Thursday, April 10, 2014

Friends, Fun, and Frank Lloyd Wright

Last week, the Kindred Spirits group took another day trip. 

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!

16 comments:

  1. Donna, your description is fantastic and you've made the design sound intriguing. I've never heard of an origami chair, so I went to Google and looked it up. I wasn't sure where a design like that would fit so I did more Googling and found some really cool interior layouts. You're the reason I haven't done any writing yet today. lol

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  2. Wow, did not know this house was there!!! How great for you to visit. We have seen one of his Illinois homes, Springfield I think it was, and his Falling Waters home which was fantastic to see.

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  3. I, too, had to consult my BFF Google for information on the origami chair. My first thought was, "Oh, dear! Paper is not all that sturdy. I shall make a note-to-self:
    Do not sit on the origami chair. That would be like Fantasia's Hyacinth Hippo sitting on a buttercup."

    I did not know we had a Frank Lloyd Wright in this area. In addition, I have never gone up in the Arch. But I DID tour Anheuser-Busch, and may or may not have sampled the wares...

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  4. I pass by this area on many occasions and keep saying how I need to go and see that house... and is this the Jan that I know who did this?

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  5. Touring a Frank Lloyd Wright house would be a special treat. Your day trips sound like fun.

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  6. Good grief, Donna. All those details from just your memory? Egads! I'm impressed. It sounds like a wonderful outing. I too was unaware we had a Frank Lloyd Wright house this close.

    Thanks for the tour information.

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  7. Your descriptions are intriguing. I only wish I had photos. Now I want to go visit this local treasure. origami chair? Wow. You do go on interesting day trips. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. I had the pleasure to visit the FLW home in Ebsworth Park for a story for Missouri Life that came out last February. In doing research on Mr. Wright and Mr. Kraus, it was interesting to discover that Wright insisted Kraus locate the home amidst the persmissions for a pleasing view. This was a normal practice for Wright when building a home, and it seems on many occasions, he had the last word on what direction the home should face.

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  9. I had the pleasure to visit the FLW home in Ebsworth Park for a story for Missouri Life that came out last February. In doing research on Mr. Wright and Mr. Kraus, it was interesting to discover that Wright insisted Kraus locate the home amidst the persimmons for a pleasing view. This was a normal practice for Wright when building a home, and it seems on many occasions, he had the last word on what direction the home should face.

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  10. I knew about the house, but have never been in it. It's on my "One of These Days" list...

    Pat
    Critter Alley

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  11. Hi Lisa,
    I can get lost in research too. Sorry I caused you to research rather than write. ;-)

    Hi Claudia,
    There are five FLW buildings in Missouri--three are in the KC area.

    Hi Lynn,
    Yep. It's your dear cousin Jan. She is a sweetie.

    Hi Val,
    Hahaha. I went up in the arch once, which was enough for me. Have you checked out Grant's Farm. They also have free samples of St. Louis' finest brew.

    Hi Pat,
    Day trips are fun, especially with such good friends.

    Hi Sioux,
    You're welcome. There's another FLW house in West County, but it's a private residence.

    Hi Linda,
    It was a fun trip. These outings are stimulating!

    Hi Sheree,
    Good for you! Mr. Kraus was dedicated to following the detailed directions of FLW.

    Hi Pat,
    I imagine if the trees were in bloom the grounds would've looked lovely.



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  12. I enjoyed very much reading about your trip. You've done a fantastic job describing the home. Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful trip with us.
    I hope you will have a Happy Spring and Happy Easter!

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    1. Thanks, Brenda. Hope you and your family have a Happy Spring and Happy Easter too!

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  13. Thanks for sharing about the trip. Looks like it was great! :) Would be fun to visit if we ever visit the area.

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  14. How interesting, thanks for sharing. I've always wanted to go there. Maybe this summer!

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  15. Hi Karen,
    If you ever get to the St. Louis area, please let me know!

    Hi Mary,
    You're welcome. Maybe we'll have an IVV field trip this summer!

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