At the Old Home Expo a few weeks ago I attended a class on how to research the history of old homes. As a history nut, I absolutely loved the idea of looking into our house's past, especially since it is over 100 years old. I mean think about it, this house, which was built around 1900, was standing here in Kansas City when women were fighting for the right to vote, when the Model T Ford revolutionized the automobile industry, when we fought Hitler, when the Kansas City race riot engulfed the city in 1968,... I could go on and on. So needless to say, I've been very excited to look into our home's past - see who was living here and perhaps get a small glimpse into what life was like for them.
The four resources I used throughout the process of research were 1) Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Kansas City Public Library, 2) Parcel Viewer through Jackson County Government, 3) Jackson County Records, and 4) FindAGrave.com. The Missouri Valley Collections is an amazing resource through our local library that has digitalized historical records. Parcel viewer allows you to look up old records on homes and utilize that information to figure out the neighborhood, block, and lot number. That I used in the Jackson County Records through the Recorder of Deeds office to look up the past deeds on the house, which trace back online all the way to 1960. The big bummer though is that the records aren't digitalized before then, so that's been a temporary stopping point for my research. Finally, Find A Grave I used to look up the death records and obituaries of past residents.
old fire maps from 1897-1907 showing our home
As I've researched I've stumbled across quite a few quirks and mysteries. For instance, that photo at the top? It's from the 1940 Tax Assessment photos. That's the earliest picture we've found so far of our house. I think it's such a neat part of the history - to see how the house looked, to see what parts are most likely original (note NO greek statue), glimpse the old carriage doors on our garage (that are now on our shed in the backyard), and for the first time see what the house next door looked like since it burnt down in the 1980s!
our home back in 2005
As I was looking at the Parcel Viewer I saw something that peaked my interest. The Kansas City government notes that our house was built in 1900, not 1902! I know it seems like a small margin for dates, but I had really set my mind on 1902 so the change feels huge in my mind. However, I have no idea why they have that date in their records. 1902 came from the application from Old Hyde Park Neighborhood Association for the National Register of Historic Places. I have yet to find the original build date for our home. Ultimately, I need to investigate the water permit from the construction of our house, which will give us a firm confirmation of when our house was built. Unfortunately, their records are not digitalized, so I'll have to research that in person sometime.
via Jackson County Records
So far I've discovered that Anthony and Regina Hopfinger lived in the house from an unknown date and after Anthony's death in 1964, Regina took possession of the home and listed her two sons as additional beneficiaries. Regina lived in our home until 1987, when she died. I believe the house may have sat more or less vacant until it was sold to Ronald Bertalotto in 1996. Bertalotto lived in the house for just 5 years when he sold it to Lynette Wilson in April 2001. Lynette apparently changed her last name to Parker and began a party planning business out of the residence. However, she apparently fell on hard times and the house was foreclosed on by Capital Federal. Randall Stellinga picked up the house in foreclosure and lived here for quite a few years until he sold it to us in 2015!
our home today
I cannot wait to go back in the records further to find out who lived here before the Hopfingers and when the house was originally built. It's such a fun mystery and one that I'll likely dig deeper into this summer when I can dig through the records in person!
Are you looking in the history of your home or have you already done so? Do you have any tips for us as we move forward? We'd love to hear from you! Write a comment below!