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Purchase of the Kraus House – an Eight-Year Process

In 1993 when Russell Kraus was ready to sell his Frank Lloyd Wright house, he contacted Judith Bettendorf, a St. Louis artist and interior designer, who had expressed a prior interest in buying the house.

After seeing the house, Judith realized it was too small for her family, but she offered to help find a way to preserve it. She contacted her friend Bob Hall, director of St. Louis County Parks and Recreation, to see if the county could buy the house and turn the land into a park. The county declined for financial reasons. (See article “FLWHEP Partners with St. Louis County Parks and Recreation”).
In September, 1995, Judith and others created a 501c3 non-profit organization to purchase and restore the house and develop the land as a park. In 1997, Judith moved to Florida and board member Joanne Kohn, a St. Louis arts leader active in the project from the beginning, became chairman. The first major gift towards the purchase was a $500,000 pledge by the Whitaker Foundation in 1999. Shortly afterward Barney Ebsworth, a St. Louis businessman, pledged $1,000,000. The Gateway Foundation subsequently pledged money for restoration costs.

The non-profit organization purchased the house and land from Mr. Kraus for $1.7 million on January 18, 2001. Architect John Eifler of Eifler and Associates in Chicago, who has worked on other Wright restorations, was hired to develop a master plan and to consult on the restoration of the house. Ted Wolff, a landscape architect from Chicago, who has also worked on Wright projects, is developing the site plan for the project.

Joanne Kohn

A Note From the Chairman
This newsletter celebrates the accomplishments of our primary mission: to purchase and restore the Kraus house. It also signifies that we are now an organization of 670 plus members dedicated as an organization to protect and preserve the house and its 10.5 acres.

Our mission now expands to developing the land into a compatible park which will include a visitors’ center providing support services for the house, such as a shop, a place to view an information video and to showcase the myriad of memorabilia saved by Mr. Kraus which document the building of the house.

I want to thank the donors, friends, members, the board of directors, and the department of parks and recreation of St. Louis County for persevering throughout our eight year effort to buy the property. Without your tireless efforts and support, we could not have succeeded.

Joanne Kohn, Chairman
The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park

Barney Ebsworth
Barney Ebsworth

Ebsworth’s Major Gift Helps Assure Purchase

Barney and Pam Ebsworth’s gift of $1 million toward the $1.7 million purchase price of the Kraus house helped assure its successful acquisition. In recognition of this substantial gift, at the Ebsworth’s request, the park was named in honor of Barney’s parents, Alec W. and Bernice W. Ebsworth.

Barney’s affinity for the work of Wright and interest in helping to preserve this Wright house parallel his interest in early 20th Century art.

Ebsworth, the creator of one of the most innovative travel companies, INTRAV, is a highly respected international art collector. His art collection has been shown at the St. Louis Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as well as the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

The Ebsworth’s generous gift not only honors his parents and preserves an example of one of America’s greatest architects, but it is also a significant contribution to the cultural life of St. Louis.

Thank you, Barney and Pam.

Russell Kraus
Russell Kraus

Whitaker Foundation Gift Paves the Way
A $500,000 gift in 1999 from the St. Louis Whitaker Foundation proved to be the key catalyst for other major gifts to help purchase the Kraus house and land. After visiting the house, foundation trustees and staff recognized the architectural significance of the house and its value to our region.

Fortunately, the Kraus house with its surrounding 10.5 acres reflected the foundation’s mission of supporting cultural institutions and parks. The grant was the foundation’s largest grant in its Park Focus Area, and one of its three largest grants ever. While the foundation’s involvement began in 1999, the gift followed over two years of planning and fund raising.

The St. Louis community is grateful to the Whitaker Foundation for paving the way in the “Campaign to Preserve a Treasure,” the Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park.

The Whitaker Foundation was begun in 1975 thanks to the generosity of Mae M. Whitaker in memory of her husband, Lyndon C. Whitaker. The current executive director is Christy Gray.

FLWHEP Partners with St. Louis County Parks and Recreation

The goal to purchase the Kraus house, its 10.5 acres, furniture and memorabilia became a reality in part because the non-profit organization, The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park (FLWHEP), formed a unique partnership with the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation.

FLWHEP raised over two million dollars to purchase and restore the house and property and then donated both to the county. The county leased back the house and property to the organization on a long term lease with the FLWHEP free to manage the house and grounds, develop a master plan, and solicit tax-deductible donations. The county’s responsibilities are to cut the grass, maintain the trees and plow the snow. The county park rangers patrol and secure the premises.

Bob Hall, former county park’s director and now vice-chairman of FLWHEP, always encouraged public ownership of the house and property and the purchase/donation/lease agreement which has provided the stability the project needs. He believed, as did the board of directors, that it was important that the public own the house and property in perpetuity.

Genie Zakrzewski, who is the present parks director and serves on the FLWHEP board, says: “The Frank Lloyd Wright House is a remarkable example of Wright’s work in St. Louis County and the State of Missouri. One of the elements of St. Louis County Parks’ vision is to provide and ensure “signature parks” that enhance residents’ lives. We believe the Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park is a treasure that will sustain and offer a piece of history because of its significance in American architecture.”

John Eifler
Board Members with the Architects
(back row) architect John Eifler, Max Lippman,
Genie Zakrzewski, Jane Schoedinger.
(front row) Bob Hall, Agnes Garino, Isabel Brandt,
associate architect Sari Lehtinen.

Gateway Foundation Grants Restoration Funds

The St. Louis Gateway Foundation pledged $377,400 for restoration of the Kraus house in 1999, two years prior to the purchase of the house and property. Their early gift allowed restoration of the house to begin in May, 2001 only four months after purchase of the property. The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park is extremely grateful to the Gateway Foundation’s trustees and staff, and will report more fully about the restoration in the next newsletter.

Our Appreciation to Lead Contributors

The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park and its members thank all the foundations, corporations and individuals who had faith that the Kraus house and property should and could be saved and preserved for the St. Louis community.

Following the lead of the Whitaker Foundation, the other early contributors were The Edward Chase Garvey Memorial Foundation, The William T. Kemper Foundation (Commerce Bank, Trustee), The Norman J. Stupp Foundation (Commerce Bank, Trustee), The Trio Foundation, The Dula Foundation, The Gertrude and William A. Bernoudy Foundation, The Spencer T. and Ann Olin Foundation, The A.P. and J.B. Green Foundation, and the Emerson Charitable Trust.

Individuals who were early major donors who helped enable purchase were Barney & Pamela Ebsworth, David Mesker, Connie & Jordan Heiman, Bill Maritz, Roger & Liz Peterson, Mrs. Bettie S. Johnson, Jack & Terry Moore, and Mrs. Walter Brissenden.

Open House, June 2001

Enjoying the outdoors at the Frank Lloyd Wright House.

Cub Scouts enjoy their docent-led tour.