Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dee Geese, Dee Geese... Island Return

A gaggle not quite but goosey none the less. Two mated pairs (same from last year, probably but I'm not sure) have arrived at North Terrace Lake in time for the Island Open House. Both will set up nesting away from meddlesome humans on the island that, some say, still holds Coronado's personal treasure.
They look almost identical but the male is slightly larger. I promise no excessive goose posting.... it's not like they're rare.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Brick by Brick - Building a House and a Home

The Weis; Frank, 90 next month, and Audrey, 85 , in front of the home they built themselves. Below in the sunken living room... a design ahead of its time.

In 1946 the heavy, soot laden black smoke used to routinely float up over the bluff at Gladstone and Van Brunt making the land there hardly desirable for home building. But the byproduct of steam locomotives in the East Bottoms didn’t interfere with the building plans of Frank and Audrey Weis who bought a lot on the southwest corner of that intersection. They designed and built the English style home themselves from the ground up laboring evenings and weekends for several years.

It all started 65 years ago when Frank met Audrey. They both worked at the Lake City Ammunition plant and ran into each other when Frank accompanied a fellow worker to the “big boss’” office where Audrey was a secretary. Frank thought she had the most beautiful hair and Audrey liked it that he always wore bright sweaters. Dating ensued and they were married May 19th, 1944.

Service in the Navy followed for Frank who was a commissioned officer on LCTL 62 which carried diesel engine spare parts to posts in the South Pacific during World War II. Following the war Frank went to work for the Kansas City Water Department and the couple settled into life in an apartment at 29th and Topping. But Frank had already been hard at work on the plans for their house for several years and when the lot purchase was complete the construction began.

The house was to have several innovative features for the time including radiant heat, a sunken living room and a skylight. Work began with the digging of the 4-foot deep space for the foundation slab. Concrete would be delivered on Saturdays by a contractor but only if he had a commercial job that day. So Frank and Audrey would have to wait, sometimes all day, for the truck to show up. Then the pouring would begin; unless it had rained in which case Frank had to wheelbarrow the mix from truck to foundation.

After the first slab was complete it was time to lay the pipe for the heating system. Frank, who has a Mechanical Engineering Degree from the University of Missouri, designed and fabricated the system himself. It involves pipes embedded in the concrete floor of the home through which heated water is circulated. This water in turn warms the surrounding floor and the heat “radiates” up through the house. After the pipe was laid, joined and leak tested another layer of concrete was poured over the top. Frank has only had to replace the pump once since the system was built. A boiler provides the heat for the water.

Often during construction the couple worked long into the night with Frank doing the work and Audrey holding a flashlight and keeping track of Ted, their first born son. Two other children followed, Gary and Cathy. All of the kids went to Gladstone, where Audrey volunteered in the cafeteria, and Northeast Junior and Senior Highschools. Since there was no forced air system in the house, the kids grew up without air conditioning which, Audrey said, was not without complaint! The couple still does without when it comes to cooling, Frank saying he frequently drives to work with the windows in the car rolled down.

Following completion of the foundation the framing began. Because the house was on the corner, code required that it have two entrances thus the doors on Gladstone and on Van Brunt. A more restrictive code at the time also meant that they had to have professional plumbers and electricians do the plumbing and wiring, but once the city inspected the basic work Frank was able to do what he really wanted.

With framing complete the brick work began. Frank had worked on a brick addition to a Water Department pumping facility and learned the ins and outs of a good brick wall. Frank tried to lay at least 100 bricks in a day and estimates that it took 3,300 total to finish the job.

Since the couple was married and on a budget, they frequently had to delay work on the house waiting for sales on materials. They moved into the home before it was completed to save money. Audrey recalled that they could carry on conversations between the first and second stories through the unfinished walls.

Frank got a good deal on redwood paneling and that is featured throughout the interior of the house with no plaster, wallpaper or paint to be found anywhere. In the late 50’s the house was pretty much finished although Audrey says it really wasn’t complete until the 70’s.

Married for 64 years, the couple attributes their longevity to an active lifestyle that includes run-walking from their house to Gooseneck along Cliff Drive three days a week. They also enjoy ballroom dancing three or four times a month and just recently took a trip to Chicago and San Francisco.

Frank continues to work full time at Smith and Loveless in Lenexa in research and development. He has more than 55 patents to his name and has been with the company for 55 years.

So, how much did the house finally cost? Frank says, “Well, we saved all the receipts for the materials over the years but then just through them away without adding up the cost!”

The next time you drive by the little English style house at Gladstone and Van Brunt think about Frank and Audrey and two lifetimes of work and love that built both a house and a home.

Looking north toward Gladstone Boulevard this shows Audrey and son Ted on the concrete slab with the beginnings of the radiant heat piping. Sunken living room is to the rear. Notice the total absence of trees along the bluff in the background. Frank and the kids used to fly kites off the bluff in the summer.

Above and below installing the radiant heat system.... the first house west of theirs, in the background, was also built by an individual.

Looking east toward Van Brunt this shows the installation of the radiant heating system. Water is forced through the pipes to heat the concrete slab which in turn heats the whole house.

Looking north, northwest shows the framing in progress. Frank had some help raising the trusses from friends and relatives. Brickwork eventually covered the bottom half of the house.

