Our first Brookside house was just a block away from the John Wornall House Museum—yet I never stopped in for a tour. I always admired the all brick, Greek Revival style home with the massive pillars in front, built in 1858. Over the past few months, I noticed heavy bulldozers on the grounds facing Wornall, and decided to find out what was going on.
First, a little background on the house: Richard Wornall purchased the 500 acres of farmland in 1843, stretching from State Line to Main St and 59th to 67th Streets, taking out a loan of $2500. (These days that amount isn’t even a down payment on a Brookside home!) He and his family first lived in a cabin on the homestead until the house was built. They farmed the land, selling grain and animals in Westport. Eventually, Richard and Judith’s sons, John and Thomas, inherited the property. Soldiers took over the house during the Civil War and used it as a field hospital as the Battle of Westport was taking place nearby (in present day Loose Park). Pieces of land were sold off through the years, and finally, John Wornall’s third wife, Roma, sold the remaining 150 acres to JC Nichols. In 1963, the property was purchased by the Jackson County Historical Society and is now a free standing, non profit entity in conjunction with the Alexander Majors House at 8201 State Line Road.
Sarah Bader King, Curator and Director of Public Events and Programming , explained during my recent visit that the grounds are now being prepped for the “Learning Landscape”, an idea that’s been percolating for the past five years. The Learning Landscape will reflect how the grounds outside the house were originally used: there will be native, period accurate plants, a vegetable/herb garden, a firepit, an original cistern that was uncovered, apple trees and a Civil War encampment. Extensive educational signage will be added along the new sidewalks, used for self guiding visitors anytime they want to stop and walk the grounds, learning how the area evolved from open frontier to the suburbs it is today. King says: “We are excited to have the opportunity to bring our mission outdoors and into the landscape that would have been so important to the Wornall family in the nineteenth century. It is not often that a small non-profit such as ours can undertake such an innovative and organization-changing project.”
King hopes the Learning Landscape will be completed in April, as the official Ribbon Cutting ceremony is planned for the first weekend of May. And if you are a fan of the biannual Garden Tour the Wornall House arranges, this year it will involve Brookside homes all within walking distance of the house.
You can tour the Wornall House by making a reservation in advance; all tours last approximately 45 minutes. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday 10am-4pm, and Sundays 1-4pm.