Words by Jessica Bahr | Photos by Matthew Anderson
A Westside row home connects Kansas City’s storied past with its hopeful future.
here’s nothing like an afternoon drive through Kansas City’s historic neighborhoods. Each community has its own architectural calling card: the grand stone mansions in Hyde Park, the famed Shirtwaists in West Plaza and a cornucopia of Tudors, bungalows and Georgian Revivals in Brookside.
Drive up to the Westside neighborhood, and you’ll see an energetic set of row homes taking advantage of some of the city’s best views.
They’re completely at ease in this particular historic neighborhood, but these row homes aren’t 100 years old. They’re new builds from Edward Franklin Building Company, designed in a lovingly coined Historically Modern style.
The company’s managing partners Grant Baumgartner and Chris Ruhl, who both grew up in Kansas City, have a deep appreciation for the city’s history. The company is named for Edward Franklin Baumgartner, Grant’s grandfather, who was a longtime midtown resident and helped instill in Grant a love for the city.
“There’s so much going on in downtown Kansas City, with the pride that we have in the city,” Grant says. “People have been looking for new homes in the urban core, but there just weren’t enough infill new homes being built … So we’re embracing the history and architecture of these neighborhoods and, at the same time, creating the kinds of homes that people are looking for now.”
As a company, Edward Franklin’s vision isn’t to replace a community’s existing personality, but to reenergize it with respectful-yet-imaginative renovations and new builds.
Edward Franklin saw success with their initial projects in the city’s northeastern Columbus Park neighborhood. After completing several homes there, they were looking to expand beyond that area when they found the perfect spot in Westside.
As Grant explains, they tore down a suburban-style house built in the 1970s. Then, to create the Franklin Heights row, they divided the large lot into smaller footprints. Not only is a smaller footprint more historically accurate for the neighborhood, but it also happens to be exactly what today’s urban home buyer is looking for.
Understanding this mindset, the Edward Franklin team builds purposeful spaces instead of unnecessarily large houses. And in the case of their row homes, less is definitely more.
In 2021, the team finished the second home in the Franklin Heights row. As Edward Franklin designer Cody Brown explains, this is really where they honed their Historically Modern row home concept.
“A set of row homes shouldn’t look like identical twins,” Cody says. “But they should look closely related, like they’re all cousins. Each row home has its own distinctive aesthetic, while sharing similar characteristics.”
This concept captivated the current homeowners. The couple, who’d moved from Nebraska and were renting in the Westside, knew right away they had to have this row home on a hill.
Row homes are a carefully considered use of space, typically just 22 to 26 feet wide. And this Franklin Heights home is no exception. But the vertical reach of this home echoes its geographical situation. It takes the horizontal space that we typically attribute as roomy, and, well, turns it on end.
Four stories of living space unfold vertically, from an art studio in the finished basement to a full rooftop deck overlooking the city. And from the outside in, there’s an artful interplay of the 1920s and the 2020s.
“Moldings, wood floors, windows—all those more architectural things feel historical,” Cody says. “But then we infuse it with modern elements through lighting and furnishings.”
In selecting the finishing touches, Cody felt it was really important to capture the homeowners’ sophisticated down-to-earth vibe. After all, this is a couple who moved from out of state to the heart of Kansas City to kick off their retirement years. So earthy neutrals are paired with bold strokes of metallics. Soft white walls throughout the shared living spaces provide a serene backdrop while bouncing the light from the large windows.
“The floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, the large windows—they almost project the house out over the city to feel the energy of the nightlife that’s literally steps away from the homeowners’ back door,” Cody says.
While there’s a busy hum that surrounds it, the home is also tucked into its close-knit row, in its unique community of Westside neighbors, shops and restaurants. It’s a diverse, walkable area; the kind of neighborhood people associate with larger cities, forgetting they’re also the fabric of our own.
Two more Historically Modern homes will be added to this row soon. And a second phase of the Franklin Heights project, with five more row homes, is in the works at 21st and Holly Streets.
With the thoughtful touches of the Edward Franklin team, these homes hold the balance between comfort and excitement, like a city itself in a state of renewal. And with any luck, the Westside’s Franklin Heights row will still be a stop on an afternoon outing 100 years from now.
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Architect: Gerald Janssen of ESC Architects
Interior Designer: Cody Brown of Edward Franklin Building Company
Contractor: Edward Franklin Building Company
Engineer: Apex Engineers
Landscaper: All Cat
New Home Community: Franklin Heights – Westside
Real Estate Agents: Andy Bash / Katherine Lee
Art: Private collection via designer selection
Cabinets: Koch Cabinets
Closet: Lee Custom Woodworks
Countertops: Any Top Shop
Electronics: Four Lanes
Flooring: FPF Flooring
Rugs and Furnishings: RH
Hardware: Top Knobs
Lighting Fixtures: RH and Edward Franklin Custom
Plumbing Fixtures: Kohler
Wall Coverings: Graham and Brown
Roofing: Royal Roofscapes