Hyde Park Block Responded to Changing Residential Trends

 

The Alexander Hamilton Apartments, seen in this 1949 Kansas City Star drawing,  were built during the post-war housing crisis. The 70 apartments offered much needed homes in an era where Kansas City residents were being urged to share their homes because of a housing  crisis. Two of the older homes on the Hyde Park block from Armour to 36th between Charlotte and Holmes, built for well-off families and their servants, had become boarding houses by this time as well.

How does this block of Hyde Park come to have several formerly luxurious old homes mixed in with a 1950s, post-war apartment building? The answer lies in the changing housing trends that influenced the development, and redevelopment, of Midtown Kansas City. On this block, from Armour to E. 36th between Charlotte and Holmes, the earliest residents were looking for space for large families and servants, while half a century later, a new apartment building rose up in response to a housing crisis.

 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 block from Armour to E. 36th between Charlotte and Holmes. Unfortunately, the 1940 photos from this block are not available.

Block Built Up After 1900

As building boomed after the turn of the 20th century in Midtown, this block filled up with large, well-constructed homes designed for large, well-off families. A map from 1907 (right) shows six homes on wide lots. The 1910 census gives more detail about the families who had recently moved into the new homes.

  • 721 E. Armour:  William Repp, 53, furniture company owner; wife Catherine, 43; daughter Winifred, 19; and servant Mary Stack, 23, who immigrated from Ireland in 1892.
  • 3524 Charlotte: Charles W. German, 38, lawyer; wife Louise, 38; son Charles, 10; son George, 5; servant Amelia Hollendorf, 23. Charles German came to the United States from Canada in 1880 and Amelia Hollendorf came from Sweden in 1894.
  • 720 E. 36th:  Charles E. Granness, 54, a timber land proprietor; wife Clara, 35; servant Ella Rosenstrom, 32; servant Hugo Carlson, 26. Both servants had come from Sweden, Rosenstrom in 1905 and Carlson in 1903.
  • 3521 Holmes: Louis Tippe, 56, real estate agent; wife Annie E., 56, step-son Joseph Knoche, 30, attorney; step daughter Rosa Knoche, 28; cousin and houseman Daniel Knoche, 58; servant Lydia Massch, 18. George Tippe immigrated from Germany in 1889; his wife arrived from Germany in 1860, as did Daniel Knoche.
  • 3517 Holmes: George Wallich, 51, own income; wife Lugilla, 42; daughter Lugilla, 19; son George, 9; servant Ella Mulligan, 30, who immigrated from Ireland in 1889. Wallich had substantial real estate investments in Kansas City and also worked as wholesale cigar distributor.
  • 3516 Charlotte: Maurice Clippinger, 29, tank factory manufacturer; wife Nancy T., 34; daughter Sara, 3; son Maurice, 0; father-in-law James Tappen, 59; servant Beatrice Graf, 16.Clippinger’s mother had been born in Canada and both of Graf’s parents were born in Germany.

Housing Needs Shifted in 1940s

By the 1940s, census records suggest families were struggling to keep up such large homes. Although several of the families who had originally built on the block remained, two homes (721 East Armour and 3516 Charlotte) had been converted into rooming houses.

Five years later, all of the United States and all of Kansas City was rocked by a housing shortage. First war workers flooded Kansas City, filling up the many rooms available as the war began. When it wound down, soldiers returned home to find a critical shortage of any place to spend the night, let alone to rent or buy. The city manager in 1945 urged anyone who could to “share a home,” and large homes were chopped up into multiple apartments to relieve the stress.

Some Kansas City homeowners responded to the plea, but, not surprising, most did not. An emergency housing commission distributed 60,000 cards through school children about home sharing, but those resulted in only 143 listings. The city also found it necessary to control prices, since unscrupulous landlords took advantage of the situation, jacking up rents in even the most slummy housing units.

 

A recent Google aerial photo of the block shows the Alexander Hamilton apartments in the lower right, as well as the remaining turn-of-the-century homes on the block. Armour Boulevard is on the right side and Holmes is on the bottom.

 Post-War Apartment Boom

The emergency housing commission concluded by 1946 that the ultimate answer to the housing shortage lay in new apartment construction. The Alexander Hamilton Apartments at the southeast corner of Armour and Holmes, completed in 1949, were part of post-war apartment construction. The developers had worked on multi-million-dollar military projects during the war, but then shifted their attention to apartments. The building had mostly one-bedroom, plus a few two-bedroom and single apartments. Each unit had kitchen cabinets, a kitchen fan, a range and a refrigerator but were otherwise unfurnished. Inside the L-shape to the rear of Armour was room to park 35 cars.

 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. 

 

Leave a Comment