House lovers get “before” view of 2013 Designers’ Showhouse

The 44th Symphony Designers’ Showhouse to benefit the Kansas City Symphony held a “bare bones” public preview over the weekend, a pre-makeover look at a historic property.

The home at 1032 West 55th St. is linked to American Indians, the Mormon Wars and the Civil War, the Kansas City Symphony Alliance (KCSA) reports.

It also will be a center of activity from now to April 25, when tours there open, and through May 19, when they end.

“It’s like a small business,” said Tracey Hawkins, KCSA president and spokesperson.

KCSA volunteers will put in more than 5,000 hours of labor in preparing for it, not even counting volunteer work running the Symphony Shop at the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts, by designers and others, she said.

This is the 44th showhouse for them and the same home was also their 16th in 1985. The residence of 10,000 square feet home just east of Ward Parkway combines grace with history.

Among that reported history:

Mormons purchased the property in the early 1830s, believing they should buy that land to convert the Indians. That did not go well and then came the “Mormon Wars” when citizens drove them out of Missouri.

They tried to get compensation for their vast area real estate holdings. One of their attorneys ended up with the property in lieu of legal fees and sold it to a Westport farmer.

It apparently had a brick structure on it in the 1830s but in 1858 the property was sold to William W. Bent, a famous frontiersman who build a larger two-story brick structure that is now the garage for the current home.

The battle of Westport was fought in Bent’s cornfields in 1864. Bent died in Colorado in 1869 and his widow sold it in 1871 to the wife of another wealthy trapper-trader, Seth Ward.

The Wards built the front of the current Greek revival house in 1871 from a design by architect Asa Beebe Cross, and some changes were made to the home over the years. Ward retired from the frontier, became a real estate tycoon and died in 1903.

In 1942, ownership passed from Ward family members and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Robert and Sandra Gaines bought it in 1986 and it will be returned to them after the event ends.

Hawkins said last year’s show house brought in $85,000 for the symphony and she hopes to do better this year.

The home can also be rented for private events like, fund-raisers, client events, wedding receptions  after the tours start in April, she said.

More volunteer designers are still needed for the large project, she said, which gives designers the chance to show off their skills. Staffing volunteers are also need starting in February through May.

She can be reached at 816-372-0939 or

Designer Showhouse website



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