This time our destination was Ebsworth Park in Kirkwood, where we toured a home designed by American iconic architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Our group of seven, former co-workers and friends from metro St. Louis and Southern Illinois, was joined by a gentleman who traveled from Holland to view American architecture.
The entrance to Ebsworth Park is marked by a sign from St. Louis County Parks and Recreation, as well as one of the 250 birthday cakes celebrating the 250th birthday of the City of St. Louis.
The mid-twentieth century "middle-class" American home, completed in 1955 for Russell and Ruth Kraus, is tucked away amid ten-plus acres of sloping hills and persimmon, apricot, and evergreen trees. The Usonian home is known for its “architectural integrity and original Wright-designed furnishings.” Usonian is a term coined by Wright to reflect his vision of the landscape of America, free from previous architectural conventions.
After crowding together to watch a brief video in the gift shop, we headed into the house. Photos were not permitted inside, and the women were instructed to place their purses in a closet. I didn't take notes, thus my descriptions are based on my memory of what I heard and saw.
The house is designed horizontally, rather than vertically. The basic form is the shapes of parallelograms, triangles, and hexagons, which are evident from floor to ceiling -- even the windows and furniture. The bed in the master bedroom consists of two parallelogram mattresses joined together, covered by the original faded yellow-orange bedspread. The guest room mattress is in the shape of a hexagon. The floors are a muted red; the ceilings tidewater red cypress. The vintage rotary phones in the bedrooms are also red.
The cabinets in the kitchen are maple and birch. Jade-colored pottery dots dark-wood shelves in the living room and hallway. A low table in the shape of connecting hexagons and stools about three-feet tall sit near the lovely patio doors, which were designed by Mr. Kraus. Two low-to-the-floor origami chairs sit in the living room across from the hexagon-shaped fireplace.
The interior of the house is dark and stark, but my favorite room is Russell Kraus’ study. I found the study to be the room with the most personality. Being a writer, I especially enjoyed seeing the pop-art, bright red plastic Olivetti Valentine manual typewriter that sat in the study on a low desk.
Kraus was an artist and nature lover, who designed the home’s lovely doors, with Wright’s approval of course. He also was a “string saver” and kept all the original plans from Wright, some of which we were permitted to view. The gentleman from Holland was especially interested in seeing those drawings.
The tour took about an hour and fifteen minutes. The house is open to the public (Wed-Sat) by appointment only. Call 314-822-8359 for a reservation. Tour costs $10 for adults. Children under 12 and student groups are charged $5 per child. Visit the Ebsworth Park website for more information.
After leaving the Frank Lloyd Wright house, we drove through pouring rain and met up for lunch at Billy G’s, across town in Kirkwood. There, our group of seven broke bread and caught up on what was going on with family and friends before heading back to our own, less famous, homes.
I can’t wait to see what Jan, our thoughtful and kind-hearted Kindred Spirits leader, has planned for our next outing!