Introduction The following research is a result of historical curiosity motivated by the potential destruction of the home at of 320 East 45th Street. Know as The Baty House by the Kansas City Art Institute community and as 320 to the immediate Baty family, this homeâ€™s history and importance to the surrounding community and Kansas City at large has not been recognized or explored by the Institute. This foundational research aims, first and foremost, to shed light on the history of a beloved piece of the KCAI campus. It also aims to raise questions amongst the students, faculty, and staff about what constitutes an important landmark and who is creating or enforcing those standards. Due to minimal archiving and documentation of the Baty House, all source material within this research is from interviews and conversations conducted by myself and my collaborator, Haley Treadwell. The utter lack of archival information to be found, both within the institution and without, was startling to say the least. It is my hope that this document will plant seeds for both the future investigation and preservation of Baty House and itsâ€™ history. Janelle Ketcher 2014
Lee Baty and Kathryn McCormickâ€™s wedding photo taken during WW1 2
History of Ownership and Baty Family Biography The following information was gathered from interviews and email correspondences between Mary Bridget Katofil and Judge John R Oâ€™Malley; Baty family members who grew up in the house as children. The Baty House was purchased by Lee and Kathryn (Kate) Baty in 1935 from Mr. Snyder who built the home in 1921. They acquired the home cheaply during the depression because Mr. Snyder was an investor. The three-story home, in its present condition, is unique for its quality construction, high ceilings, large rooms, sleeping porches and location across the street from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and its incorporation into the KCAI campus. It was purchased by the school in 1984 and has since been referred to as The Baty House by faculty and students. In its earlier days, the third floor of the home had a complete kitchen, living room and 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths. Mary Kathryn Baty Oâ€™Malley, daughter to Kate and Lee, lived there while her husband J.F. completed his residency at KU Med Center. During that time five of her seven children lived there as well. The house was said to be truly alive with the breath of friends and family of all ages. Mrs. Baty always kept a staff around to help with the constant stream of visitors to the house. Two sisters, Verona and Lenora Savage, served as cooks and housekeepers and were long time friends of the Baty family. From time to time, numerous other individuals were said to have helped maintain the house and the grounds. The Batys employed many individuals over the years during lean times, regardless of race or background. 3
In the late 30’s and 40’s, many large parties were held at the home including a wedding in 1938 of Kate’s sister Beatrice. Both Kate and Lee were reared in Parsons, Kansas and moved to Kansas City when Lee at age 40 went to work for the Nelly Don dress factory owned by Kate’s aunt, Nell Donnelly Reed. Kate and Lee moved into the 45th street home with their four children (Ed, John, Mary Kathryn and Louise) then aged 19, 17, 15 and 13 respectively. Kate, a former silent film pianist, often played the grand piano in the living room while the main hallway rug was rolled up for dancing. The library that connected the living room was furnished with red leather furniture and was where the family usually gathered. During World War II, there were frequently boarders in need of temporary lodging who would pass through Southmoreland. These people were said to have been welcomed with open arms into the Baty House. All members of the Baty family consistently displayed this sort of generosity. Kate’s brother John at age 60 moved into the home in the late 50’s. Empathetic and compassionate to drifters and homeless people, he was know to dole out food and money to anyone down on their luck who knocked on the door. Mary Bridget, the daughter of Mary Kathryn, remembers riding her bike as a child on the KCAI campus and seeing the artists at work in their studio. As times and culture changed, so too did the Baty house. As more and more people owned cars, the single-lane driveway became insufficient. With so many family members and visitors, a parking pad was added to the property to allow more space. This ensured that Lee had a place to park his car, despite the many guests passing through the long driveway entry running east to north. An unwritten agreement was later formed with KCAI that allowed the Baty’s to use 4
Lee and Kathryn with their children outside of their home in the 1940s 5
the KCAI parking lane at night. In the 50’s and 60’s, the east screened-in porch was used for listening to ballgames, bird-watching and summer relaxation. The west porch was used in the spring for card playing and board games. The Batys belonged to St. Francis Xavier parish. Lee was a member of the Plaza Rotary Club and Kathryn belonged to several women’s groups including retired friends of Nelly Don. They were known for their generosity to employees, extended family, anyone in need. In their senior years, much of their time was spent with family that grew to include 16 grandchildren who always felt welcome to drop by for a visit if only briefly. Lee died in 1977 at the age of 85 and Kate died in 1982 at 90. An amazing couple who lived long, full lives, Kathryn and Lee Baty are buried in Calvary Cemetery at 68th & Troost in Kansas City, Missouri just to the right of the main gate.
