Roanoke property owners took a stand against apartments in 1920s

Charles and Rose Burkey, who owned the Summit Theater, lived in this Roanoke home at 827 Valentine for almost two decades. The block, between Summit Street (now Southwest Trafficway) and Madison, is a mix of single-family homes and apartments built in the 1920s.

In the 1920s, the owners of single-family homes in the Roanoke neighborhood took a stand against the growing number of apartment buildings being erected across the city. Their concern about development of multifamily housing has been a constant theme across the history of Midtown.

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 bounded by Valentine and W. 37th, Summit (Southwest Trafficway), and Madison Avenue.

Reader Ellen Goheen asked us to look at this block where she helped restore a home built in 1907. Here’s what we were able to learn.

A single house, joined slowly by others

A map of the original Roanoke subdivision, dated 1895-1907, shows only one home on the block, at the corner of Summit Street and W. 37th (then known as Schaefer Street). This map, a 1907 Tuttle and Pike Atlas view of the block, indicates the home at 3681 Madison was the second house to be built on the block.

Before the Roanoke subdivision was created in 1887, the area was used as the grounds of the Kansas City Exhibition, an annual show and horse racing event. But the land became much more valuable as residential home sites, so the owners moved the exhibition and began selling lots in the high-class Roanoke subdivision.

Maps show that the house on the northwest corner of Summit and 37th was the first to be built, followed by one directly behind it on the corner of 37th and Madison. It also indicates that, while the west side of Madison was lined with homes by 1907, the eastern side of the street had only this one residence.

1920s dilemma: Restrict apartments?

The plat of the Roanoke subdivision was larger than what is today known as the Roanoke neighborhood. Today’s Roanoke neighborhood stops at Southwest Trafficway, while the Roanoke subdivision included the eastern side of Summit Street as well as Jefferson and part of Pennsylvania in what is now considered the Valentine neighborhood.

The plat map of Roanoke, dated 1895-1907, showing that the subdivision extends east into part of what is now considered the Valentine neighborhood.

In the early 1920s, the owners of properties on either side of Summit Street took different positions on what was becoming a tense issue – the flurry of apartment building development in Midtown. The original owners of Roanoke restricted the area to single-family homes for 25 years.  By 1922, a city zoning law was about to take effect, and developers saw Summit Street as a potentially lucrative location for new apartment buildings, large and small. Roanoke owners west of Summit purchased vacant property from the South Highlands Land and Improvement district in 1921 and sold it to home builders to preserve the area of Roanoke as a restricted residence district. Owners on the east side of Summit did not participate.

More than 1 million dollars in apartment construction will be started between Thirty-eighth street and Valentine road when the original restrictions in the Roanoke district expire January 1. In the office of three firms alone are plans for thirty structures, ranging from 6-apartment flats to 30-apartment kitchenette buildings. These multi-family buildings will drive a wedge between the east and west parts of the Roanoke district. Also the prospective development emphasizes the foresight displayed by the Roanoke home owners west of Summit street who some months ago banded together and bought up all the vacant lots beyond Summit road. They also bought the corners at Valentine Road and Summit street, regarding this as the entrance to their district.– Kansas City Star, Dec. 3, 1922 In Flats, One Million

A recent aerial view of the block, showing the apartment buildings and nursing home along Summit Street.

Earliest residents: a movie theater owner and captains of industry

One of the earliest homes built on the block was 3681 Madison, at the northeast corner of Madison and 37th. Census records show the earliest owner as A.A. (Andrew) Tribble, a real estate man, in 1910. By 1918, the home had sold to W. C. Helmers, secretary of the Helmers Manufacturing Company.  The Helmers advertised throughout the 1920s for a cook and other household workers. By 1940, the home had been occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Jones, who donated their collection of 2,440  ‘Liberty head’ nickels  to invest in defense savings bonds.

Perhaps among the best-know residents of the block were C.H. (Charles) and Rose Burkey, who lived in the two-story English-style home at 827 Valentine. They owned the Summit Theater at 17th and Summit, and Charles was well-known as the president of the West Side Community Improvement District and the independent theater owners. Rose won numerous prizes from the Kansas City Garden Association for her landscaping of the yard of their home, and after Charles’ death she ran the theater. She died in 1946.

By 1921, the home at the northwest corner of Summit and 37th Street was being run as a nursing home, a “private, well-equipped residence, caring for elderly people, invalids, paraletics and chronic cases” according to a 1927 ad in the Kansas City Star. Around this time it was being run by Pearl Duncan, a young widow with two children, Dorothy and Kenneth.  At some point, the old turn-of-the-century home was replaced with a larger, more modern structure.

The 1920 census finds Henry Massman, president of the Massman Construction Company, settled in with his family at 3663 Madison. Massman had started his career as a bricklayer on Arthur Stillwell’s railroad and worked on levees and bridge projects before starting his company. Next door at 3669 was the home of Charles Carroll, a vice-president of Kansas City Life Insurance. The Carroll’s moved south to 58th and Summit in 1925, putting their spacious nine-room home with a third floor maid’s room, on the market.

The slideshow below shows the rest of the homes of the block as they looked in 1940.

Here are the census records from 1910 to 1930 showing the new residents who came to live there over those decades:

 1910 Census

  • 3681 Madison: Andrew A. Tribble, a real estate dealer, lived here with his wife Carrie and sons Andrew and Theodore. Their servants included: a yardman, Dudley Norfleet, listed as mulatto; a white nurse named Maggie Narin; and a white cook named Ellen Erickson.

1920 Census

  • 3675 Madison: Electrical supply wholesaler Henry Esler (identified by the census as Ester)  owned this home with his wife Virginia, three sons and a daughter.
  • 3663 Madison: Construction manager Henry Massman lived here with wife Mary, son Henry and mother-in-law Anna Fotz.
  • 3669 Madison: Life Insurance agent Charles Carroll owned this a home with wife Louise, a son, a daughter and a servant named Elizabeth Aisdolph.
  • 3681 Madison (Listed by census taker as 3681 Washington): Furniture manufacturer William C. Helmers owned this home with his wife Elizabeth and single daughters Elizabeth Ryan and Margaret Helmers.

1930 Census

  • 827 Valentine: Movie theater owner Charles H. Burkey still owned this home with his wife Rose.
  • 3600 Summit: is not listed, may have been gone. Or it could have been the home listed as 801 Valentine, where dentist John Brown lived with his wife Maybelle, daughter Elizabeth, and servant Zoe Suiter.
  • 3666-3642 Summit:  A variety of couples and families lived in these apartments.
  • 3600 Summit: Pearl Duncan, a 48-year old widowed nurse, owned this home which was run as a nursing home, with her daughter Dorothy and son Kenneth. The house had three “invalid roomers” at this time, one other roomer, and a houseman named William Airgood.
  • 3681 Madison: Furniture manufacturing company secretary William C. Helmers lived here with his wife Elizabeth, a daughter and a servant named Ester Hill.
  • 3675 Madison: Henry A. Essler, the president of an electric company, lived here with his wife Virginia, three sons and a daughter.
  • 3669 Madison: This home was owned by insurance salesman Frank Turner, his wife Henrietta, a son and a daughter.
  • 3663 Madison: Joseph Loschke, the manager of a sausage company, lived here with his wife Elizabeth, a son and a daughter.
  • 3661 Madison: John C. Allan, the treasurer of a wholesale pump company, lived here with his mother Dorothy and two sisters, Violet and Deane, an oil company stenographer. 

 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 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. 

One Comment

  1. Ellen Goheen says:

    Thank you for highlighting the 3600 block of Washington/Madison (especially 3681) of Roanoke.

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