2300 Washington Boulevard

Washington Blvd., Westheight Manor

Thomas M. Torson Residence II
2300 Washington Boulevard
Victor J. DeFoe, Architect
Built 1922-23

Following Hanford L. Kerr's death, Nettie Kerr sold the greater portion of the property surrounding the Kerr house in Block 16 of Westheight Manor, a total of four lots, to Thomas M. Torson. Torson, a contractor, resided at 1900 Nebraska Avenue until 1922, and his two houses exhibit strong stylistic similarities despite the difference in scale. The $40,000 structure that arose on the property to the east of the Kerr house was one of the most imposing structures on Washington Boulevard, and placed on the highest ground in Westheight.

Like the nearby house of Westheight's developer Jesse Hoel, the new house was designed by an architect who was fully aware of the principles and forms of the Progressive Movement in architecture. More formal and less "radical" than Hoel House, Torson II manages to be quite large and imposing without being monumental or divorced from human scale, as was typical of so many eclectic mansions of the period. Though tall, the predominant lines of the house are horizontal, the whole sheltered under a broad hipped roof of red Spanish tile. The rough grey stone facing the structure is beautifully dressed and laid, with a feeling for the inherent nature of the material that was one of the most deeply felt principles of the new architecture in the United States.

Perhaps the most striking features of the exterior development are the long banks of tall casement windows with their thin, white painted mullions. These windows recall not so much the work of Wright or the brothers Greene as the contemporary work of the Arts and Crafts Movement in England. Cooly elegant, they open up the interior to the out-of-doors while at the same time serving as a protective screen, admitting light and air while restraining the gaze of the curious. In accord with the windows, the white painted metalwork of the balconies and lamps adds a final grace note to the calm beauty of the facade. A pen and ink rendering of the house was included in a March 16, 1924 advertisement for Westheight Manor in the Kansas City Kansan.

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