Park Place-Fairview Avenue Historic District
The Park Place-Fairview Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2014, The Gombach Group.
The Park Place-Fairview Historic District is located within the city limits of Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas, and is a collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century residential buildings. It is located approximately one mile north of the downtown commercial core, and represents one of the few intact "close-in" historic residential areas in Wichita. There are 165 primary buildings within the boundaries of the historic district of which 134 are contributing.
The Park Place-Fairview Avenue Historic District is rare extant collection of close-in middle-class residences, located in a neighborhood originally laid out during Wichita's real-estate boom of the 1880s. Part of Wichita's original grid system of streets laid out to the compass points, Park Place and Fairview Avenues run north-south. Wellington Place, part of the Clapp family development, is a short street running generally north/south, with a curving entrance at 17th Street is the northernmost block in the district. The eastern boundary is uneven, due to the development of some of the larger properties in the 1940s. The south boundary is 13th Street, a heavily traveled arterial street. Outside of the eastern boundaries are either non-historic buildings, historic buildings lacking integrity, or buildings which have an unrelated historical development.
During Wichita's settlement period, it was common to build residences immediately adjacent to a place of business. This was partly due to transportation issues — people needed not only to be close to work, but they also wanted to be close to any amenities found within the new community as well. As Wichita grew, it no longer made sense for valuable commercial land to be taken up with small residences. Until residents could reach outlying neighborhoods, however, these areas were destined to lay undeveloped.
There were several factors which encouraged residential development to extend further and further from the city center. Not only did the rising value of lots in the commercial core of town force out residential usage, but this area quickly became less desirable to live. With cattle drives, grain mills, and other noisy industrial activities occurring along Douglas, residents of means were the first to move further away from the city's core. By the summer of 1886, it was clear that the areas where people were moving were north of downtown. However, until the establishment of Wichita's streetcar lines in 1883, residential development could not easily occur further out from the city's center. [See: Streetcar Suburbs.]
These first streetcars were drawn by horse and mule, but in 1887, the first electric line was started. That same year, Wichita had sixty miles of streetcar line. By 1887, Fairview Avenue had a trolley car line running down the middle. This became the key factor for encouraging residential development in this neighborhood. Besides the availability of streetcar lines, there is another factor which cannot be overlooked in discussing the residential development of Wichita in the 1880s — the city-wide real estate boom. Wichita was in the full throes of the nationwide real estate boom of the mid-1880s. The real estate activity in Wichita was, in fact, virtually unparalleled by any other city in the nation. A Bradstreets survey of 1887 found that Wichita ranked third in terms of absolute volume of real estate operations, behind New York City and Kansas City, and outranked larger cities such as Chicago and Brooklyn. The citizens were so obsessed with real estate transactions that the new "industry" in town became the butt of local jokes.
The platting of additions and subsequent development of this neighborhood coincided with the city-wide real estate boom, which in turn fueled Wichita's rapid population growth during this decade. In 1880, the city had just 5,482 residents. Five years later, the population had nearly tripled to 16,019. By 1889, there were an estimated 48,000 residents in Wichita! Stimulated by both real estate speculation as well as actual population growth, it was natural that new development would occur adjacent to the streets served by trolley lines. Consequently, there were six additions platted within the boundaries of the District within a two year time span in the mid-1880s. Sherwood's Addition was platted on August 27, 1885 by Daniel and Alba Sherwood. It extended from 13th on the south to 15th Street on the north, and from the river to the west side of Fairview. A day later, George and Mary Rouse platted Rouse's Addition, which covered from the east side of Waco to the west side of Fairview between 16th and 17th. A month later, James and Mary Lauck platted Lauck's addition (on September 28, 1885). It extended from 13th on the south to 15th Street on the north, and from the east side of Fairview to the east side of Park Place. There were two more additions platted in 1886. The first was Hersey's Addition, platted by Sarah and Dana Hersey on January 6, 1886. It extended from 16th to Carey (now 17th) and from the east side of Fairview to Market. The Fairview Addition, which extended from Carey Avenue (now 17th) to 19th Street, and from Waco to Lawrence (now Broadway), was platted on March 3, 1886 by three couples. The last addition in the District occurred on June 6, 1887. Powell's Addition was north of 15th Street, and extended from the east side of Fairview to the west side of Lawrence.
However, the real estate boom in Wichita wasn't purely speculation. Between June 1886 to June 1887, 2,600 new buildings were constructed throughout the entire city. Building activity peaked in Wichita in late 1887 and early 1888. During the citywide boom period, fifteen extant houses bad been built (or had construction started) within the boundaries of the Park Place-Fairview Historic District. Even after the crash, an additional seven houses were constructed from 1889 through 1896.
