West Plaza Block: Immigrants, Births, Deaths, Weddings, Soldiers


The Alexander family, headed by railroad engineer Robert E. Alexander, was living in this West Plaza home as early as 1910. Over the next three decades, Robert and Margaret Alexander had six children, lost one, saw a daughter married in the home, and sent a son off to war. While most families spent fewer years on this block, the Alexanders typical of working class families who settled the area.

Much of the history we read celebrates outstanding architecture, elite families and unusual lives. But it is equally interesting to study blocks like this one in West Plaza, between 45th and 46th Street from Fairmount to Wyoming.  Perhaps its most unusual event was a gas explosion in 1962 that destroyed eleven houses in the neighborhood (more about that in our next post). The block also offers a profile of a more modest, immigrant, working-class neighborhood that helped to build 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 West Plaza block between 45th and 46th Street from Fairmount to Wyoming.  

This 1909-1950 Sanborn map of the block shows the homes along Fairmount and Wyoming Streets.

 The homes on this block began to show up around 1910, with both rental and for sale advertisements luring people to the block. Many who came were Swedish immigrants, as well as a handful of those born in France, Germany and Switzerland. Many of the residents worked on the railroad.

The Robert Alexander family stayed on the block for four decades. The 1910 census shows Robert, a railroad engineer, living on the block with his wife, Margaret, a one-year-old son named Edward and a baby named Virginia. By 1920, according to the census, the family had two sons and four daughters. One of the daughters died in 1925 of influenza and another of the daughters died at age 17 in 1928. By 1930, son Edward was 21 and owned an ice hauling company and daughter Virginia was working in a box factory as a laborer. Daughter Margaret got married in the home in 1936, and in 1942, son James, a petty officer first class,  was visiting his parents after participating in sea battles off French Morocco. Robert Alexander died in 1950 and three years later, the three-bedroom bungalow was for sale for $8,500.

The 1920 census gives a snapshot of the families living on the block that year:

  • 4545 Wyoming: Eugene Bullard, 48, a department store artist; wife Alfa A., 37; daughter Margaret, 9; daughter Wilma, 5.
  • 4541 Wyoming: Charles Johnson, 62, a railroad drilling press operator; son-in-law Jacob Leuenberger, 30, an auto supply salesman; daughter Aulga S.K. Leuenberger, 23; niece Linna Johnson, 20, an office girl. The Johnsons were all born in Sweden and Leuenberger was born in Switzerland.
  • 4535 Wyoming: Fred Carlson, 44, a construction labor foreman; wife Jerda, 43; daughter Ethel, 18, a hardware store bookkeeper; son Bernard, 10. Both parents were born in Sweden.
  • 4529 Wyoming: Gustave Holm, 48, a factory cabinet maker; wife Minnie, 40; son Rudolph, 13; son Ralph, 7. Gustave was born in Sweden and the rest of the family all had Swedish parents.
  • 4525 Wyoming: Carl A. Erikson, 32, a railroad mail clerk; wife Anna, 32; daughter Dorothy, 8. Carl and Anna were born in Sweden.
  • 4523 Wyoming: George Boschonriergten, 38, a baker; wife Clara, 29; son Albert, 5; son George, 3; brother-in-law William Ushr, 27, an art picture company moulder. George and William were born in France and Clara was born in Germany.
  • 4511 Wyoming:The Alexanders (see above)
  • 4509 Wyoming: Henry Kammerer, 38, a sheet metal worker; wife Mary; daughter Josephine, 9; son Henry, 8; son Charles S., 4; daughter Dorothy, 1. Henry and Mary were born in Germany.
  • 4507 Wyoming: August Benson, 60, a janitor; wife Emma, 57; son-in-law Harry C. Reid, 26, chauffeur to a private family; daughter Ester Reid, 24; granddaughter Louise R. Reid, 1.
  • 4503 Wyoming: Henry T. Johnson, 26, a tire repairer; wife Christina. 24; daughter Lorine, 4. Henry and Christina were born in Sweden.
  • 4504 Fairmount: Victor Spong, 37, minister; wife Agnes, 31; daughter Ruth, 4. All were born in Sweden. Spong was the long-time minister of the Immanuel Lutheran Church, previously known as the First Swedish Lutheran Church.
  • 4508 Fairmount: Freeman Huber, 35, grocery clerk; wife Minnie, 38; son Raymond, 12; son Walter, 7; son Melvin, 4. Minnie was born in Sweden.
  • 4512 Fairmount: Clyde E. Fitch, 36, a railway postal clerk; wife Alice, 33; sister-in-law Carrie Purcell, a root beer supply company stenographer.
  • 4520 Fairmount: David Gascoigne, 61, a railroad car cleaner; wife Clara, 58; daughter Alice, 17. All three were born in England.
  • 4524 Fairmount: Maxfield Neubert, 27, a grocer; Gladys Neubert, 26; son Robert, 1.
  • 4626 Fairmount: George E. Marshall, 30, a terminal machinist; wife Hilda, 29.
  • 4536 Fairmount: Fred I. Luce, 43, a machinist; wife Willie, 39; daughter Lenora, 14.
  • 4540 Fairmont: Frank Schmidt, 39, railroad carpenter; wife Johanna, 52; step-son Theadore Fehn, 22, boardinghouse bookkeeper; step-son William Fehn, 15. Frank was born in Hungary and the others were born in Germany.
  • 4542 Fairmount: Edger M. Liston, 48, packing company helper; wife Lurie, 46; son Cylde, 32, packing company belter; daughter Bertha, 23, tent and quarry operator; daughter Laura, 20, mail order company supervisor; son Da, 16; daughter Margrette, 8.

The slideshow bellows shows the homes on the block as they looked in 1940.

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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 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. 

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