Hidden Treasures Found at the Four O’Clock Hill House
By Diane Euston
Occasionally things in life just happen as if they are conveniently placed upon your lap.
Steve Hodgden knew when he stumbled upon a unique opportunity in 1983 while looking for a place for his expanding family to set roots. A quirky and unconventional chance crossed in front of his path.
Hodgden and his wife Wendy crept through the stone gates of the charming farmhouse at 512 Santa Fe Trail. The country house oozed of a simplicity long since retired in modern architecture.
In 1983, they became the proud, ambitious new owners of the farmhouse known in pioneer times as “The Four O’Clock Hill House.”
Hodgden, owner of Midwest Home, a home inspection company in operation since 1977, started gingerly taking apart the 150 year-old history of the home, its land and even its very foundation. Hodgden knew how to correctly renovate and accurately search for the hidden history of their home.
The Four O’Clock Hill House got its rare and fitting name from travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. When wagon trains would leave Independence on their long and arduous journey, they would reach the area of the home around 4:00 in the afternoon.
William Gray (1801-abt. 1885), one of the first white settlers in the entire area, built himself a sturdy little home on top of a hill. He and his wife, along with four children under the age of nine, left Virginia about 1833 and settled in Jackson County. Their house became a physical marker along the Santa Fe Trail.
As wagons barreled through what is now Minor Park, south down Holmes Road and then across west in front of where St. Thomas More Catholic Church is today, one of the only signs of settlement was the Four O’Clock Hill House standing solo on the hillside. Wagons then turned south once again, around the corner and then west up the hill to the town of New Santa Fe.
Men, women and children would stop in front of this home to water the oxen and horses from the large cistern and 50-foot hand dug rock well.
After a 60-year time span of the Gray’s owning the Four O’Clock Hill House, their legacy stands today. Hodgden found remnants of William Gray’s stamp on the land. The old cistern used by thousands of wagon trains that Gray built with his own hands has since been filled in. The location of it still sinks in spots. The root cellar and oldest parts of the foundations of the home were also built by William Gray and remain today.
Hodgden even repaired the original 50-foot well and left his own imprint on it, allowing his children to put their initials on the patched-up top.
Hodgden reports that there appears to be evidence of a fire amidst the oldest parts of the foundation in a crawl space under the family room.
The chances were high that the original house was destroyed during the Border Wars in the 1850s and 1860s.
The rubble stone foundation, serving the southeast and southwest portions of the house, predates the more conventional stone construction by many years. The majority of this rubble foundation stone is ‘dry laid’ without mortar. A small, creepy cellar that is connected to the old section still exists today.
The next big chapter of this home began in 1924 when a well-to-do family decided country living superseded the Kansas City life.
George Fred Mosher and his wife, Katharine (1892-1985) took the opportunity to move to an old farmhouse. The Mosher family of two traded city life for the countryside, buying the Four O’Clock Hill House.
Unbeknownst to us today is the condition of the home when it was purchased by the Mosher’s. Regardless, the story goes that Katharine wished for the home to be renovated and torn almost completely to the ground.
Rebuilt atop the 1840s foundation, the Four O’Clock Hill House got a modern makeover. And the supposed architect in charge of this was none other than Edward B. Delk (1885-1956).
Delk was one of Kansas City’s – and the Midwest’s- finest architects of the 20thCentury. Delk was brought to Kansas City as a consulting architect when plans for the Plaza were being made. He also had his hand at the design of Starlight Theatre.
Early on in his Kansas City career, he allegedly traveled to Washington Township to give Mrs. Mosher her dream (rebuilt) farmhouse.
The Mosher’s stayed until Katharine, after the death of her husband, sold the property in 1946 to George W. Cartlich.
Cartlich was a character. He was the advertising manager for Woolf Brothers.
A talented artist, Cartlich took pride in his Four O’Clock Hill home. Oftentimes, he hand drew the home for his Christmas cards, delicately sketching wreaths on the windows and fluffy snow on the ground.
The Hodgdens are thrilled to have some of his artwork displayed in their home.Above the main fireplace in the family room is a lovely hand-painted mural of the outside of the home done by none other than Cartlich himself.
By 1953, Carlich said goodbye to his Four O’Clock Hill Home and passed on the torch to new owners. Thirty years later, Wendy’s mother, a real estate agent, took a risk by showing the Hodgden’s the home – And the rest is history.
The Hodgdens continue to take pride in their piece of history as new stories continue to surface and paint a bigger picture than the one above the fireplace at 512 Santa Fe Trail.
Diane writes a blog on the history of the area. To read the stories, go to www.newsantafetrailer.blogspot.com