How does a community remember major benefactors? Sometimes through street or boulevard names, sometimes by cultural amenities that remind us of their generosity, such as Linda Hall.
A childless, rich socialite trying to decide how her wealth might benefit others, she gave St. Luke’s Hospital $250,000 in 1931, especially to help children and women. The many thank you notes Mrs. Hall received gave her a sense of fulfillment and a decision about other medical bequests in her will and gifts to art centers. Those are not widely known today, but her name is still perpetuated by a unique institution.
The wife of Herbert F. Hall, one of the country’s leading grain exporters, lived in a 1913 mansion on 15 acres south of the Plaza. Their home, named Linda Hall, was designed by the architect who designed the Nelson Gallery of Art and Mary Atkins Museum of Fine Art. The Hall home included many luxury components from Europe.
When she died in 1938, Mrs. Hall willed $50,000 to Children’s Mercy Hospital and established an endowment for a free, specialized library. Her husband, often rumored to be the second richest man in the city, left additional millions for the library, which he instructed be named for his wife.
In 1946 the library opened for use in their Georgian mansion at 51st and Cherry streets. By 1964 the library was located in a new structure next to the home, which was then razed. A science, engineering, and technology library, Linda Hall Library provides information to researchers around the world. Independently funded and operated, adjacent to but not part of University of Missouri-Kansas City, it is used by local businesses, residents, and students, as well as national and international visitors.
The grounds of Linda Hall Library, an urban arboretum, are praised for their variety of specimens including more than 150 varieties of tress, over 90 varieties of tree peonies, old roses, and native plants. Mrs. Hall, an avid gardener, might find that a pleasing memorial to one who contributed so highly to the city’s educational and cultural richness.
A previous version of this article appears on kchistory.org: http://kchistory.org/content/biography-linda-hall-1859-1938-benefactor
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