Small suburban KC town seeks historic designation

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(WESTWOOD HILLS, Kan., AP) — A suburban Kansas City town of only 5½ blocks wants to be placed on state and national registers of historic places to preserve its 1920s and ’30s architecture and winding, tree-lined streets.
Westwood Hills, population 359, was one of the first suburbs developed in the state by urban planning pioneer J.C. Nichols. If the application is approved the town will become the first in Kansas to be listed on the national register, The Kansas City Star reports (
The designation would provide protection from projects that clash with the community’s architecture, and could make tax credits and grants available for refurbishing aging properties.
“There is something so distinct and unique about this city,” said Karen Shelor Sexton, president of the Westwood Hills Historic Foundation. “It should be preserved.”
A state review board will consider the request on Saturday. If it approves, the request would go to the National Park Service for inclusion on the federal list.
Historical experts believe Westwood Hills is an example of residential design concepts that Nichols used in other subdivisions in Missouri and Kansas. The concepts include winding streets that followed the area’s topography, residential construction that conformed to deed restrictions and an active homeowners’ association. It also was the first Nichols’ development in Kansas to integrate a commercial strip, which became a signature of his 1920s projects, according to the city’s application for the historical register.
“Listing Westwood Hills on the national register is a no-brainer,” said Jacob Wagner, associate professor of urban planning and design at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. “It’s a great example of that particular era of suburban development.”
The city’s 175 homes, many constructed from 1923 to 1943, include several shapes and sizes that are built closely together. Many of the homes have an English influence, particularly the Tudor Revival style that features brick and stucco siding with windows projecting from steeply pitched roofs.
Westwood Hills has already passed a new building code to protect its architecture and will apply that code to new construction regardless of whether the historical district is approved.