Whether it’s the Art Deco design of the Continental Building and other downtown skyscrapers, the turn-of-the-century glamour of the mansions in the Central West End or the pure majesty of the Gateway Arch, St. Louis has a rich architectural history. A shining example of this is tucked away on 10.5 acres in Kirkwood, where one of the most significant architects of the 20th century left his mark on the region. The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park is the architect’s first building in the St. Louis area, and one of only five of his designs in Missouri.

Originally designed and built for Russell and Ruth Goetz Kraus, the Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park demonstrates the architect’s vision to provide middle-class Americans with beautiful architecture at an affordable cost. Executive director Kathryn Feldt notes that it’s a wonderful example of Usonian design—Wright’s term for his uniquely American approach to architecture. “The home reflects Wright’s use of organic architecture to integrate interior and exterior spaces,” she notes. “It was built after he had started experimenting with various geometric designs and demonstrates one of his most complex and dramatic forms: the parallelogram. The home has original Wright-designed furniture and unique features, such as art glass designed by Russell Kraus.”

Wright’s connection to St. Louis extends beyond the house in Ebsworth Park. He also served as a mentor to local architect William Bernoudy. As a young man, Bernoudy dropped out of Washington University. However, when a friend showed him an article about Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship, he was inspired to apply and was accepted. “In our research, we discovered so much about the relationship between these two talented architects,” Feldt notes. “Bernoudy was deeply entrenched in the friendships and design philosophies that originated in the early days working with Wright. Clearly, there was mutual respect between the two men. ‘Billy’ (as Wright called him) became a dear, lifelong friend and confidante.”

The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park is highlighting the influential friendship in an exhibit of photography, furniture and other items Bernoudy designed and artifacts related to his time as one of Wright’s early fellows. The display will be part of the Preserving What’s Wright event, an annual fundraiser celebrating Wright’s birthday. This year’s event is June 11 in Ebsworth Park. Along with tours of the Kraus home and Bernoudy exhibit, festivities include a gourmet grill by Café Napoli, cocktails and mocktails by the Wandering Sidebar and a silent auction.

Funds raised by Preserving What’s Wright go toward upkeep for the Kraus house. “Thanks to community support, we are able to complete important preservation initiatives,” Feldt says. “This year, we anticipate a big roofing project, and we are working on restoring the terrace. The money also enables educational programming, such as our student tours (which we offer to grade four through university level groups), community lectures and other experiential learning.”

The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park is open to the public through eight-person guided tours, and during the summer, it offers expanded hours. To schedule a tour, visit ebsworthpark.org.

Photos: Andrew Pielage