Above Van Brunt looking south on a snowy day.... notice all the Elm trees which began disappearing in the sixties when dutch elm disease hit the region.
The finished home.... close to 4,000 bricks and a lot of hard work.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

This, That and That Other Thing

Cliff Drive has its charms year-round. This is a mish-mash of scenes from the Scenic Byway...Above... late afternoon last Wednesday.... below same day... shows the kiosk ... one of two. that are being built to offer details on Cliff Drive and surroundings. This one is next to the Museum and the other is by the West Entrance to the Drive (Paseo).
Blogger friend Donna (Just Me) showed some pictures of her wild grape vines.... so I thought I'd show the ones we have along the Drive. They're taking over everything... below, the overlook by the waterfall fountain.

Above by the East Entrance... looks like an alien landscape... doesn't look much better when it's green either.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sunset at Scarritt Point

View from Historic Northeast Kansas City looking west toward downtown.

Layers and wiggly contrails made an impressionist sundown.

The gray limestone of the Museum glows with the warmth of the late afternoon.

Warmer weather with longer days.... despite this weekend they will be here soon.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


The crocus have bloomed.... last couple of years they have popped up in February... this year they weren't taking any chances. Of course after the next three days they may burrow back into the ground. (And I might follow them.)

Above and below... the Japanese Maple is, wisely, in no particular hurry.
And, below, the Cherry Tree will take it's time too... but we're closer everyday.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Back To Ireland - The Simplified Version

Philime Hughes born 1671 in Inver, County Donegal, Ireland

His son Thomas Hughes married Bridget O'Neil ( I love her name)

Their son Phelime (Felix) Hughes married Cintha Kaighn (moved to Virginia)

Their son Major Thomas Hughes (sorry Loyalists he was on the right side) married Elizabeth Swan. Moved to Pennsylvania.

Their daughter Mary married Matthias Roseberry.

Their daughter Mary married Archilbald Guthrie.

Their daughter Mary Jane married George Remley.

Their son James married Anna Stark.

Their son Lawrence married Flora Vetter.

Their son Lester married Jeanne Johnson.

Their son David is writing this.

Happy St. Patty's Day!!!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hyper Is Out On Bond

The Christopher S. Bond Bridge is under construction right next to the Paseo Bridge it will replace. Suspended by a delta-shaped pylon the new Missouri River Bridge, shown below, will be a two-span structure with a 550-foot main span and a side span of 451 feet. The top of the pylon will be about 316 feet above the average river level. (Image below and at the conclusion of the post courtesy of Bradley Touchstone)
The process for constructing something this massive has always fascinated me. Through the kindness of Laura Wagner, Information Officer for the construction side of the project, I got to take a closeup look at the site. Below is the sign and building for KCICON the project management team.

The 245 million dollar project is more than just the bridge... it will also widen the I-29/35 corridor from two lanes in each direction to three. As shown on the map below the contruction spans a 4.7 mile section of roadway from just north of Armour Road to the northeast edge of the downtown loop.
Laura, below, displays one of the thousands of bolts that will hold this bridge together... and the second pix below shows a section of rebar that will reinforce the concrete deck of the bridge.. 235 miles of rebar to be exact...

Above new and old side by side Paseo Bridge on the left and Bond on the right. Below, view from the base of support columns for both. Pylon visible in the center.

The new river bridge will be 124-feet wide (left above) capable of carrying eight traffic lanes and a pedestrian/bicycle path.... the additional lanes and path would require future work to widen connections to the north and south of the structure. This widening is not in the current budget.
Large steel supports footed in concrete support the north section of the bridge... eventually the superstructure will be supported by 40 stays radiating in a semi-fan arrangement from the pylon.

Above, looking south, Bond, Paseo and City.
Below and above... the new bridge, at its closest point, is only six feet from the existing Paseo Bridge.

Above... steel structure being put in place prior to the precast concrete slabs being dropped into place to form the base of the bridge deck.

Deck is composed of precast concrete sections lowered into place. Rebar is then put in place and covered with concrete... then another layer of concrete comprises the road bed.

Above... precast concrete slabs being delivered to the site before being craned into place on the deck.

50,000 cubic yards of concrete will be used in the project along with 8 million pounds of steel.
The pylon was to be "topped" last week... huge cranes, one brought in from Amsterdam, are needed to reach the 316 feet to the "point."
Barges and their tugs are an essential element in delivering materials to the bridge as well as acting as anchored bases for the cranes.

Once the northern half of the bridge is complete the southern half will be cantilevered out a section at a time from the central support. Steel support columns will not be used for this half as the navigation channel in the river cannot be blocked.

Hyper doesn't like heights but they don't bother the iron workers... I envy their fearlessness...
Above another view from the south bank of the Missouri showing the temporary steel supports under the northern half of the new bridge.

Above and below.... when I say barges and tugs are essential... I mean it... note the PortaPotty being barged out and then craned into place. Construction on the MoDOT project broke ground in April of 2008 and is scheduled to be completed by July 31, 2011. The bridge will be lit at night using lights that can display a single color or a series of colors that can result in an unlimited variety of lighting combinations. Once the new bridge is up and running the old Paseo Bridge will be torn down.