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Gillham Road Historic Survey | Print |

A Legacy of Design–An Historical Survey of the Kansas City, Missouri, Parks and Boulevards System, 1893–1940

Editors: Janice Lee, David Boutros, Charlotte R. White and Deon Wolfenbarger, Kansas City Center for Design Education and Research, in cooperation with the Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Kansas City. Kansas City, Missouri, 1995

DESCRIPTION

Gillham road begins in the north at 22nd and McGee Streets, near the edge of the Central Business District, and extends for 4.34 miles to Brush Creek Boulevard (46th Street). The parkway varies greatly in width, passes over hills and through valleys, and connects several neighborhood parks. From 31st to 34th Streets, north and south of Linwood Bouelvard, the roadway splits into two brances. Gillahm Plaza continues the line of Locust Street; one block east, Gillham Road continues the line of Cherry Street. Commercial and office buildings have been built up to the edges of the sidewalks in this stretch, leaving few trees. From 34th south to 36th Street the setting is residential.
From 36th to 38th Streets, the roadway divides into two 30–foot–wide segments around Hyde Park. The roadways rejoin between 38th and 39th Streets. A Santa Fe Trail marker (1922) is located in a traiangular median in the central roadway near 38th Street. The Eagle Scout Memorial Fountain, a modern stone fountain and terrace, lies north of 39th Street and Gillham Road.

Picture is west side of Gillham Road at 37th Street looking north.
North of Gillham Road at 39th Street, a branch of Gillham Road called Harrison Parkway extends two blocks northeast to 37th Street and Harrison Boulevard. The 40–foot–wide roadway winds through a shallow valley, with broad grass slopes on each side rising to the residential frontage streets of Gleed Terrace on the northwest and Manheim Road on the southeast. No driveways or curb cuts exist, and only the residential Holmes and Campbell Streets cross Harrison parkway. The picturesque landscape along this stretch consists of gently rolling topography and mature trees planed singly and in groups. A five–foot–wide sidewalk winds through this small section of Gillham Park and connects with the standard sidewalks on the cross streets.

The Park Management District No. 2 building (1905, a barn structure that contains offices and storage, is located south of 39th, at 3915 Gillham Road. The complex of barn, wagon sheds, and horse stalls borders two sides of a courtyard that measures aproximately 45 by 72 feet. The native limestone barn measures 54 by 60 feet and has a shingle, hipped roof with wide, overhanging eaves. The main entrnace, originally a barn door, is now a board–and–batten wooden door with a multi-light transom. Over the main entance is a central, hipped–roof dormer with paired, multi-light sash windows and a wooden hayloft door. The windows (some boarded over) have stone sills. The window and door surrounds and the string coursing are of vitrified brick.

South of 39th Street the 50–foot–roadway is lined with new concrete sidewalks, grassy strips of land, and single rows of recently planted trees. On the east, side, the grassy, open, 10–acre Gillham Park contains playing fields, a wading pool, and other recreational facilities. New ball diamonds lie north of 42nd Street. A large, modern junior swimming pool, a play area, and the Robert H. Gillham Fountain are located south of 42nd Street, where Gillham Road swings southeast around the Rockhill residential district. The roadway crossed to the opposite side of the park befor terminating at Brush Creek Boulevard.

HISTORY

Gillham Road was named for Robert Gillham, an early park commissioner. The road originally began at 22nd Street and Grand Avenue and extended to The Paseo at 46th Street. George Kessler´s general plan for Gillham Road consisted of two units: one for the north section and one for the south, because the two sections were located in separate park districts.

In 1901 the city council approved plans for south Gillham Road, from 31st and Locust Streets to 47th and Harrison Streets. This section was acquired in 1902 by condemnation.

Between 1903-06, Gillham Road was graded from 27th Street to a point between 38th and 39th Streets. The roadway was paved from 31st to 36th Streets, and from 42nd to 45th Streets during that period. In 1905 the Kansas City school board deeded to the city a lot at the northwest corner of Gillham Road, to accommodate a curve at 34th Street.