Kratofil, Mary Bridget. Interview with Janelle Ketcher. Personal, May 2nd, 2014. O’Malley, Judge John R. Interview with Janelle Ketcher. Personal, May 6th, 2014. 6
Now (Top-2014) and Then (Bottom-Undated) 7
Call and Response The following green quotations are sentiments and information pertaining to the Baty house and related topics from various students, faculty, and staff of the Kansas City Art Institute. The italicized statements in pink are my educated and observational responses. “Home built as a triangle area, psychically active, and is close to The Nelson” These attributes are what attracted the architects to this location at 320 East 45th Street. For this reason, having a home at this location embraces the Institute’s connection to the community; a relationship we want to support within the traditional architecture of the neighborhood.
“What are the benefits of holding on to this building? We’d lose the history. We’ve torn down a lot of buildings. The Donaldson House was torn down. We are an art school with beautiful old architecture which we can work with. For example, the library” How a community connects to history is easily accessible through visual and tangible architecture. In what ways have we positively affected the neighborhood by preserving Mineral Hall and Vanderslice? As noted in the preface, no visible attempts have been made to find the history and importance of The Baty House, thus it becomes easy to shrug off. A main question asked by BNIM has been, “What makes KCAI unique?” which is simply answered by the fact that no other campus will have a Baty House. Conservation of old architecture is a conservation of the history that makes KCAI grounded in the Southmoreland and KC community. The range of architecture on campus, not just modern structures, shows the diversity and range KCAI’s studio practices
from traditional painting to new technologies like the CNC router.
“Money we don’t have” Might we consider what happened to
Cooper Union who spent over 160 million on their 41 Cooper Academic Building, sold off all their rentable land, and now has tuition after years of being free for admitted students. Please see Felix Salmon’s Why Cooper Union Cannot Be Trusted article on how Cooper Union’s own Master Plan has dramatically and negatively affected their institution. When raising money, the attitudes toward a renovation of Baty House would encourage campus and neighborhood pride in preserving our unique qualities.
“Far from ideal but workable” It’s true, the Baty House does
not offer all of the space the BNIM surveys tell us we need. It is also true that much of the space is not utilized, including some basement space and the porches. With the land surrounding the house, there are opportunities to expand. Thinking about the location as a connection between the 3 art institutions in Southmoreland, turning the building into a student union and gallery space with a more up-to-date coffee house would encourage the entire neighborhood to be apart of KCAI.
“Classes need to be small, we bargain away our best feature if we make big classes” When we expand the scale of our class
rooms we sacrifice the quality of learning. The small rooms of Baty House set limits for classrooms unlike the rooms under Vanderslice Hall; it would be valuable to survey student’s learning experiences in the different spaces. I believe that students would say the smaller rooms in Baty motivate conversation and create stronger relationships within the class than that of the larger classrooms. 9
“When we acquired property the Institute questioned: tear down or refurbish. Originally Baty was converted $300,000”
What to do with the place has always been lofty therefore the Institute never seriously invested in renovation (rather than refurbish). I suspect construction on the Baty has always been bandages rather than refining the potential of the building.
“101 was going to be a seminar room but never became one because the scheduling and need for utility killed the idea. National union catalog in room 101 are useless and should be thrown out” By utilizing this space as it was originally intended,
as a seminar or lounge, the bookshelves of 101 could be filled with the liberal arts’ book collection, there could be a book exchange, and writings from faculty and students would bring the Liberal Arts department together in a central, convenient, and welcoming space.
Published on Jun 14, 2014