A visit to Sauer Castle
By Kathy Feist, Editor
On September 19th, Telegraph historian Diane Euston and I were invited to Sauer Castle, a 148-year-old Italianate home in Kansas City that was featured in our September 2 issue. The home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is privately owned by Carl Lopp, great, great, grandson of the original owner Anton Sauer.
A very positive aspect of the property is its beautiful setting. Built on a grassy hill, overlooking the Kaw River in the distance, and surrounded by trees, the three acre property gives off a sense of peace and tranquility– magical not spooky.
Weathered plywood boards cover entrances and most windows to keep out intruders and protect from destruction. At least one uncovered and broken window bore testament to a drive-by shooting.
On the east side of the house, your imagination soars. Sitting against the house, sunken partially into the ground, is the patriarch’s glass-covered greenhouse. Sauer was a horticulture hobbyist. Many of the original glass panes are missing, but it does not take away from his brilliant concept.
Moving to the southeast corner is a wooden addition, a “modern” kitchen built around 1920. The structure is not safe and Lopp says he plans to bulldoze it.
At the back of the property, we are whisked off about 100 feet into the woods. The hill begins to gracefully slope downward into several layered terraces. This is Anton Sauer’s vineyard. One can only imagine the care taken for his extensive wine collection stored in a wine cellar built into a nearby stone cliff.
Now traveling up to the west side of the house, we are greeted by piles of fallen debris from the house, a result of a microburst that hit the area in 2018. The strong winds destroyed the railing and roof at the top of the four-story tower as well as a balcony behind the west wing of the home. Some of the debris remains where it fell, while the rest, including guttering, sits in a pile in the yard close to where there was once a swimming pool. Lopp has tried twice to get funding from the Kansas State Historical Society to repair the disaster. But he remains on a waiting list as the poorly funded program fills other statewide requests.
According to Lopp the house is sealed tight. As we stood further back from the building to view the roof, it appeared to have a covering rather than roofing tiles that protected the building from leaks.
We were not given a tour inside the house.
Lopp insists the building is not dilapidated based on its solid brick work. But one needs only look at the ornately carved wood trim to cast doubts. A simple powerwash might easily brighten the house and get rid of its haunted, abandoned appearance. Even a paint job on the trim, despite its state, would help. But only if it is safe to do so.
Lopp is well intentioned. He clearly loves the property, knows its history inside and out, all his relatives and is proud to have kept it in the family. “I’m keeping our family heritage alive,” he said. “I could be doing a lot more things with my time than coming to Kansas.”
Despite his best efforts, Lopp is clearly over his head financially. It is a million dollar project, a money pit to a single owner. Whether Lopp can get funding through a loan, a trust, or investors remains to be seen.
To save face and save the building, Lopp must first humble himself. As the old proverb says, “Pride goeth before destruction.”
Visit martincitytelegraph.com for a view of photos from the tour.