A fire early Monday heavily damaged the historic William Chick Scarritt Home, the only surviving building in Kansas City designed by the world-renown architects Daniel Hudson Burnham and John Wellborn Root.
The Scarritt Home, built in 1888, had been undergoing major restoration and rehabilitation and was recognized by the Historic Kansas City Foundation in 2012 with a merit award in its Best Preservation Practice category for restoration project.
The home’s owners, Susan Sommers and Larry Roeder, live in Kansas and were not at the house at the time of the fire, according to a fire official. No injuries were reported.
The fire was reported shortly after 5 a.m. Monday in the house at 3240 Norledge Ave. in Kansas City’s Northeast area.
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When firefighters arrived, they found the house at fully engulfed in flames.
“The home was heavily involved on the second and third floors,” said Battalion Chief Brian England with the Kansas City Fire Department. “We had to go defensive immediately and establish a collapse zone.”
The house had high peaks as well as several chimneys, which firefighters were concerned could collapse.
“We were able to knock it (the fire) down relatively soon,” England said. “Obviously it was going to take quite a while to put it all out. The roof had already partially collapsed in, so the fire had been burning a while when we got the initial call.”
Firefighters as of mid-morning were still putting out hot spots, which was complicated by the roof collapsing into the structure.
The house, which is near the Kansas City Museum, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 2 1/2 -story brownstone residence was designed by Root for Scarritt and was one of seven buildings in Kansas City designed by Burnham and Root’s firm. Scarritt was a prominent lawyer who took an active part in the development of Kansas City’s park and boulevard system and served as president of the board of park commissioners. The house was listed on the National Register in March 1978.
According to the registry, the chateauesque-style home has a limestone foundation, brownstone wall treatment and a hip roof with slate shingles. It also had a three-story round tower with conical roof centrally located on the main southern facade. The house had intricate detail in its stonework and stained-glass transoms. At one time, the house served as a nursing home.
The house was one of the homes featured earlier this year in the “Grand Old House Showcase: Flappers and Dappers Progressive Dinner,” a benefit for Historic Kansas City in conjunction with the Old House Expo 2016.
According to information for the dinner, Sommers and Roeder bought the home in 2009 and began renovating the house back into a private residence. They rebuilt the home’s four chimneys, restored the west terrace and installed a new slate roof. They remolded a 1940s addition to the rear as a copper-roofed conservatory based on 1890s architecture, according to Historic Kansas City.
Renovations included installation of Italian plaster wall treatments, ceiling frescoes and decorative stencil work. Other work on the house included remodeling the kitchen, butler’s pantry and seven bathrooms. They also restored eight bedrooms, two parlors, a dining room, reception hall and a ballroom. They had been reconstructing the carriage house on the foundation of the original one, according to Historic Kansas City.
Preservation of the house is an important project and the owners have been working very hard and very respectfully, said Anna Marie Tutera, executive director of the Kansas City Museum.
“It’s just devastating to see,” said Tutera, as she watched firefighters’ firehouses shot water into the upper floor of the house.
“Visitors who come to the Kansas City Museum absolutely fall in love with this home,” Tutera said. “They ask about it and we kind of feature it on our tours. It was a great example for us as an institution of a really well-done restoration project.”
The house is a beautiful home, England said.
“It’s a classic part of Kansas City history that has been lost,” England said. “I’m sure the house could tell some stories. It’s an amazing home. Given it’s historic value and construction of it, you just don’t see things like that any more in our job and in just architecture in general. It’s a real loss.”
The Star’s Tony Rizzo provided information for this story.