Preserving the art of architecture

Frank Lloyd Wright's Allen House is a treasure in the heart of Wichita

Frank Lloyd Wright's Allen House (KSN photo / Kevin Stebral)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A historic house in Wichita is known to art lovers around the world, but not many Kansans.

“It’s a spectacular house,” said Liz Koch. “It’s one of the prairie houses that Frank Lloyd Wright built. It’s been touted as one of the 10 best in the country.”

That’s why Koch is frustrated many Wichitans have never seen the house built in 1918 for newspaper publisher and former Kansas governor, Henry Allen.

“It’s probably the best kept secrets in Wichita, and I wish it weren’t a secret because it’s a real jewel in our crown,” said Koch.

Click image for Historical Timeline of the Allen House

So inspiring, Liz Koch says her own home that she and Charles have lived in in east Wichita since 1975 is heavily influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, starting at the front door she helped design.

“It’s my favorite thing about the house. At night, with the lights on it, it’s really beautiful.”

But the treasured Allen house, in the heart of College Hill at 2nd and Roosevelt, had become a bit tarnished over the years.

Howard Ellington (KSN photo)

“It took us three months to strip off the wood and expose the natural color,” said Howard Ellington, who has worked with Liz Koch to run a foundation to restore the Allen House.

Past owners made changes that didn’t fit with Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of emphasizing horizontal lines and squares in colors found in nature. The architect also used materials like Carthage marble, brick, wood and tile inside the house and out.

All the work to return it to its original condition is almost finished and will be unveiled to the public June 8 at Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday celebration.

That includes furniture designed by the architect, like a dining room table and chairs, a banquette in the entryway, and a long bookcase in the living room.

Even the kitchen is authentic again.

“When we got the house, there was a gas stove here, an electric stove over here. All of the cabinets had been ripped out,” Ellington pointed out during a tour.

But the most noticeable change may be outside the house.

Lead Gardener, Ava Perkins (KSN photo)

“The garden is completely different than anyone’s ever seen in the past,” said lead gardener, Ava Perkins.

Perkins and other volunteers have cleaned out all the flower beds that were overgrown and full of weeds.

“The very first time I came through, this was so thick, you couldn’t really walk through here,” said Perkins, shaking her head.

They planted native flowers and hostas named after Frank Lloyd Wright, and took out bushes that once cluttered the clean lines of the house.

“To me, this is monumental because for the first time, we’re doing what Frank Lloyd Wright wanted on his house,” said Perkins. “You can see the whole design now. You can feel that plain that’s represented by the house.”

If you would like to schedule a tour, visit flwrightwichita.org.

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