Kansas City’s Historic Hyde Park
Location. Location. Location.
The Hyde Park neighborhood, in midtown Kansas City, is located between the Country Club Plaza and downtown, and is just minutes away from the Plaza, the Nelson and Kemper museums, Crown Center, the Crossroads Arts District and all the entertainment and cultural amenities the city has to offer.
The Hyde Park neighborhood is located in the area from 31st street south to 47th street between Gillham Road and Troost. The area contains approximately 1,500 homes and many historic apartments buildings.
A Rich History
Our story begins in 1833. John Calvin McCoy built the first General Store and Trading Post west of Independence, Missouri at what is now the corner of Westport Road and Pennsylvania Street. Westport was located along an Indian trace that ran from Independence to the Indian missions in the Kansas territory. Today, the diagonal Westport Road and Harrison Parkway follow that trace. By 1837 or 1838, McCoy had developed the trading post into the starting point for the Santa Fe bound. By 1848, with the California gold rush, the trickle of hunters, trappers, and emigrants became a torrent of fortune hunters eager to strike it rich. Estimates are that over 100,000 people went to California using the route of the Santa Fe Trail. Most of them stopped in Westport.
Just east of Westport were natural springs and open grassland. This made it an ideal place for wagons to stop, refresh their livestock, and buy any last minute necessities before the long trek to California. You can still see where the Santa Fe Trail and the natural springs were located, near Notre Dame de Sion, a K-8 school in the neighborhood, and Harrison Parkway in Hyde Park.
In 1857, Westport was incorporated with the boundaries of Brush Creek and Springfield Street (later 31st Street) on the south and north, the Missouri-Kansas state line and Woodland Avenue on the west and east. But even during the boom years, Westport started losing trade. McCoy and some of his influential friends moved to Kansas City.
By 1885, Kansas City was growing, and fast. Populations increased by over 35% in the last decade of the nineteenth century and then went up another 54% in the first decade of the twentieth century. Trains were moving people and the goods that they needed west. The new settlers on the Great Plains were shipping their cattle and grains back to the eastern markets. Kansas City became a trading hub for the rich western farmland and cattle ranches. Banks were multiplying, as the agriculture and building industries required money to expand. The Ozark forests provided the wood needed to build houses on the plains and Kansas City was ready to deliver that lumber to its destinations. By 1900, Kansas City was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco.
In the mid-1880’s, real estate speculation in Kansas City and Westport reached near-hysterical proportions. Land was sold and resold at fantastic profits. In 1887, real estate transactions in Kansas City totaled 88 million dollars. Real estate transactions would not reach that level again until 1946. In 1893, the proposed Parks and Boulevard system extended south of the Kansas City limits into Westport. Wealthy individuals including William Rockwell Nelson, several Amour families and August Meyer built houses in Westport. In 1897 Westport was annexed by Kansas City.
Among the subdivisions platted in 1886, one called Hyde Park was located in Westport. The original Hyde Park subdivision was located west of Gillham Road, outside the present day boundaries of the Hyde Park neighborhood. On the east side of Gillham Road, additional subdivisions were platted in frantic succession from 1886-88 with names such as Nicolett Place, Edna Place, Hampden Place and Regents Park. Kansas City’s first and only private street was laid out at this time when an upscale development called Janssen Place was platted. By 1894, Kansas City had its first golf course, the Kenwood Golf Links in Hyde Park. Until J.C. Nichols built his Country Club residential district in the 1920’s, Hyde Park was the largest planned development of single-family homes in Kansas City.
Hyde Park was greatly impacted by the land boom of the 1880’s. Fantastic speculation drove up land prices until the bottom dropped out after 1888 and development effectively halted for the next ten years. Although the first houses were built in the late 1880’s, less than 50 houses were erected by 1900. However, by 1907, when the housing market had recovered, that number of homes had increased fivefold. By the early 1920s, most of the houses in the area were built.
For many years, the entire residential area was generally referred to as “Hyde Park” without reference to any specific subdivisions. Today, Hyde Park refers to the area from 31st Street, south to 47th Street, between Gillham Road and Troost. There are approximately 1,500 homes in the area.
Hyde Park houses first went up when Victorian and Queen Anne styles were the arbiters of good taste. Over the years, Dutch Colonial, Colonial Revival, Neo-Georgian, Craftsmen, Bungalow, Kansas City Shirtwaist, Tudor, and American Foursquare took their place among the Victorians. After World War II, modern styles and suburban ranch homes appeared on the streets of Hyde Park in limited numbers. Nevertheless, even today, a walk down any of the tree-lined streets is a step back in time; when sitting on the front porch visiting with strollers and neighbors, playing croquet, or simply reading a book beside the parlor fireplace passed for entertainment.
Kansas City’s architects, making every effort to bring the current styles of the East Coast to the neighborhood, designed many of our houses. The building material on the grander houses was usually brick or native stone. Many of the houses also used cedar shingles, lap siding, and stucco. The interiors sparkled with leaded, beveled glass doorways, windows, and sidelights. In the older Victorian homes, gasoliers and gas sconces were the lighting of choice. A coal-burning fireplace in most rooms provided heat. However, by the first decade of the twentieth century, electricity, central heating (usually hot water radiators), and indoor water closets were standard. Most homes had hot and cold water in the kitchen and a sink tucked away in a center hall closet, where a dusty visitor could freshen up. A bathroom with a toilet was on the second floor for the family and on the third floor for the maid. Bigger homes had more bathrooms, often shared between two bedrooms. Closets made their appearance in the bedroom, or dressing room in larger homes. Many houses featured built-in sideboards, cupboards, and bookcases. Hardwood floors throughout the house and small hexagonal tile in bathrooms and entry hall foyers was typical. Hardwood wall paneling, millwork, ornamental plaster designs, and crown moldings decorated the room. In the early twentieth century, Victorian wallpapers give way to painted walls, often in bold colors.
