Long before Wichita shopped Bradley Fair, Wilson Estates was home to third generation oilman Ed Bradley, and his wife, Louise. When the Bradleys acquired the 320 acres east of town, the land contained many Cottonwood trees and a two-room cabin. They created Bradley Farm, a spacious and spectacular setting, which eventually became the location of many leisurely Sunday afternoon polo matches and society gatherings throughout the 1940’s and ‘50’s.
After a fire destroyed their home in 1953, Ed and Louise rebuilt and continued to host many gatherings for Wichita's elite. Ed Bradley died in 1969 and Louise continued to live on the estate until her death in 1977. In 1978, the Bradley's nephew, Bob Wilson Sr., and his wife, Janice, moved from their College Hill home to Bradley Farm. Also residing on the property in a separate home were Bob Jr. and his wife, Allyson. The family renamed the property Wilson Estates, breathing new life into the grand old homestead.
A larger-than-life entrepreneur, Bob Sr. owned Kansas Paint Company, operating the successful family business with Bob Jr., and daughter Barbara. An avid equestrian, Bob added a stable of horses to the Wilson Estates landscape and opened a portion of the property to horse boarding in the late 1970’s. Around this same time, Wilson Estates was renamed Red Brush Farms, and became the site of a nationally rated equestrian training course.
Although within the city limits, the setting for Red Brush Farms in the early 1980’s was rural and serene. Rock Road was still a sleepy, two-lane blacktop road lined with trees and Webb Road was largely undeveloped. But the beginnings of urban growth and prosperity were evident. Seeing homes being built in the surrounding neighborhood areas, Bob Sr. and Janice began to think about the future of their 320 acres as they were approached by numerous developers with proposals to purchase their land.
In 1988, George Laham and a partner purchased three acres of the Wilson's property and began the development of Bradley Fair. In 1990, the small neighborhood center opened, offering a variety of local retailers including Randy Cooper’s Fine Jewelry and Trio’s. In 1991, Laham attracted the center’s first national specialty retailer, Talbots.
Five more acres were purchased in 1994 making way for Wichita’s first Gap store. Bradley Fair had captured the attention of the nation’s hottest specialty retailers and soon to follow were Eddie Bauer and Banana Republic. Pleased with the direction of Bradley Fair, the Wilsons signed an agreement with Laham in 1995 for the development of the remaining 312 acres.
The additional land allowed for a complete master-planned development that included more retail, a residential community, a suburban office park and condominiums.
In January of 1997, Laham and Ritchie Development, Wichita’s premier residential developer, unveiled plans for 190 residential home sites at Wilson Estates.
In June of 1997, Vantage Point Properties began the development of the 25 acre Wilson Estates Office Park. The 209,000 sq. ft. professional office park reflects the distinctive Mediterranean style of Bradley Fair, and features landscaped green spaces, lakes, waterfalls and pedestrian walkways linking the office park to the restaurants and retail stores. Some of the tenants at the office park are Capitol Federal, Aetna, Central Bank and Trust and Morgan Stanley.
Development of Legacy Park at Wilson Estates and the Wilson Estates Medical Park followed, bringing the total of office and medical space to 450,000 square feet. Wilson Estates also includes condominiums, a patio home development and a 103-room Hilton Garden Inn.
Bradley Fair has become a vibrant destination, offering guests a mix of local, regional and national stores and restaurants. Unique to the center is the open-air Bradley Fair Plaza with a year-round fountain overlooking the Bradley Fair Lake and island waterfall. The Bradley Fair Plaza hosts a variety of charitable and community events including an opera performance, a summer concert series with fireworks display and an alfresco fine art show in the fall.
Today, the neighborhoods at Wilson Estates provide hints of the farm’s history with names like Red Brush, Belmont, Preakness and Keeneland. The neighborhood is as vibrant and alive as ever, as evidenced by family gatherings and frequent social events.