I had heard that there was a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Kirkwood, and have driven past an unassuming sign close to the corner of Ballas and Doughtery Ferry Roads in Kirkwood for years. It wasn't until Hubby Tony started researching field trip activities that I put two and two together. He arranged his schedule, made a reservation to visit the house, and asked me if I wanted to go. My answer was 'yes', and I'm SO glad I did.
|As seen from the driveway. No photos allowed inside.|
The actual name of the house is The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park
. It was designed and constructed for Russell and Ruth Kraus in 1950, and is an example of Wright's Usonian architecture.
Our tour started at 2 pm, but we were instructed to arrive 15 minutes early. When we pulled up the winding driveway into the small lot, there was only one other car. We walked up to the front door, where the docent encouraged us to look around the outside of the house until the tour started. Tony and I walked far enough down the driveway to take the photo you see above, then walked across the lawn to see the other sides.
By the time the tour started we were a group of twelve. The docent welcomed everyone into the shed area, situated on the other side of the carport area from the house. There we watched a video about the house and its construction. I learned that this was the architect’s first building in the St. Louis area, and one of only five Wright designs in Missouri.
The house was built into a hill on the 10 1/2 acre property, and the same brick, concrete, glass, and tidewater red cypress were used both inside and out. The initial design for the house (two intersecting parallelograms) was conceived in 1950. It took quite a while to find a contractor who felt he could tackle the intricate angles and unusual building requirements. Construction continued until at least 1960 and the house was never formally completed. The Krauses moved in January 1956, and lived there together until Ruth’s death in 1992.
We learned that in the early 1990s a group organized a non-profit organization to save the house. In 1997 the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places of the National Park Service, and in 2001 the non-profit purchased the house and grounds. They transferred the deed to the St. Louis County Parks Department, which maintains the grounds. After extensive renovation the house was opened for tours.
After the video was over, the group moved into the main house. The docent gave us one last reminder not to sit on or touch anything, then opened the door to let the group in. We walked down the narrow, low hallway into the open living area, where she pointed out the concrete slab floors with radiant heat, the built-in wall shelves, and the wall of glass doors (which were designed and built by Russell Kraus after getting Wright's approval) leading out to the patio. Most of the original Wright-designed furnishings and fabrics were still there, and the docent pointed out the places where they weren't.
We moved to the master bedroom, where we saw the parallelogram-shaped bed. Off of that was a small bathroom with glass panels covering the redwood walls, and on the other side of the room, a private lanai accessed through a door in the large wall of glass windows. The guest bedroom had the another parallelogram-shaped bed.
On the other side of the living area, we saw the kitchen (one of the rooms that had not been completely finished), which contained a mixture of Lloyd-planned cabinets and countertops along with newer appliances. The last stop was Russell Kraus's studio, where the docent pointed out the hexagonal-shaped light table (that they believe was designed by Kraus) and the rolling work table with underneath drawers. She showed us copies of the original plans.
At the end of the tour the docent volunteered to re-open the shed, which also contains the incredibly tiny gift shop. Tony and I are not in the market for any more mementos, so we declined.
Five years ago today: Pass The Buck[et]