Revisiting Kansas City with Frank Lloyd Wright
Jeff Goodman | Aug 29, 2018
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s Jeff Goodman shares his visit to Wright sites in his hometown of Kansas City.
I was born and raised in Kansas City. Some 25 plus years after leaving KC, I find myself at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, working from my desk at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West; a view of Wright’s beloved Sonoran Desert always available when I need to look up from my monitor for a quick break. Daily, I get the opportunity for intimate interaction with Wright’s work, either here at Taliesin West, on a visit to Taliesin in Wisconsin, or any number of Wright sites across the country. The opportunities I get to experience these sites are an extreme privilege; I don’t take that privilege for granted, and welcome every opportunity I get to share these experiences with the public.
Growing up in Kansas City, I wasn’t immersed in the world of Frank Lloyd Wright or architecture. However, when I was an early teen, my brother’s pen pal from England came to visit us. Ian, a future architect, introduced me to Wright, and planned a visit to the Wright-designed Community Christian Church in KC. Fast forward to today, Ian is an architect in the U.K., and I spend my days (and many nights) working to share Wright’s legacy with the world. I’ve been to Wright sites in states across the country, but, until now, had yet to visit the homes he designed in my hometown.
Earlier this month, on a visit to see my mom (and eat the best BBQ in the world), I had the opportunity to visit the only 2 Frank Lloyd Wright homes built in Kansas City. It was a thrill for me to see home in a new light, and to marry the passion I have for Wright’s work with the love I have for the city where I spent my first 18 years. As a part of my commitment to sharing these experiences with the public, I’d like to share a little of my Kansas City visits with you.
The Sondern-Adler House is a large Usonian in the Roanoke Park area, constructed in 1939 for Clarence Sondern. In 1948, the home’s second owner, Arnold Adler, commissioned Wright to design an addition to the 900-square foot house. The home now commands nearly 3000 square feet and is under the care of its owner, Jim Blair. Jim welcomed my wife and me to the house, beaming with pride as he shared the beauty and the history of the spaces he inhabits. While this is a privately owned home, you can plan a visit to stay in this beautiful Wright design on Airbnb.
There was something very familiar as I drove up to the Bott House, bringing me back not to my childhood in Kansas City, but rather to my current office at Taliesin West. The Bott House is constructed out of what appears to be the desert masonry of Wright’s Scottsdale home and studio, but of course, using local stones. Designed by Wright in 1956, it was built in 1963, 4 years after the great architect’s death; Wright included the desert masonry on the color drawings signed in his hand. Eloise and Frank Bott commissioned the house, and Homer Williams purchased the home from Eloise in 1987; he continues to steward the home with great care. While the architecture is undeniably beautiful, the star of the show is the commanding view of Downtown Kansas City perfectly framed by Wright from the perch of the cantilevered balcony. Today, Williams offers tours of the home by appointment only.
I love going home to visit, seeing the lush green prairie, such a stark contrast from my chosen home in the desert. Being able to revisit Kansas City with my Frank Lloyd Wright hat on gave me the opportunity to explore this town in a new light. This connection adds a richness and depth to how I experience and appreciate my hometown; another in a long list of reasons I am grateful for the opportunity to see and share Frank Lloyd Wright’s incredible work with you.
Bonus House: Bruce Goff’s Nicol House
I also had the privilege to visit the Bruce Goff Designed Nicol House, near the Kansas City Art Institute. While this is not a Wright design, I wanted to share some photos of this incredibly unique home, cared for by Rod Parks, who brings his style from his KC-based vintage store, Retro Inferno.
Jeff Goodman is Vice President of Communication & Partnerships at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. His favorite spots for BBQ in Kansas City include Joe’s Kansas City for pork ribs, Jack’s Stack for lamb ribs, and Gates for sauce.