Monday, May 24, 2010

What we saw at the Rockhill Tennis Club sale

Posted By on Mon, May 24, 2010 at 12:00 PM

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No, it's not the duck pond...
I was never a member of the Rockhill Tennis Club, the cozy urban members-only enclave across Rockhill Road from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. But I had friends who did belong to the club, which had opened in 1955 in the stone mansion once owned by Laura Kirkwood Nelson, the daughter of Kansas City Star founder -- and patron of the museum that bears his name -- William Rockhill Nelson.

Laura's home was built across the street from the property that had once been her father's estate, Oak Hall, a century ago. It was sold to DeVere Dierks in 1922 and donated to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in 1954. After more than half a century at 46th and Rockhill Road, the Rockhill Tennis Club was required to move out of the property when the Nelson-Atkins Museum chose not to renew the club's lease in order to use the home for offices.

Over the weekend, much of the club's interior decor and kitchen equipment was sold off at an estate sale. The once glimmering pool -- which traditionally opened Memorial Day weekend -- is covered with a sagging tarp and the water in the old kiddie pool, pictured above, is murky and home to two contented geese.

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The stove, the kitchen sink...all for sale

​I thought I might see more restaurateurs at the sale, since the former dining room was loaded with kitchen gear: pots and pans, chafing dishes, stacks of plates and platters, boxes of drinking straws and carry-out boxes, salad bar supplies, tables and chairs, jugs of spices, glassware, flatware and everything else you can imagine. Vases? There were dozens. And decorations galore for holiday parties and luaus.

One friend of mine went gaga over the old oil paintings and the "ridiculously expensive" Oriental rugs. "Don't you think they'd want to take some of these things to the new location?" he wondered, looking at two upholstered chairs. The club is reportedly moving to another historic home, the former Nell Donnelly mansion at 52nd and Cherry; the Crestwood neighborhood has been fighting the move.

The estate sale had everything -- except the rugs and paintings -- marked half-price on Saturday. It was also a good opportunity to prowl around the old Kirkwood mansion, which must have been truly impressive in its glory days (all the second-floor bedrooms had fireplaces) before it was chopped up to create dining rooms, meeting rooms and the lower-level dressing rooms. At least one of the former bedrooms had been transformed into a hideous "pub."

"Do you think Laura Kirkwood is rolling in her grave over this?" asked my friend.

The late Mrs. Kirkwood was, by most accounts, a woman who liked a nip now and then. She probably loved the pub idea.

 

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