Famous “bachelor retreat” once stood at 36th and Main

This home, which stood at the se corner of Main and 36th until 1934, is credited with helping to encourage early Kansas Citians to move from downtown to Midtown in the late 1800s. Later, it became known as a “bachelor retreat,” shared by lawyer William McLeod with unmarried friends. Like many large Midtown homes, it became a run-down rooming house before a wrecking ball erased all traces of it.

The block between Main and Walnut from 36th to 37th Streets has seen a lot of changes since it attracted its first residents in the late 1800s. Its history reflects the movement of people from the north to the new “south side” around the turn of the century, bring both new homes, businesses and a church to the growing Hyde Park area.

A recent street view of the corner where the McLeod house once stood.

Home at 36th and Main played an important role

A Tuttle & Pike map from 1907 shows the McLeod house and church along with a some of the houses on Walnut Street on the block that year. The McLeod house was on Main and the church at the north end of the block on Walnut.

A fairly modern building now stands at the southeast corner of 36th and Main, on the site of what was once the home of Ronald R. Conklin. He was part of the Jarvis-Conklin Mortgage Trust Company, which was actively building homes in Hyde Park in the late 1880s and early 1890s. Perhaps to show his confidence in the developing Hyde Park area, Conklin built a red sandstone and brick home on the corner.

Several decades later, in 1934, the Kansas City Star credited the impressive home as helping to drive the movement to the area that is now Midtown.

“It was a patriarch of the Hyde Park district which was a pioneer in attracting some of the people whose homes had been in the Independence avenue and the West Side to turn ‘out south’ when seeking a building site,” the Star wrote.

But the house became better known for the man who bought it soon after it was constructed and who lived there until 1923. William C. McLeod was a member of the law firm Warner, Dean, McLeod & Gibson.

“The McLeod house became perhaps the most widely known bachelor retreat Kansas City ever had. McLeod, himself a bachelor, gathered around his then bachelor friends in the rather spacious house and they included men such as Dr. John F. Binney and Herbert Mackirdy, who was British vice-consul here fourteen years,” The Star said in 1934.

A gossip column in 1914 shared that the home had a large library and imported novels written in Italian, French and Spanish.

The McLeod estate sold the home in 1924. It was used for a while as a rooming house, becoming increasingly run down until it was demolished in 1934.

A church moved south

The Westminster Congregational Church began as Second Presbyterian Church downtown in 1875. By the early 1900s, church leaders decided to move south, following the movement of many church members to the new area of the city. They laid a cornerstone for a new church in 1904 at 36th and Walnut, with the new building modeled after an early Gothic Revival style church in New Orleans. The church was expanded in 1912.

Businesses along Main Street served new residences

Storefronts along Main Street at 37th in 1940.

As Main Street became a major streetcar route and commercial corridor, storefronts filled in along Main Street at the 37th Street corner, as seen in this 1909-1950 Sanborn map.

As residents and the church moved south, Main Street transformed into a commercial center. The cluster of storefronts at the corner of 37th and Main grew from 1907 (seen in the map above) to serve the booming community. Businesses that located there changed frequently, with the Scott Grocery Store having a major presence before 1920. Over the decades, an early bicycle shop, baby carriage seller, and pharmacy were replaced by a car dealer, piano store and dry cleaner.

Homes along Walnut

The slideshow below shows the remaining buildings on 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).  This week, the focus is on the block from Main to Walnut between 36th and 36th Streets.

 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 mjdraper@midtownkcpost.com. 

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