The neighborhood surrounding the Kansas City Art Institute was once one of the most exclusive suburbs of Kansas City, lined with stately mansions (including the former August R. Meyer estate, which has been the centerpiece of the Kansas City Art Institute campus since 1927) that are, for the most part, no longer private homes. One of the grander homes in the neighborhood, which is bordered by the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, was the red-brick manor home constructed in 1907 for Dr. William Stone Woods, who was the chairman of the National Bank of Commerce at the time that he built his three-story Georgian Revival home at 4343 Oak.
Over the last century, the Selby Kurfiss-designed building has had several owners and been used for a variety of purposes: in the 1920s, it became a dormitory for the Missouri State Nurses Association, and after the Art Institute leased it in 1949, it was used as a dormitory for female students until it was sold to a local lawyer, William Pickett, in 1978. Pickett lived in the home until his death in 2009.
For the last two years, 29-year-old John Sabates has been overseeing the renovation of the Woods mansion into an eight-bedroom bed-and-breakfast (Sabates prefers to call it an "art hotel") for the building's owners, his parents, Dr. Roland and Marcia Sabates. When the new business, the Oak Street Mansion, officially opens later this summer, it will also serve as a showplace for much of the art collection that Dr. Sabates has collected over the years.
Sabates, who will serve as general manager and will live on the property, is currently interviewing chefs; the lodging house will not have a restaurant but will offer breakfast in the mornings to its guests, as well as an evening cocktail hour with hors d'oeuvres.
"We do hope to offer dinners at some future point," Sabates says.
Each of the bedrooms will feature original art - including the "street art" created by a local graffiti artist. There will also be a Cuban room (the Sabates family is originally from Cuba), a jazz room, an African-art room and an abstract-art room. Sabates says he expects the home to be particularly busy during the summer and autumn months, to coincide with nearby events like the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, the Plaza Art Fair, the Un-Plaza Art Fair, featured exhibitions at the Kemper Museum, and the Plaza Lighting ceremony. Room rates, he says, will be comparable to boutique hotels in the area.
Until a few years ago, another bed-and-breakfast operated in an old mansion directly across the street (it has since been purchased by KCAI, which uses it for offices). For more information on the Oak Street Mansion, call 913-219-5688.