Structure Type: built works - dwellings - houses

Designers: Polk, W.W. and Sons, Architects (firm); Daniel Polk (architect); Willis Jefferson Polk (architect); Willis Webb Polk (architect)

Dates: constructed 1885

2 stories

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1213 Pennsylvania Avenue
Quality Hill, Kansas City, MO 66105

This address corresponded to a street number of 1307 Pennsylvania Street in 1886.

Building History

Architect Willis J. Polk (1867-1924) designed this brick-and-stone house for his father's firm of W.W. Polk and Sons in 1885. It was an early work by the younger Polk. David B. McMechan (born c. 1838 in Muskingum County, OH-d. c. 1913 in Denver, CO), President of the Central Bank of Kansas City (between 01/1887 and about 06/1887), commissioned the construction of four, two-story houses on this block, including one for himself at 1307 Pennsylvania Street. McMechan, his wife and daughter lived at 1233 Pennsylvania Street since 1881, meaning he had lived in the neighborhood for about four years before he decided to build a cluster of four residences. (See Kansas City, Missouri, City Directory, 1881, p. 425.) It was an opportune time to build, as real estate values in Kansas City were beginning to escalate rapidly.

An image of the McMechan House was included in The Inland Architect and Builder's 05/1886 issue, which said of the design: "Residence for D.B. McMechan, of Kansas City; by W.W. Polk & Son, architects, Kansas City. The front is Anderson pressed brick, slate roof, oriel of copper; hot air heating apparatus; cost about $4,000.” (See “Our Illustrations,” Inland Architect and Builder, vol VII, no. 7, 05/1886, p. 66.)

According to writer and historian Julene Hunter, "The address and house numbers changed, but were listed in an application for Historic Landmark status as owned by David McMechan President of the Central Bank who employed Polk & Sons to design and build his residence and three others on the same block. McMechan's residence is listed as 1307 Penn St. in the 1886-90 KC Directories." (See Julene Hunter in an email to the author of 12/26/2020. Thank you to her for information on this residence's correct location and other details.)

Architectural historian Richard W. Longstreth in his foundational book, On the Edge of the World, said of the McMechan House: “By 1885, the family had moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where the parternship of W.W. Polk & Son was established. Most of the firm’s commissions were for moderate-sized suburban dwellings and speculative row houses. Responsibility for designing at least some of these projects was delegated to Willis [Jefferson]. An early example of his work, the Daivd McMechan house (1885), suggests the enthusiasm with which he approached design, but also the limitations of his architectural knowledge. As with so many architect-builders’ products of the period, an array of ornate elements grafted onto a standard house form. The principal sources for Polk’s vocabulary were no doubt plan books, trade journals, and manufacturers’ catalogues.” (See Richard W. Longstreth, On the Edge of the World Four Architect in San Francisco at the Century, [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998], p. 51.) Longstreth went on to discuss how Willis Jefferson Polk's architectural horizons broadened after he obtained work in the Kansas City office of architects Van Brunt and Howe in early 1887. Van Brunt and Howe took the unheard of step of relocating from civilized Boston, MA, to the wilds of Kansas City, MO, in 1887, tin order to serve the Union Pacific Railroad and to take advantage of a building boom going on in that city at the time.

McMechan resided in this Kansas City house until at least 1891. He was listed as a "capitalist" in the Kansas City, Missouri, City Directory, 1890, (p. 796) and the 1891 directory listed him as having a real estate office at 552 Main Streeet. (See Hoye's Kansas City, Missouri, City Directory, 1891, p. 421.) McMechan's name wasn't listed in the 1892 or 1893 Kansas City directories, so he had probably left by that time. The period just after the Depression of 1893 caused many to relocation across the US, as the economy slowed to a crawl. He relocated to Denver, CO, by 1894, where he pursued the profession of capitalist, and lived at 2605 California Street. (See Denver, Colorado, City Directory, 1894, p. 665.) He later got into real estate and making loans. He died in Denver in either 1913 or early 1914.

Building Notes

Born in Muskingum County, Ohio, David B. McMechan had moved with his family to Nebraska City, NE, by 1860, where he operated a small farm worth about $1,000. (See Ancestry.com, Source Citation Census Year: 1860; Census Place: Nebraska City Ward 1, Otoe, Nebraska; Archive Collection Number: T1128; Roll: 1; Page: 420; Line: 20; Schedule Type: Agriculture, accessed 01/04/2021.) Ten years later, he had left agriculture, working as the town's primary hardware and stove merchant. (See Ancestry.com, Source Citation Year: 1870; Census Place: Four Mile, Otoe, Nebraska; Roll: M593_831; Page: 369A; Family History Library Film: 552330, accessed 01/04/2021.) Within two years, McMechan was borrowing money at usurious interest rates and taking out life insurance policies to save his failing business. In the process, he became party to a law suit, MOORE v. UNION MUTUAL LIFE INS. CO. et al. (See MOORE v. UNION MUTUAL LIFE INS. CO. et al., 17 FED.CAS.—45, Circuit Court, D, Nebraska, 07/1876.) This complex case detailed McMechan's multiple mortgages to obtain money, and his willingness to have relatives take out insurance policies on his behalf to secure loans. The case was finally resolved in 1876.

Amidst his complicated financial and legal troubles, McMechan married Henrietta Schoff (born c. 08/1845 in PA)on 03/27/1872 in Nebraska City. Her father, Jacob, was a Lancaster, OH, drover in 1850.(See Ancestry.com, Source Citation Year: 1850; Census Place: Lancaster, Fairfield, Ohio; Roll: 677; Page: 281a, accessed 01/04/2021.) They remained married until his death in 1913, with Henrietta surviving until about 1922. They had one child together, a daughter, Emma, (born c. 07/1872 in NE).

The McMechans left Nebraska City soon after the resolution of the court case, and made their way to Kansas City, MO, then on the brink of very rapid growth and real estate speculation. They were settled in Kansas City by 1879, where David worked for the The Cash Stove Company. (See Ballenger and Hoye's Ninth Annual City Directory City of Kansas, MO, 1879, p. 333.) In the mid-1880s, Kansas City became one of the hottest real estate markets in the US, comparable to Birmingham, AL, or Los Angeles, CA. (See Craig Miner, "A Place of Boom and Bust: Hard Times Come to Kansas," Kansas History: A Journal of the Plains States, vol. 34, Spring 2011, p. 70-79.)

The McMechans were named in a number of Kansas State lawsuits during the period 1889 through 1893, and some may have had to do with the failure of the Central Bank in 1891. (See "Failures and Suspensions," Rhodes Journal of Banking, vol. XVIII, no. 8, 08/1891, p. 838.) McMechan real estate assets were being liquidated in 1892, and their bankruptcy in Kansas City likely necessitated another move West, this time to Denver.

Demolition

The McMechan House, as well as the other four designed by Polk nearby, were razed.

PCAD id: 7869