In the early 1900s, Armour Boulevard and its surrounding blocks were the center of life for many wealthy Kansas Citians, who built large mansions and lived a comfortable life attended by their servants. That’s true of the block between Armour and 36th Street from Walnut to Warwick. But by 1940, Armour’s elite residents had moved on and their mansions had taken on new lives as commercial buildings.
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). The photos of today’s block, from Armour and 36th Street from Walnut to Warwick, are not of the best quality, but they hint at what the block looked like during the transition of the area.
Millionaire lumberman Albert Toll’s unusual mansion at 3500 Warwick, built in 1907, still stands high above other buildings on the block. The Toll family moved north from their former home on the southwest corner of Warwick and 36th that year.
Their neighbors included Banker Walton Holmes at 3510 Warwick, real estate man William Hall at 3521 Walnut, and lumber dealer Egbert Chapman at 3523 Walnut.
In 1909, “cracker king” Jacob Loose of the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company built his elaborate home at 101 E. Armour. At 3520 Warwick, prominent real estate mogul John Groves settled in with his family.
The households listed on census rolls in these decades often included extended families as well as several servants for each of the homes. For example, in 1910:
- Widow Mrs. Alfred Toll’s household included a son, daughter-in-law, one grandson and three granddaughters, as well as seven white servants: chauffeur Edward Jaderbog, Ella Uahr, Margarete Michaelis, Mary Cunningham, Margaret Cunningham, Mary O’Roefehe, and Julia Scanlon.
- Holmes lived with wife Fleece (or Felice), a son, niece, and three white servants.
- Groves shared his home with his wife Elizabeth and step-daughter, as well as two white servants named Maggie Cahill and Mary Dennis and mulatto John Butler.
- William Hall lived with wife Adelaide, two daughters and a son, and a white servant named Grace Bosch.
- Chapman’s household included wife Lila, two sons, his mother, and a white Swedish servant named Sophie Nieberg.
Changes by 1940
But the glory years of Armour Boulevard, especially considering the quality of the mansions built by the Loose and Toll families and the Armour family on the north side of the boulevard, were short lived. In a 1945 article, The Kansas City Star explains:
“Armour Bouelvard’s glory was brief. It began to grow great about the turn of the twentieth century and in two decades the wealthy persons who had built ornate homes there had for the most part moved further south and were looking for insurance companies to buy their Armour Boulevard homes. Mrs. Jacob Leander Loose, at the southwest corner of Armour boulevard and Walnut, was successful. The Phil Toll house at the southwest corner of Warwick and Armour stands as a melancholy monument to underachieved ambition; remodeling it for business purposes started but never finished.”
The Toll family had moved south to a farm in the 1920s. The large home served for a while as the campus of the Kansas City Art Institute until it moved to its current home. In the 1940s Mrs. Loose moved into the city’s then-largest apartment in the Walnuts apartment building, which overlooked Jacob Loose Memorial Park, her gift to the city. As the article above suggests, Mrs. Loose sold the family home to an insurance company which planned to turn it into offices but never completed its plans.
The slideshow below shows all of the houses 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. 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.