The stone house on Rockhill Road, just east of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, originally was built in 1910 for William Rockhill Nelson’s only daughter, Laura Nelson Kirkwood. It was sold to DeVere Dierks in 1922, then given to the Museum in 1954. The Nelson-Atkins in turn leased it to the private Rockhill Tennis Club starting in 1955.
The tennis club’s lease will expire on Dec. 31, 2009. The Nelson-Atkins made it known nine years ago that the lease would not be renewed, and the Museum’s decision was made officially clear in writing in 2004.
Museum leaders have intended for years to use the Laura Nelson Kirkwood Home for Museum purposes, including office space. A rendering from 2004, shown below and shared in the past with neighbors and members of the public, shows how the property would be beautifully landscaped, certainly an asset to the neighborhood. The exterior would be refurbished to its original beauty, and the Museum’s high level of security would be extended to the property.
The Nelson-Atkins currently rents nearby office space, and the difference between rent paid for that space and rent received from the tennis club is an economic hardship for the Museum, a non-profit organization whose doors are open to the public, free every day. The Nelson-Atkins Board of Trustees has consistently seen this as a quandary, that the Museum must pay to rent office space when it could occupy its own property.
Space for many offices was included in the new Bloch Building, but during the planning process for the expansion, Nelson-Atkins leaders assumed that the Laura Nelson Kirkwood Home would be used for offices as well.
Use of the property is in no way intended as an expansion. It is a prudent solution to the Nelson-Atkins’ need for office space.
In 2004, the Nelson-Atkins created this concept drawing suggesting the Museum’s initial ideas for the development and renovation of the Laura Nelson Kirkwood Home.