In 1908, Jesse Clyde Nichols announced the plan for a “high class district on scientific lines” in an area of 1,000 acres. In 1917, the Country Club District had expanded south to 65th Street, north across Brush Creek and across the state line to the west. The economy was strong, the middle class was growing, and people who had never owned homes wanted them. The Brookside neighborhood was born in 1919, Crestwood in 1922, the Plaza in 1923, and on it went. The district covered about 6,000 acres by the time Nichols died.
A housing shortage developed during and after World War II. All of Kansas City, except those areas with deed restrictions such as the Nichols developments, was rezoned multi-family. Many of the large old homes in Hyde Park were converted into apartments and sleeping rooms.
Starting in the early nineteen seventies, the low prices and unique architecture of these large, old homes began to attract the attention of a new breed of pioneers. These young professionals saw the potential in the beautiful, old houses. They speculated in a declining neighborhood and revitalized it. An estimated one-third of the houses changed hands between 1975 and 1977.
An Active Neighborhood
The Hyde Park Neighborhood Association was formed in 1969 and incorporated in 1974. To celebrate the neighborhood’s revitalization and to highlight the advantages of urban living, the first Hyde Park Festival with Homes Tour was held in 1977. The sponsors of the first Festival/Homes Tour were Notre Dame de Sion, Westport Tomorrow and the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association. Attendance for the Tour increased yearly, until by the early 1980s, thousands of people were going through the houses during the two-day Tour. The Tours were wildly successful in attracting people to Hyde Park. Housing prices doubled in the period from 1975 to 1980 and then doubled again from 1980 to 1985. The biannual tours continue today.
The strength and growth of the neighborhood can be attributed to active and engaged neighbors. Over the years, Hyde Parkers have recognized the importance of preserving Kansas City’s historic homes and have—and continue to—work hard to ensure the neighborhood is strong and thriving for a hundred more years. The neighborhood has worked closely with the city of Kansas City Missouri to downzone the neighborhood. Downzoning works to change the zoning of parcels of land from a less restrictive use to a more restrictive use, and what this has done has changed the zoning and prohibits buyers from taking historic homes and dividing them into apartments.
Hyde Parkers are known for being active and engaged in the neighborhood and the greater Kansas City community. Hyde Parkers have worked diligently to make sure that families have access to quality education for children, and others have worked to improve the quality of life in midtown Kansas City, and the Troost coalition is one shining example.
The Troost Coalition
The Troost Coalition is a consensus-driven group of representatives from the neighborhood associations of Beacon Hill, Hyde Park, Longfellow, Manheim Park, and Squier Park. The Coalition is the result of a series of community meetings held in 2013 to begin building consensus for a positive redevelopment strategy on Troost. Although Troost neighborhoods are strong, active communities, development on Troost often assumed the worst and failed to adequately support the grassroots success of the last 20 years. The Coalition works for the mutual benefit of all Troost neighborhoods, as well as administers the Troost Corridor Overlay District.
In 2014, the Coalition initiated and directed the creation of the Troost Corridor Overlay District. The Overlay is the result of over 30 hours of public meetings and charrettes, which were attended by over 200 residents. With the support of the Kansas City, Missouri Planning and Development Department and the efforts of volunteers from the local design community, a modified zoning use table and design guidelines were passed into city ordinance in 2014 and 2015. The Overlay is designed to give neighborhoods tools to combat undesirable development and establish an urban environment that preserves and invests in the existing area. It also provides developers with clarity and predictability for understanding the development needs of Troost.
When it comes to development on Troost, Coalition members serve as the eyes and ears for their neighborhood associations. Because this is a consensus-driven approach, we strive to find development solutions that are recognized by our neighborhoods as being beneficial for all of Troost. After meeting with developers, we report back to our neighborhood associations to solicit feedback and, if needed, seek an endorsement of the project.
Why is Hyde Park right for my family?
Today, Hyde Park remains a vibrant urban community, and the neighborhood continues to thrive as more and more people see the benefits of living close and driving less. As more and more families move into Hyde Park, there have become more educational opportunities. In fact, Hyde Park is home to one of Missouri’s top-performing charter schools —Academie Layfaette’s Cherry Campus, a French immersion school. And, Notre Dame de Sion’s lower school (Pre-K through 8th grade) is also in the neighborhood. Here’s a list of some of the other schools that server the families of Hyde Park.
Neighborhood Schools for Hyde Park:
Longfellow Elementary (PreK-6)
Central Middle (7-8)
Central Academy (9-12)
Nearby Signature School:
Foreign Language Academy
Nearby Charters Schools:
Academie Lafayette Cherry Campus (K-3, within the neighborhood boundaries)
Academie Lafayette Armour Campus (Middle school 6–8, opening August 2018)
Citizens of the World
De La Salle
Nearby Private Schools:
Notre Dame de Sion (PreK-8, within the neighborhood boundaries)
St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School
Our Lady of Hope
Border Star Montessori
Carver Dual Language
African Centered College Prep
Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts
Lincoln College Prep
Visit showmekcschools.org/ for more information on any of these schools.
Thank you for learning more about Hyde Park. Come and visit our tree-lined streets. You’ll see families with their pets and neighbors relaxing on front porches. As with all the generations who have lived here before, from the lumber barons and capitalists who started the neighborhood, to the urban pioneers who revitalized it, the people who call Hyde Park “home” today know that this is a neighborhood like no other!
Thanks to Patrick Alley and Dona Boley for historical information about Hyde Park. More can be found in their book, Kansas City’s Historic Hyde Park.