Iconic Briarcliff mansion destroyed by fire

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - An iconic home in the Briarcliff subdivision, which has been the site of numerous philanthropic events, was gutted by fire Thursday night as more than 80 firefighters worked to battle the blaze.

The home, known as Briarcliff Mansion, caught fire around 10:50 p.m., and crews worked into the early morning hours to extinguish it.

After just 26 minutes, the fire grew so dangerous that firefighters had to get out, and fight the blaze from a distance.

Charles and Patty Garney, owners of Garney Construction, are the homeowners. Patty told 41 Action News she was locking up after her husband and guest had gone to bed when she noticed the fire.

"We have a skylight in the middle of the house. Charles was asleep and our guest was asleep. I was locking up and I just happened to glance up and saw a glow. I knew that glow shouldn't be there and it just started getting bigger and started popping," Patty said. "I ran in there and woke him up. We got out and got the cars out and the dog out and just stood here and watched it burn, but we are safe and that's the most important thing."

Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi says the fire may have burned for hours, contained in the home's attic, before Patty noticed it.

Initial reports indicate the fire is not suspicious.

A large amount of money has been raised through functions held at the Garney's home. The Garney family moved into the 10,000 square feet home in 1995, and almost immediately started hosting philanthropic events.

Since they moved in, the couple estimates they've hosted 40,000 people in their home.

Patty Garney has dedicated her time and money to numerous organizations like the Harvest Ball, American Red Cross, Friends of the Zoo, KU School of Social Welfare and the Women's Foundation Advisory Board.

Charles is involved in the Kansas City Civic Council, Northland Chamber of Commerce, KU School of Business, Park University Board of Trustees and the Clay County EDC.

"They really tried to open their house to the community," said former Missouri lawmaker Phil Snowden. He was one of Briarcliff's first residents.

Charles Garney didn't just build his expansive house, but the entire community that now includes homes, office buildings, shops and restaurants. 

Snowden remembers walking the vacant land with Garney decades ago. 

"I thought boy this guy is a real dreamer," said Snowden. But he pulled it off and built an unbelievable community."

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