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Just on the other side of Rockhill Road, across from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s stunning Bloch Building, stands a home that has stood guard over the museum since ground was broken for its construction in 1933.


The large limestone home at 4520 Kenwood Avenue, also known as the Kirkwood House, was built in 1910 by the Kansas City Star’s founder, William Rockhill Nelson, for his daughter and her new husband. It stood only a short distance from Oak Hall, William’s palatial home that was demolished, per his request, to provide the land needed to build the Nelson.

Laura Rockhill Nelson Kirkwood and Irwin Kirkwood

Laura Rockhill Nelson Kirkwood was William’s only child. A prominent and well-educated Kansas City socialite, she was the president of Kansas City’s Red Cross Chapter in World War I and took on many responsibilities at the Star after her father’s passing in 1915. Fun fact: the Star printed its first photo and first comic while Laura was in charge, both of which had been forbidden by her father. Laura unfortunately passed away in Baltimore in 1926 before she ever got to see her father’s dream of an art museum realized. Her husband, Irwin Kirkwood, (of whom William had initially disapproved), oversaw his father-in-law’s requested demolition of Oak Hall and land donation for an art gallery to be filled with works purchased with funds from the Nelson trust. Kirkwood passed shortly after Laura in 1927.

The home was owned for a short period of time by lumber company executive, DeVere Dierks, who then donated the property to the Nelson-Atkins in the 1940s. From 1944 until 2010, the museum leased the house to the Rockhill Tennis Club.

After the tennis club closed its doors the Nelson-Atkins initiated plans to convert the building into office space for museum staff, but the neighborhood rejected this idea. They worked with the museum to come to an agreement as to how historic homes around the museum should be utilized and the house was listed in 2018 for $289,000.

It was purchased in 2019 for nearly twice that amount by Peter and Heather Caster, who spent the next two years renovating the remarkable 113-year-old home and restoring it to its former glory. Decades spent as a tennis club and event space meant that some of the home’s original configurations had been altered, such as the original kitchen’s conversion to a commercial-sized space. Returning the building back to residential use required hard work and deep pockets. However, the Casters achieved their goal and the home is now back on the market for nearly $1.8 million.

Andy Goldsworthy “Walking Wall” – Photo Credit: Nelson Atkins Museum of Art

When the museum sold the property in 2019, it kept some land to the north and south of the home with plans to extend the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park. This project has not been initiated yet, but in 2019, sculptor and artist, Andy Goldsworthy, who is known for creating site-specific environmental pieces, used part of the land for “The Walking Wall.” This was a dry-stacked wall built from stones pulled from the Kansas Flint Hills. Workers first constructed it on the land that was once part of 4520 Kenwood Ave., and then slowly moved it by removing stones from one end to continue building the wall on the other, snaking it slowly across Rockhill Road and up to its final location, half in and half outside the museum.

The new owners of 4520 Kenwood Avenue were allowed to keep some of the stones used to create a stone pathway and decorate the garden.


The recent renovations of this home highlight exquisite woodworking throughout. Most rooms feature original fireplaces, and a paneled and gilded ballroom with a full bar is perfect for hosting large parties, dinners, and other gatherings. The imposing character of the stone exterior is perfectly counterbalanced by the spacious, light, elegant and charming interior.


Check out more photos of this beautiful piece of Kansas City history below!