Page 4 of 5
What is certain is that Henderson died in 1924. Catherine stayed in the house only a few more years, and the crowd whose approval the Hendersons had sought moved south of Linwood Avenue. Like many lumbering estates built before World War I, 1016 Paseo would find new use — and begin its long descent into decay — as a boardinghouse. The call buttons for some early tenants are still in the foyer.
By World War II, the place had found yet another calling, as a bawdyhouse. During this incarnation, which amounts to a cosmic joke at Henderson's expense, sinks and toilets were installed in odd spaces throughout the house, even in a corner just outside the grand third-floor ballroom. In those last days before penicillin, a sink was a lady of the evening's best friend. One former sex worker recalls: "That's the first thing I did for my clients — I washed their private parts. That way, I could see if he had any diseases."
The fortunes of 1016 Paseo have shifted no less dramatically since Howard's 1978 shooting, a crime that remains unsolved.
In 1985, the Historic Kansas City Foundation stepped in to save the home when its owners at the time, a couple who had set out to restore it, said they planned to sell the house piece by piece.
"Down would come the cornice stones," reported the Star, "out would go the mahogany mantelpieces, torn apart would be the front porch with the first line of Sam Walter Foss's poem, 'The House by the Side of the Road,' painted on a stair."
The foundation optioned the purchase of the Henderson mansion, but new buyers arrived to save the day: John William Crocker and his wife, Anita, who planned to turn part of the house into an art gallery. Anita Crocker was an artist.
"By October," the Star reported at the time, "she [Anita Crocker] expects to have completed six 8-foot-by-3-foot panels depicting the creation of the world. Mrs. Crocker is amused that the creation will adorn the walls of a house built for a doctor who specialized in curing sexual dysfunction and was later a home for prostitutes. She delights as much in the history of the house as she delights in its present and future."
The future, however, did not include the Crockers, who sold the house before anyone could feel any delight.
Another owner left the house uninhabited for nearly five years before, in a flurry of publicity in 2000, the property was sold to Pioneer Group Inc. The Topeka development company proposed a renovation of the entire surrounding neighborhood, now known as Jazz Hill. The Henderson mansion, according to news reports at the time, was to serve as management offices and a meeting space.
That plan, too, went nowhere.
Poole says the house was in "horrible, decrepit, rotting condition" when he purchased it. "The roof had rotted, and there were holes, giant holes, through the ballroom floor, through the bedroom floor, right down to the first floor. You could have driven a car through one of those holes. I'd sit on the first floor during a rainstorm and watch the water rush through the house. It was like a waterfall."
There's no evidence of this damage today: The new floors are solid, the ceilings restored. Poole estimates that he has spent more than $200,000 repairing the historic house.
"Why would I even buy it? It's what I've always done," he says. "I've always had great appreciation for good architecture and old buildings. I just couldn't turn away from it after I saw it."