Roeland Park looks to move forward on historical markers, Roe House replica in 2020

City Councilwoman Jennifer Hill (left) and Mayor Mike Kelly at a recent Roeland Park city council meeting. The city will task an Ad Hoc committee with pursuing the objective of placing historical markers this year.

The Roeland Park city council this month set plans to work toward completion of two unfinished projects from its 2019 agenda: the Roe House replica at Nall Park and historical markers regarding the Roe family as well as the city’s general history.

“There’s a few items that were budgeted for and that staff and the governing body has undertaken, but for a myriad of reasons, were not accomplished in 2019,” Mayor Mike Kelly said.

The goal of the historical markers is to honor and recognize the Roe family, after whom the city is named. Councilmember Jennifer Hill, who was tasked with overseeing the initiative, said that although there are plenty of ideas, she and the others working on the project want to ensure the final product hasn’t been neglected.

Councilmember Michael Rebne said it would be beneficial for the city to include all parts of its history, even those that may be difficult to acknowledge. He said he wanted to caution the historical markers giving a “Gone with the Wind” impression of the city, and not to erase the city’s past struggles with restrictions against people of color.

“I think we can make a statement to say here is what Roeland Park has done and is doing in order to improve our reputation and standing in terms of diversity and the way we sort of embrace our neighbors and folks of color,” Rebne said.

Kelly suggested the idea of an Ad Hoc historical recognition committee, so that residents and councilmembers alike can work toward something with more direction. Additionally, Kelly said one or more councilmembers could bring forward a historical project to dedicate funds to for the 2021 budget. The councilmembers agreed to move forward with the committee, and Councilman Tom Madigan said the committee could also work on his goal of updating the city’s history.

A rendering of the design approved for the Roe House replica from SFS Architecture.

As for the Roe House replica, which will come in the form of a playhouse, plans were approved by the city council in September 2019. Councilmember Claudia McCormack, who is on the Parks Committee, said she believed the city only received one bid for the project and that bid was too high.

Councilmember Jan Faidley said when the $10,000 project was initially proposed, design work was intended to be donated. The city has spent $3,800 on design work thus far. Faidley connected a potential bidder with city staff, who said there may be a simpler way to complete the project

“I think it’s a great idea, if we can pull it off,” Faidley said.