534 N. 17th Street, St. Joseph, MO
The fascinating history attached to this fixer upper is recorded below per Historic St. Joe Emporium.
This charming little house was built in 1889 by Miss Nettie Landis. Now if you are thinking to yourself, “wow, that’s unusual – a house built in the late 19th century by an unmarried woman!” You would be right, and that would only be the half of it! Proof that intriguing stories can often be found behind the most unassuming doors; the Nettie Landis House at 534 N. 17th St. has a history whose interest rivals the great mansions.
Jeanette, Nettie, Landis was born in St. Joseph, MO on Sept. 11, 1869. Her parents, Benjamin and Katherine Landis, were important and well-to-do figures in St. Joseph history. Benjamin was the son of Israel Landis and he designed the saddles and saddle bags used for the Pony Express. His wife Katherine was well-known in St. Joe for her musical ability – a talent inherited by Nettie. The Landis family had the means to provide their talented daughter with the training most people would just dream of. She studied voice in both Paris and London and was so well thought of in London that she was invited to sing before Queen Victoria. Despite this wonderfully cosmopolitan up-bringing her heart remained in St. Joseph and she returned to her home town and took up teaching and performing.
Nettie built the little house in the Harris Addition of St. Joseph in 1889 when she was only 20 years old. There is no indication that she lived there – the smart young woman had an investment property. By 1899 the property was being rented by Amanda F. Hereford, the widow of Dr. Richard H. Hereford and her sons Richard and James T. For Amanda, a widow with a bit of means, the little house in the quiet neighborhood was perfect.
It was in 1900 that the best known of the tenants of 534 moved in. The young dancing teacher Egid, “Ed”, Prinz and his wife Hattie Marie Peck took up residence with their eldest son LeRoy who was only four. People who know anything about St. Joseph in the first half of the 20th century know the name Prinz – Ed Prinz ran Prinz’s Dancing Academy for about 50 years, teaching ballroom dancing to 3 generations before his own death in 1952. His two sons LeRoy and Edward Jr. both followed in his footsteps (pardon the pun) and became dancers themselves – though their careers took them to the bright lights of Hollywood. For St. Josephites, the name Prinz has a patina of gentility about it.
But that was not always the case. It was while the family was living on North 17th Street that a bit of scandal erupted. Ed’s wife Hattie, a professional whistler before her marriage, was his partner in the dance studio and the mother of his two children. But it seems that the wife of a small-city dancing master was not exciting enough for her. At some point between the birth of her second son in 1901 and 1904 she met Robert S. Kearney with- what had to be for the folks in town – fascinating results.
Robert Kearney was a local man from a good family. He was married, and like Hattie, he had two children. In May 1904 the local papers were full of the story of his arrest for highway robbery. The story was that on the night of May 5, Frank Johnsten was held up and robbed of $100 by several masked men. Kearney and a friend were arrested but released on bail; Kearney took advantage of his release to skip town.
Soon after that Hattie Prinz left town as well, supposedly heading East to visit relatives. Apparently though she had a planned rendezvous with Kearney in Culver, Indiana and the two ran off. The story was that she had taken $20,000 from the family assets with her. Not surprisingly, Ed sued his wife for divorce, that becoming final in July 1904. [To finish the story, Kearney was recaptured and sent to the penitentiary and he was then released in 1907. Hattie remarried in 1910 in Indiana].
Not surprisingly Ed Prinz and his sons moved out of their little house that had been the site of so much heartbreak. For the next 10 years or so several families rented the house. In 1915 it was Lawrence Scanlan and his young family. Scanlan was a promising entrepreneur, having just recently opened Scanlan’s Hardware and Furniture Company at 228-30 Illinois Avenue (now Pop’s Place, and currently for sale – see the listing under Commercial Properties on the Emporium). The house was the perfect place for the young couple and their three small children just starting out in the world. However, 1918 St. Joseph was hit by the Spanish Flu pandemic. And despite city orders for people to stay home and for businesses to close, the death toll was punishing and one of the victims was Lawrence.
In the wake of that tragedy the house was purchased by Thomas S. DeShon who owned it until the early 1940s. At times Thomas and his wife Verna lived there, at other times they rented it to others. Thomas was a laborer for the railroad and a sometimes restaurant proprietor.
The charming little house at 534 North 17th Street is located in the Harris Kemper National Historic District. Though its historic bones are clearly visible, alterations made in the mid-1960s make it a non-contributing structure to the district (meaning that it is not on the National Register itself). Despite that, it is eligible for local grants such as the Save Our Heritage Grant.
Contact the agent listed below with questions.
This is a great fixer upper home with great bones for investors or conventional buyers. It needs roof repair or replacement. The water heater, furnace and air conditioner are all under 3 years old. Original hardwood floors, bay windows and crown molding throughout the house. This home sits on a corner lot. Selling As Is.