Hyde Park residents send messages to the future

The entrance to Janssen Place in central Hyde Park, on 36th between Cherry and Kenwood, is getting a renovation, and today (12/12/12) nearby residents placed a time capsule into the pillars.

Dozens of items, including letters to people a century or more in the future, were dropped Wednesday into a pillar in the renovated Janssen Place gate.

The 115-year-old neo-classical gate, itself a kind of time capsule, now has one enclosed in it as part of a $250,000 renovation.

Arthur Stillwell, the founder of the Kansas City Southern Railroad, put the gate up in 1897 as a grand entrance into his elaborate Janssen Place development.

The mansions in what was called “lumberman’s row” have changed over the years, with a few demolished and others converted to apartments and many then renovated back into mansions.

Janssen Place is part of historic central Hyde Park, and the gate renovation and time capsule dropped into an elaborate limestone pillar mark a great year for the neighborhood, said Mark Dillon, editor of The Hyde Parker, the neighborhood association newsletter.

This historical postcard shows the entrance to Janssen Place with its huge stone pillars. Janssen Place was built into a residential district before the turn of the century. Postcard courtesy Kansas City Public Library special collections.

Copies of the newsletter are among items enclosed in the time capsule. Among others:

  • A 2012 Hyde Park Homes Tour Booklet and tickets, along with various articles about Janssen Place.
  • A compact disc with a 1920s silent movie filmed on Janssen Place
  • Some sweetgum tree pod seeds from a tree regarded as a curse of neighborhoods for its propensity to drop thousands of pods that clog storm sewers and yards. With the seeds is a note hoping the trees are gone.
  •  A copy of a Kansas City Star article from 1897 about Janssen Place that also praises the “grand ornamental gateway” and states of the project: “It is intended to be a permanent and distinct place for beautiful homes that cannot be encroached upon.”

Stephen Mitchell, a Janssen Place homeowner, said the capsule also includes a letter from a 12-year-old girl and a six-page letter written with pencil on acid-free paper by Arthur Benson, former Kansas City School Board member.

Benson, an attorney, lives with his wife in a mansion adjacent to the gate and his letter talks about experiences in the neighborhood and other things, said his wife, Molly Lusk.

They bought the house in 1988 after Benson saw it for sale while he was out walking the dog, she said.

They did not have to do massive renovation because nuns lived there in the post-World War II years when many of the houses were broken into apartments, she said.

The time capsule itself. When it’s dug up, the finders will read that the 1897 gateway was restored in 2012.

She took out a prayer area, she said, but she and her husband have used the house extensively in working for charities.

There is no time set for opening the time capsule, Mitchell said, as he dropped the plastic container into a garbage bag and tied it shut. It will stay until the gate needs rebuilding again or is torn down.

“I hope it lasts 150 years,” he said.

Comments are closed.