20 Janssen Place
Hyde Park, Kansas City
Janssen Place is the most refined residential street in Kansas City; it was named after August Janssen - a Dutch business acquaintance of Arthur E. Stilwell who created the dead-end boulevard as a restricted residential street in 1897. Stilwell founded the Kansas City Southern Railroad, he acquired this peninsula of land from the Kansas City Country Club Hyde Park golf links which had moved to what is currently Loose Park (2nd golf course). Janssen Place seems to have followed George E. Kessler's lead; Kessler designed the street system and residential lots for the Hyde Park neighorhood in 1888. The project was immediately successful and set the tone for Kansas City's fantastic tree-lined streets and also for the great Parks and Boulevards System designed by George Kessler.
Development of the street and 32 housing lots continued through the 1960's, but the important residences were constructed during the years 1900-1920. Many of the homes were built and occupied by lumber and construction tycoons who hired such upper crust Kansas City architects as Wilder & Wight (Thomas), Smith, Rea & Lovitt, and Shephard (Charles), Farrar & Wiser. Janssen Place Historic District was placed on the Historic Register in 1976. If one goes blind to the goofy sprinkling of half dozen 1960's duplexes, this street is simply stunning, and on-par with Massachusetts Avenue (D.C.) and Monument Avenue (Richmond, VA).
The beautifully carved stone Greek Ionic entry gateway at the north end of Janssen Place predicts an encounter with the highest quality of residential architecture. Beyond the gates exist very fine examples of Italianate, Jacobean, Queen Anne, Georgian, Cottage and Shingle Style houses - each with a carriage house and apartment located in a rear corner of the lot, with the same attention to detail and architectural DNA as the primary structure.
I couldn't help notice the near decrepit state of 20 Janssen Place - the William Pickering Residence - Italianate massing and order, with some deep-deep eaves and perhaps early Prairie Style stone banding on the upper floor exterior. I particularly liked the variation of the eave support brackets. Because of plane changes of the exterior wall at the chimney and window locations, the brackets are modified, yet retain the same DNA and "meet" the roof fascia exactly the same as the typical brackets.
It seems as though construction work on this home is in-progress, but maybe at a stand-still. I can't imagine the cost incurred by proper restoration and preservation; then again, to be considered the architectural zenith and pantheon of Kansas City residences, it's money well spent.