During the 1880s, Park Place and Fairview Avenues were considered prestigious residential streets. The earliest residences constructed here were thus built for some of Wichita's prominent business owners and professionals. Considering the means of their owners, it was natural that these houses were impressive examples of the predominate architectural style of this period. The elaborate Queen Anne House at 1505 Fairview was constructed in 1887 for J.H. Aley, a real estate entrepreneur as well as the proprietor of a shoe store. Isaac West, whose large Queen Anne home was finished ca. 1889 at 1421 Park Place, was an officer at the Kansas National Bank. The other homes constructed during this period within the District also reflect the means and tastes of their upper class owners. However, early in 1888, the number of lot transfers in Wichita began a sharp decline. The prices for lots plummeted as well, and consequently construction slowed. The real estate bubble had burst, and people began leaving town. It is estimated that Wichita's population had peaked in 1889 at 48,000, but by 1890 the city's population was down by nearly a third to 23,500. The decline wasn't over, though, with population sinking to about 20,000 in 1892 and finally to a low of 19,892 in 1896. Although the city began a slow recovery in 1899, it didn't again reach its 1888 population until 1905. Several of the homes throughout the city that had been constructed during the 1880s were vacant for many years, and it wasn't until the population finally outpaced its earlier peak that new housing was really needed in Wichita.
One of the last homes built in the 1890s along these streets was for hardware proprietor George T. Steele, whose Queen Anne residence at 1424 Park Place was constructed ca. 1896. After this, no homes were built within the boundaries of the district until 1906 — the time when Wichita's population had finally exceeded the highs of the 1880s. Even then, the growth during the remainder of the first decade of the twentieth century was comparatively slow in the neighborhood. Between 1906 through 1909, there were five more new residences houses built in the district. In 1910, however, the pace of new construction picked up dramatically. Seventeen homes were built in 1910, and ten in 1911. An additional sixteen buildings were constructed by the end of this decade. This growth in residential construction in the district coincided with an economic upturn in Wichita.
Development within the District was still sporadic in the early years of the 1900s, and there were plenty of available lots to choose from. At the start of the twentieth century building boom, some of the new residences built within the neighborhood were still quite elaborate. The home at 1616 Park Place for example, was designed by architect U.G. Charles and built for Roland P. Murdock, the business manager for the Wichita Eagle and brother of editor/owner Marshall Murdock. Clearly favoring classically-influenced architectural details, the house still retains some of the asymmetrical characteristics of the late Victorian era. Another prominent new resident along Park Place was L.W. Mayberry, superintendent of the city schools. His home at 1548 Park Place (ca. 1915) reflects the preference for the new residents of the district towards classically-inspired architectural features. The elaborate Neo-Classical Revival house at 1751 Park Place, built for Herman Wey in 1909 is another such example. Wey owned several hardware stores, lumber yards, and farms in Oklahoma and Texas. This opulent house is visible proof of his wealth.
In the first two years of the decade (1910) there were an estimated twenty-seven homes built in the district. By the time the 1914 Sanborn map was produced, there were forty-two houses on Fairview, fifty-five on Park Place, nine on the numbered side streets, and three along N. Water (now Wellington Place). The west side of Fairview had the least development, in part because there were a few large lots that remained un-platted. Eleven more houses were constructed in the remaining years of that decade.
Construction continued at a rapid pace in the 1920s, with an estimated thirty-one additional homes built through 1929. The houses built in the mid- to late-1920s tended to be smaller bungalows, although some of these were quite elaborate despite their smaller size. Nonetheless, other outlying neighborhoods were rising in popularity, and were luring residents further from the city's core. Furthermore, the lack of available lots and the Great Depression served as barriers to continued construction in the neighborhood. The 1935 Sanborn Map shows that, except for the west side of the 1700 block of Fairview, nearly all available lots were filled. With the exception of the construction along Wellington Place, new construction in the district came about either as the result of demolition of an older building or the subdivision of a larger lot into several smaller properties. These houses were much smaller and, for the most part, distinctly different in architectural character from the remainder of the district.
As a final blow to the neighborhood, the streetcar lines were discontinued in the mid-1930s. Although this was more of a reflection of the growing use of automobiles, and not a direct indication of the declining fortunes of the neighborhood, the two are nonetheless intertwined. The middle and upper-class of Wichita were moving further out to the suburbs, which had become easily accessible by automobiles. The conversion of several of the large homes in the neighborhood into apartments became a typical practice beginning in the late 1930s.
Typical of settlement towns, the earliest residences in Wichita were constructed of logs and finished either with a log or sad roof. During the boom years of the 1880s however, Wichitans became more conscious of architectural styles. Those residents of means built homes in the prevailing styles of the period, with Italianate, Romanesque, Queen Anne, Shingle, and Stick styles being the most prevalent throughout the city. Wood was the primary building material for the booming town, although masonry homes became more popular by the late 1880s.
† Deon Wolfenbarger, Preservation Consultant, Three Gables Preservation, Park Place-Fairview Historic District, Sedgwick County, Kansas, nomination document, 2003, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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