Historic Homes of Kansas City - Thomas Hart Benton House in Roanoke - Architect George Mathews. The Thomas Hart Benton House was built in 1903.
You can tour this historic home in Roanoke for only $4 - I took a tour on Monday and highly recommend it.
The view from the street is virtually the same as the photos I've seen from the early 1900's except that the tree has grown.
The house is built of limestone mined in Missouri. I suspect that the limestone came from William Rockhill Nelson's quarry to the south but have not yet confirmed that.
The first occupant was Walter Kirkpatrick, Secretary-Treasurer of Kansas City Electric Light Company. At that time, the house had gas lights and a horse stable/carriage house out back.
In 1977, the Thomas Hart Benton home was acquired by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources which now maintains the home and grounds. The historic home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 as Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio.
An impressive Late Victorian style with Romanesque detailing, this house stands like a fort upon the raised lot above the winding road below. The battlement facade on the north cause hesitation at the thought of approach while the rounded details leading up to the front entry are inviting. My anticipation was only heightened by the shaded garden as I approached.
Thomas Hart Benton moved into the house in 1939 with his wife Rita Piacenza Benton. They had a son, Thomas Piacenza Benton (TP for short) and a daughter Jessie.
TP grew up to be a flautist with the Boston Symphony and Jessie became a painter.
Entering the home through the screened porch on the south, one arrives in the living room. The portrait, by Thomas Hart Benton, on the west wall is of TP and Jack the dog.
Evadene Judge, tour guide extraordinaire, is in the left of the photograph.Prior to her work at the Thomas Hart Benton home, Evadene was a muralist which I found to be apropos considering the mural works of Thomas Hart Benton.
On the left is the eastern half of the living room. Tymisha Williams, tour guide in training, is seen standing in front of the fireplace. Tymisha attends school at ARC in Kansas City and is also an artist. She is concentrating on her sketching at this point in her young career.
The dining room is opposite the living room, on the north side of the home. The entry hall is situated between the dining and living rooms making for great entertaining space.
Rita was Tom's business manager and often hung his paintings on the walls before her famous spaghetti dinner parties. Guests could purchase the paintings right off the walls.Guests often included Harry Truman, Buckminster Fuller, Frank Lloyd Wright, and other celebrities.
The Bentons moved to Kansas City in 1939 when Tom was commissioned to do the mural at the Capital in Jefferson City. Besides the now Historic Home in Kansas City, the Benton's kept a home on Martha's Vineyard and one in Los Angeles. They must have liked the one in Kansas City best as they stayed here for 36 years. The Martha's Vineyard house was next door to his mother which was not always the ideal vacation envisioned by Rita.
The portrait to the right was painted by Thomas Hart Benton shortly after his marriage to Rita Piacenza. Rita emigrated to the United States with her parents when she was a young girl and met Tom when he was teaching art in New York.
To accommodate his needs for painting, Tom had half of the carriage house converted to a studio.
The carriage house echoes the home with the embattlement facade on the NE corner. The two story windows were added on the north wall to enhance the lighting for Tom's painting work. The windows on the east side were painted over. A wall divides the studio from the garage which is now used as the office for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources - Missouri State Parks.
Touring this historic home in Kansas City is a delight! The Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio is full of paintings by Benton and the furnishings as they were when he died. Thomas Hart Benton died at the age of 86 while working on this painting:
Tom did not get a chance to sign The Sources for Country Music he was working on for the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. He died doing what he loved in his Kansas City art studio.
There is so much to see in this historic home of Kansas City - Thomas Hart Benton House in Roanoke - that I will have to do a follow up story as this post is running long. I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into the home of one of Kansas City's most famous artists. If you enjoy art and architecture, the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio would be a wonderful place for you to spend a couple of hours.
By Maria Morton Copyright © 2010 All Rights Reserved *Historic Homes of Kansas City - Thomas Hart Benton House in Roanoke*
You might also enjoy: A Study of the JC Nichols Fountain on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City .
Need a good Realtor in Kansas City? Here, let me Google one for you.