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Wyandotte County, Kansas




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J. A. Hoel

Jesse Adrian Hoel was born in Coles County Illinois in 1880. The family moved to Cowley County in southeastern Kansas when he was two years of age. When he was seven, the family traveled overland by wagon to homestead near Spurgeon in Grant County in western Kansas. There they live in a sod house for five years and reportedly experienced considerable hardship.

Hoel's formal education did not start until 1892, when at the age of twelve he entered the first grade in Burden, Kansas. Nevertheless, he was able to graduate from the Burden High School at the age of seventeen. He then assisted one session at the Cowley County Normal School and was able to receive a Class A teacher's certificate. After teaching for two years, Hoel attended Southwestern Methodist College for a year. This was followed by a year teaching at Oxford High School in Oxford, Kansas, but apparently Hoel was beginning to formulate larger ambitions.

For a period of time he studied law in the office of a Winfield, Kansas judge. Then, in 1904-05, he attended the School of Law at the University of Kansas. He was unable to complete his legal education, however, reportedly forced to quite by a lack of funds. On leaving school, he came to Kansas City. By 1907 he had entered into the real estate business in Kansas City, Kansas, in partnership with C. F. Hutchings Jr. as Hoel-Hutchings & Co. This partnership only lasted for two years, after which Hoel continued on his own until 1911.

Sometime after his arrival in Kansas City, Kansas, Hoel married Besse Fife, daughter of John Oscar and Leafa M. Fife. Besse Fife was born in Humboldt, Kansas, in 1882, while her father was serving as county attorney of Allen County. The family moved to the city of Wyandotte in January, 1883. J. O. Fife established a prosperous legal practice in Wyandotte, residing at 630 Nebraska Avenue. Around 1914, he bought the house at 2024 Washington Boulevard that H. N. Kerr had built in 1889 for his daughter and son-in-law, Emma and David Taylor. It was Fife's ownership of this property that was apparently one of the first steps leading to the development of Westheight Manor. The exact date of the marriage of J. A. Hoel and Besse Fife is not known, but the couple eventually had four children: J. Adrian Hoel Jr., John F. Hoel, Robert C. Hoel, and Raleigh K. Hoel.

There were two real estate developments prior to Westheight Manor known to have been initiated by Fife. The first was Brenner Heights, a suburban development in rural Wyandotte County near Bethel. The area was bordered by the present 59th Street on the east, 61st Street on the west, the Kansas City, Wyandotte and Northwestern Railway (the present Cernech Avenue) on the north, and the Kansas City Western Electric interurban line (the present Parkview Avenue) on the south. The existing rail lines were probably considered key elements in the tract's hoped-for development. The plat was drawn up by W. H. Stalnaker and filed by J. O. and Leafa M. Fife on December 4, 1907. For a number of years thereafter, Brenner Heights was considered to be a highly desirable suburban address.

The second development, and the first known to involve Hoel, was Queen's Garden [45th to 47th & Parallel] at what is now 45th and Greeley in Kansas City, Kansas. This suburban subdivision was at some distance to the west of the city limits, but closer in than Brenner Heights. It was platted on April 18, 1911, by J. O. and Leafa Fife. It was at this time that Hoel briefly formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, George C. Fife, as Hole-Fife & Co., with his brother William B. Hoel as salesman.

In 1912, Hoel established the Hoel Realty Company at 610 Minnesota Avenue, and most of his subsequent projects were in that firm's name. For a brief time a second brother, Ray A. Hoel, was with the new firm. Hoel's next recorded development was Westheight Manor, begun in 1915. Westheight Manor involved the bulk of the former Kerr farm north of State Avenue. Hoel and Fife now owned most of the property between 18th and 22nd Streets, while H. L. Kerr retained the ownership west of 22nd. Hoel had also managed to acquire a large tract of ground south of Minnesota Avenue and west of Kerr's Park. While the records are uncertain, it seems probable that his southern parcel had also been Kerr property at one time. Also uncertain is the nature of the agreement between the three men. The Hoel Realty Company controlled the actual development, but most of the capital for the project was apparently Fife's. H. L. Kerr's role in the project would seem to have been largely passive.

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Contact the History Webmaster - Patricia Adams

History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 23-Apr-2014

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