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A visit to Kansas City's grand houses

“Kansas City Houses” by Michael C. Kathrens explores the development of Kansas City’s architectural treasures, built during the city’s boom years. It explains how the city’s poshest residential districts came to be. (Bauer and Dean Publishers)
“Kansas City Houses” by Michael C. Kathrens explores the development of Kansas City’s architectural treasures, built during the city’s boom years. It explains how the city’s poshest residential districts came to be. (Bauer and Dean Publishers)
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Historic homes have always captivated me. As a kid growing up in Atchison, Kan., I loved the grand old beauties in the town’s historic neighborhood. The years Dan and I lived there, in our 130-year-old Greek revival, were some of my favorites. It was a labor of love for us to help preserve the home’s beauty so it could continue to enchant its lucky occupants for decades to come.

So when I heard about a wonderful new book just being released that showcased Kansas City’s grandest historic homes, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

The book explores the development of Kansas City’s architectural treasures, built during the city’s boom years. It explains how the city’s poshest residential districts came to be, beginning with Quality Hill in the 1850s, through the boom years of the 1920s, including the Sunset Hill and Mission Hills districts.

“The great houses of Kansas City weave a surprisingly rich architectural tapestry, filled with exquisite detailing and sumptuous effects,” explains author Michael C. Kathrens, a scholar specializing in American residential architecture of the mid-nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries. His ambitious book shares the stories of these stately dwelling using floor plans, architectural drawings and photos that detail interior architectural elements.

Through the years, as I’ve driven by the jaw-dropping gems in Kansas City’s stylish historic neighborhoods, I’ve dreamed of taking a peek inside. What do the rooms look like? How are they finished? What was the story behind their design? Now is my chance to find out.

The book features more than 40 superb houses, each one reflecting the outsized fortunes of the influential Kansas Citians who built them, including newspaper publisher William Rockhill Nelson, whose fortune helped establish the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; minerals magnate August R. Meyer; lumber baron Robert A. Long; oilman Ernest C. Winters; and Walter E. Bixby of Kansas City Life Insurance.

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