During 1907–10, Kessler prepared general plans for improving Gillham Road from 35th to 46th Streets. His plans for the 10–acre Gillham Park between 39th and 42nd Streets included a playground, a field house, an outdoor gymnasium, and a ball field, but the Westport Park District lacked sufficient funds to implement these improvements. In 1908 a section of 44th and Charlotte Streets was opened and recommended for inclusion to Gillham Road. The stretch along Harrison Street from 45th to 46th Streets was completed in that year.

During 1913 a dangerous curve at 39th Street and Gillham Road was reconstructed and two entrances to Gillham Road were created on the south. In addition, a casting pool was constructed at 41st Street and Gillham Road.

In 1922 Gillham Road was made one–way from 36th to 39th Streets, where the roadway separated around the east and west sides of Hyde Park. The roadway from Armour Boulevard to 36th Street was widened in 1951, and in the next year a utility and toilet building was constructed near 41st Street.

The Eagle Scout Memorial Fountain north of 39th Street was dedicated in 1968. In 1972, the westerly "second" stretch of Gillham Road from 42 to 45th Streets was renamed "West Gillham Road" to eliminate confusion. The casting pool was removed in 1976, and a wading pool and fountain was constructed. In 1977 the red brick–like sidewalks were installed on Harrison Parkway. A mini–park at Armour Boulevard and Gillham Road was created in 1980 on the lot that originally contained a house that had been replaced by an apartment building that was demolished. In 1980 exercise trails were added south of 43rd Street, and a year later a comfort station was erected southeast of the wading pool at 42nd Street. In 1982 the first of several urns were installed to recognize south Hyde Park. Parking was installed on 41st Street between Gillham Road and Kenwood in 1985. In 1985 the entire parkway from Brush Creek to 41st Street was repaved and new sewers, curbs, and street lights were added. Curbs were added to Harrison Parkway in 1987-88. Prior to this Harrison Parkway had been curbless.

INTEGRITY

Gillham Road retains much of its integrity of location and some of its integrity of setting, design, feeling, and association. The materials and workmanship have changed several times because of widening, realignments, and other upgrading.

The property boundaries of Gillham Road were established during the original acquisitions (1901–02) and by later historic additions. Portions acquired from 1903–08 became Harrison Parkway. Gillham Plaza dates from 1925–28.

Certain residential areas such as Hyde Park, Old Hyde Park, and the Rockhill district retain their setting, but that of other residential areas, particularly in the north end, has changed over the years.

The entire southern section of Gillham Road from 35th to 46th Streets retains its 1908-10 Kessler design. In the northern section of Gillham Road—for example, near the intersection of Gillham Road and Linwood Boulevard—roadway widening has displaced trees and compromised the park–like design.

Kessler had planned elaborate recreational facilities for the three blocks of Gillham Park between 39th and 42nd Streets, but not all features were built and few remain of those that were. The 1913 casting and wading pool at 41st Street was supplanted by the wading pool at 42nd Street.

Materials and workmanship have changed as the roadway has been altered to accommodate higher speeds and volumes of traffic. Some stretches remain almost as they were built save for the updating of street lights and the removal of some sidewalks. Gillham Road also retains most of its feeling of the past. In many sections, much of the original design has survived and the neighborhood settings are largely intact. (Note: Gillham Road with its side branches from Armour to Brush Creek Boulevards is one of only a handful of the original boulevards and parkways that has maintained its integrity.)

SIGNIFICANCE

Gillham Road is significant in the area of landscape design as an excellent example of an extended (more than four–mile–long) boulevard/parkway. The parkway, which has numerous branches, was planned for community recreation as well as traffic flow. The southern portion of Gillham road demonstrates an innovative boulevard/parkway design with its fluid alignments and intermediate cross streets closed to eliminate intersections.

In the area of community planning, Gillham Road is significant as a textbook example of a turn–of–the–century experiment in laying out residential areas around parks. The parkway provided not only a "central park" for neighborhoods such as Hyde Park and Rockhill district, but attractive views for motorists. New facilities like the wading pool/fountain at 42nd Street in the southern end of Gillham Park continue this historic commitment of abutting communities.

In the area of transportation, Gillham Road is one of Kansas City´s important north–south connectors within the parks and boulevards system. It is significant for carrying traffic in a direct line from the south–central city to Brush Creek Boulevard, crossing en route the major thoroughfares of Pershing Road, Linwood Boulevard, and Armour Boulevard.

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