The starting bid for Kansas City’s Sondern-Adler house — designed in 1939 by Frank Lloyd Wright, among the most influential American architects of the 20th century — could begin at a price as low as $400,000.
The home, at 3600 Belleview Ave., is tucked at the end of a winding drive beneath towering fir and maple trees in the historic Roanoke neighborhood. Having gone unsold on the open market for 11 months at an asking price of $1.65 million, the 3,000-square foot house was scheduled to go up for auction at 2 p.m Monday.
Eric Bradley, a spokesman for Heritage Auctions, said that at least 10 serious buyers had preregistered for the auction, which was to take place in the home’s living room. Auction agents were set to take bids from across the country, staffing three telephones.
Several buyers, he said, flew in from California over the weekend to assess the property. All potential buyers, Bradley said, have expressed an interest in the home because it was designed by Wright. None, he said, are investors or investor groups.
Jackson County records show that the home, with its flat roof, yellow exterior brick and interior of dark cypress, is assessed at about $500,000. The current owner, Jim Blair, paid taxes of approximately $7,000 in 2018.
Assessment does not take into account the historic value of the home, which was built by Wright at 900 square feet in 1939 for the original owner, Clarence Sondern and his wife. The second owner, Arnold Adler, expanded the house to nearly 3,000 square feet nine years later with the addition also designed by Wright.
Longtime Kansas City arts patron Richard J. Stern bought the Sondern-Adler house for $30,000 in 1963. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art acquired it from him in 1983 but sold it to Blair in 2003.
The hope among preservationists, of course, is whoever purchases the home will want to keep it as is.
“Buildings of this caliber should be considered in the same class as a Picasso or Renoir painting, or a Calder or Giacometti sculpture,” said architecture critic Alan Hess, a California author of four books on Wright, including “Frank Lloyd Wright: Houses.” “They can certainly be appreciated and add to the quality of life of the owner and the public in the same way as a piece of fine art.”
Several Wright fans toured the home prior to the 2 p.m. auction.
“I wanted to see the property. I’m a great fan of Frank Lloyd Wright,” said Stephanie Sabato, 64, a designer living in Brookside. “The history of the house ,the history of Kansas City is something I am really passionate about, so I loved being able to come see the house. It’s a really fine specimen.
“I hope someone gets it that has a great appreciation for this as a beautiful historic artifact, and that they will be good stewards of the home. That’s my big hope and prayer for the property.”