocked To A Backyard On This Block Near Westport

In the 1950s, many Kansas City gardeners visited the yard of Mrs. F.T. Hoeck at 4254 Jefferson near Westport Road. She was a highly acclaimed gardener whose backyard drew many visitors every year. Today, the house and garden have been replaced by an apartment complex, as have most of the other homes on this Plaza Westport block.

In 1920, homes of this block from Westport Road to Archibald between Clark Street (Belleview) and Jefferson went on sale, and by 1930 they were filled with families. The block was in a subdivision known as Whitehouse Place, which developers advertised  as including 40 homes from bungalows to Queen Anne’s to three-story houses. No two were alike, but they were all painted white with dark roofs.

This 1909-1959 Sanborn map of the block shows the houses in Whitehouse Place as they stood on the block.

The block remained residential for several decades. In the late 1950s, homes along Westport Road were incorporated into an expanding Westport business district, becoming commercial buildings to serve the nearby community. In the 1980s, the entire block was razed as part of the development of the City Place of Westport Apartments. Archibald Street no longer cuts through the block.

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).  Today, the Plaza Westport block from Westport Road to Archibald between Jefferson and Clark (Belleview).  Archibald Street was eliminated when the apartment complex was built in the 1980s.

Picture of the block in 1930

Before 1920, only three homes stood on the block, all along Westport Road. As the G.F. Mosher Company began advertising Whitehouse Place in 1920, middle-class families began moving in to the new homes that filled out the block.

A recent aerial photo of the block, highlighted in yellow. Archibald Street was eliminated on the block in the 1980s.

By 1930, census records show the homes occupied by families that owned or rented. Working parents on the block came from the livestock, railroad and other industries. Here’s what the census records show:

  • 4240 Jefferson: Carol Deaver, 36, automobile plant checker; wife Hagel, 33; daughter Lorrine, 14; son Loren, 10; brother-in-law Ralph Cortner. Home was rented.
  • 4646 Jefferson: G.H. Gosnell, 45, livestock cattle buyer; wife Stella, 38; step-son Otis Burris, 13; sister-in-law Alyne Norris, 16. Home was rented.
  • 4650 Jefferson: George Fundias, 71, live stock commission order buyer, son of German immigrants; wife Ida, 69. Home was owned.
  • 4254 Jefferson: Alvin Tripper, 31, attorney; wife Blanche, 27; daughter Gracanne, 6. Home was rented.
  • 4258 Jefferson: Grace Borland, 58, public school teacher; sister Helen, 59. Home was owned.
  • 4262 Jefferson: Mary Lavin, 68; daughter Hazel, 30, typewriter manufacturer stenographer; son Gary, 38, railroad brakeman; grandson Jake, 14. Home was owned.
  • 4264 Jefferson: J.S. Shamel, 34, California fruit growers’ association salesman; wife Emma, 36; daughter Bettie, 8; daughter Margaret, 5; sister-in-law Laura Spater, 40. Home was rented.
  • 4268 Jefferson: W.G. Newman, 58, passenger train supervisor; wife Fern, 67. Home was owned.
  • 4269 Belleview: W.S. Mosier, 52, owner of a printing company; wife Lula, 39; father Samuel, 84. Home was owned.
  • 4257 Belleview:Fred Swarne, 56, railroad clerk; wife Hannah, 54. Home was owned.
  • 4255 Belleview: Bert Saben, 43, grocery store merchant. Home was owned.
  • 4251 Belleview: Earl Bennett, 35, public service yardmaster; wife Leta, 34; mother-in-law Ella Newton, 60. Home was owned.
  • 4247 Belleview: G.R. Carr, 36, train dispatcher, son of English immigants; wife Margary, 35; son Charles, 9; son Richard, 7.  Home was owned.
  • 4245 Belleview:Fred Hildebrand, 41, railroad pullman conductor, son of a Russian immigrant; wife Anna, 36; son Fredrick, 11. Home was owned.
  • 4243 Belleview:Thomas C. Glynn, 45, county court investigator, father was an Irish immigrant; wife Nellie, 39. Home was owned.
  • 709 Westport Road: Daisy Million, 46, insurance company bookkeeper; mother Alice, 65.

The Hoeck Garden

Life on the block appears to have been fairly quiet in its early years. In 1935, the home at 715 Westport Road drew many visitors when it was part of a remodeling contest. Visitors were asked to tour the home and make suggestions for updating it.

It was Mrs. F.T. Hoeck’s home at 4254 Jefferson that probably gained the most fame. In the 1950s, Mrs. Hoeck became well-known for her compact and colorful garden. The Kansas City Star said in 1952 that no garden in Kansas City drew as many visitors as hers.

The photos below show the rest of the buildings on the block as they looked 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 at local bookstores and on Amazon.com. 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. 

 

3 Comments

  1. David Kelly says:

    These homes were still standing into the early 2000s when City Place was built. I delivered mail in Westport from 1996-2010.

  2. Kane Jarmon says:

    Thank you so much! This was such awesome information about the history of our neighborhood here at City Place at Westport. Would it be ok if we used some of your photos and information to help spread the wonderful history of our community?

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