Out of the Kitchen---Ruth Mohler March 26th, 1881 to February 14th, 1957
I first learned of Ruth Mohler when I bought a 1930’s brick and cedar sided English cottage on Medford Avenue. Its storybook style charm had me as soon I walked in the arched front entry onto a screened in porch. The house was in an estate, it had been owned for years by a Washburn professor, and although it was in need of some serious work, it had as they say “good bones” and a good feel. My husband and I plunged in. Over the course of several years while I worked on the house and got to know it, I developed a deep respect for it and its builders, with its three course plaster, which once the wall paper was removed was still smooth as porcelain, the corners still square, the windowsill level. It was a well-made and well cared for home. All this lead me to want to know more about the craftsman who had built it. My first stop in researching was the building permits file at the Kansas State Historical Society and there to my great surprise is where I learned of Ruth Mohler.
Ruth Mohler was a real estate developer, land speculator and house builder. The oldest daughter of one of Topeka’s most well-known surgeons, Dr. John McClintock, Ruth attended the College of the Sisters of Bethany, the Episcopalian girl’s school featured a curriculum in the classics and Latin that went from Kindergarten through the second year of college. She had traveled to Europe, and was possibly the first woman in Topeka to drive, often racing the fire department in her father’s Great Smith automobile. By the 1920s Ruth had married Jacob Mohler, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture and had raised three children and was ready for another challenge. It is said that she took up designing and building homes as a hobby, “Indeed, I had no thought that I was entering upon a business career….It all came about quite naturally. There is probably not a woman in the world who has not longed to try her abilities in some money making way and enjoy business activity outside her home. I had always wanted to do so, but I had small children and there was plenty to do to care for them. As I grew older, the usual business ventures in which women engage, such as a tearoom, millinery or gift shop, did not appeal to me.” (KC Star January 2nd, 1927, Successful as a Home-Make she becomes a Successful Home-builder the vision of Mrs. J.C. Mohler of Topeka helped her to enter a profitable business career).
Mrs. Mohler began her business by selling two lots by Central Park that her father had given her, then she bought other lots speculatively on the edge of the city and sold them at a profit, and with this capital she built a house on a lot that her sister owned, they sold it, and Ruth cleared a small profit. Ruth Mohler had found her calling and had come out of the kitchen. Her early houses were designed by the local architect W.M. Glover, and the foreman was Mr. Easter, later Clyde Smalley worked as her construction supervisor, with Ted Greist as architect.
Ruth is known for her development of the country Club addition which lies between Topeka Blvd and Fillmore from 27th to 29th and features houses in the English Country Cottage style. Among Ruth’s other developments are the Randolph neighborhood, she bought the land, selling off a large tract to the school board (on which Randolph school was built) , lots to developers and building on the rest herself. My journey with Ruth began there, my home on Medford was one of Ruth’s early houses.
Some of Ruth Mohler builds:
1111 SW 15th Topoeka State Jouranl Jan. 8, 1927
Kappa Sigma House WU
Florence Crittendon Home
Phi Delt House WU
Many houses in the Country Club Addition, and some in the Randolph neighborhood