"If bread is the first necessity of life, recreation is a close second." - Edward Bellamy
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The City of Leawood celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2008. The dream of a better life was, and still is, the prominent force driving Leawood’s history and development.
From the 1820s until trains replaced wagons, the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon Trails as well as the Military Road, crossed the area bringing thousands of people through the territory on their way west.
One of the country’s largest freighting companies was formed by Alexander Majors in 1848 to haul merchandise to Santa Fe. Although the 1856 Alexander Majors home used as the company’s headquarters sits on the Missouri side of State Line Road the front yard is actually in Leawood. His wagons and supplies were stored and oxen grazed in Kansas.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 opened the territory to non-native settlement and Johnson County was divided into townships. The northern portion of present day Leawood lies in what had been Shawnee Township and the southern portion in Oxford Township. Originally Oxford Township, the largest in the county, contained more than 74 square miles. An election here in 1857, referred to as the “Oxford Fraud,” played an important role in the election of Abraham Lincoln and the start of the Civil War.
Following the Civil War the area was dotted with farms and one-room schoolhouses. The Historic Oxford Schoolhouse attracting thousands of visitors each year and now located in Ironwoods Park is an example of life in 1877 Johnson County.
Oscar G. Lee’s land became the foundation of present-day Leawood. When Lee, a retired police officer from Oklahoma, arrived in 1922, he sought to make a lifetime of dreams a reality on land he purchased bound by current day 79th and 103rd Streets and State Line and Belinder Roads. Lee built a road through his property from 83rd to 103rd and dedicated it for public use. Lee Boulevard today was once a part of Lee’s personal driveway.
Modern day Leawood was shaped in great part by Kroh Brothers Reality who in 1937 platted the original housing development. Stone, brick and clapboard homes were designed to offer a quiet suburban refuge with large yards in a country setting. Streets without sidewalks resemble country lanes.
When the more than 300 residents needed a government of their own to guide and develop the future, Leawood was incorporated in 1948, becoming the first subdivision development to be incorporated as a city in Johnson County. The name Leawood was adopted replacing the Lee name with “lea” suggesting a more pleasant connotation of meadows.
The City of Leawood is proud to have an active Historic Commission. In 1994, the Leawood Historic Commission undertook an historic district survey of 130 homes in the original plat of the City of Leawood. This district, which Leawood now refers to as the “Historic District”, is bounded by Somerset Drive on the north, 83rd Street on the south, High Drive on the east, and Meadow Lane/Manor Road on the west.
In 2010 the committee and several volunteers undertook a survey of 355 homes for Historic District II with boundaries of 83rd St. on the north, 89th Street on the south, High Drive on the east, Fairway/Ensley/ Overhill/Cherokee on the west.
In addition to the two Historic Districts the Commission also honors individual homes by listing them on the Leawood Register of Historic Places. The Commission is pleased to offer a downloadable “Guide to Leawood’s Past” or a hard copy can be picked up at City Hall.
The Historic Commission was responsible for the 11 year process of saving, moving and restoring the Historic Oxford Schoolhouse. The school was relocated from the corner of 135th and Mission Road in 2003 and it opened to the public in 2004 following a restoration returning the school to its original 1877 appearance.
For more information on the Leawood Historic Commission or the Historic Oxford Schoolhouse please click the links at the top of the page.
City of Leawood