Art, History, Kansas City, Uncategorized

Bob’s Perspective



I first fell in love with the Trading Post when I became friends with the previous owner. He and his roommate were pattern makers, prototypers, mold-makers, and inventors. They were living in the building, using the first floor for business and rehabbing the building at the same time.
When my predecessors acquired the building it had no foundation, the first floor was open, undivided, unfinished, with a cracked and deteriorated concrete floor, giving way here and there to native soil. The second floor contained two small, shabby apartments.

In a fashion I would later learn to be typical of their cleverness, they first jacked up the building and poured a foundation UNDER it! (Originally the Trading Post had been built up the hill. When a new road was put in on the other side of a small pond separating it from the building, the owner drained the pond, hitched the building to mules, and dragged it down the hill to rest on a shale outcropping back-filled with dirt. And so it settled for more than a hundred years.)

Then they stripped the inside of the building and restuded it in its new configuration. After applying interior wall surfaces, they stripped the outside and resurfaced it as well.

Midway in the project, in 1982 they moved their business to a large, downtown commercial building and decided to part with the trading post. Years before, after dreaming someday it would be my home, I told them if it was ever for sale- I wanted it at whatever price they deemed reasonable.

You see, I am an attorney by profession, but I have been an artist showing in galleries since childhood, and a musician who has played in public almost that long. It was my dream, locked away in my law office on the 18th floor of a bank building downtown that someday I would live, work, and maintain music and art studios all in the same place.

One glorious day I received a call from Drake, the remaining partner/owner- “make me an offer!” I secured open-ended financing and met with him to learn his price. He stated a desired sale price and I unhesitatingly agreed! Two days later Drake called and requested a meeting. After a lengthy preamble about all the things wrong with the building, the failing water heater, the 5 roofs dating in part to the Civil War era, the unfinished 2/3 of the interior, Drake lowered the price by $5,000 and gave me a stern lecture on never accepting the first offer!!!

Well, after this magnificent display of compulsive honesty we became friends for life, in early 1983 I became the glowingly proud owner of the Trading Post. The first day as I sat delighted in my huge empty building the doorbell rang. A little old man from up the block came to welcome me to the neighborhood. He told me about the long history of the building- trading post, saloon where it is said Doc Holliday ran the card game, grocery store, plumbing contractor, junk shop, design studio, and finally to me. He gave me a wonderful old picture of himself as a boy standing his uncles in front of the building with wood-spoked wheel delivery trucks and handlebar moustaches when he worked in the grocery store.

Despite all the work they had put into the restoration I was still left with a daunting task. The first floor was an undeveloped disaster. I had to stud in and build walls, pour a 2000 square foot floor, build a law office and studios, a darkroom for photography, and so forth. The second floor living space of 2500 square feet could only be entered by a 45-degree ladder from downstairs, or by climbing pile of wooden peach crates to reach the two doors, unaccountably hanging 4 feet above the ground! (The building was on a slope so that both floors were theoretically ground accessible.)

The living space was partially beautifully finished in oak truck bedding, doors, window treatments, and trim. Drake had purchased a freight car load of oak left unpaid in a bankruptcy and the whole interior shoe with luscious red oak, but there was a looooong way to go!

At first the building was wonderfully empty which suited my “Italian Industrial” style taste. The problem was that decades upon decades of settling and decay had warped and tilted every floor and angle in the place! Without adding optical illusion furniture and wall hanging placements one quickly felt like a drunk in a fun house walking about the building!

Of course the spare gallery look was not to last. As the work progressed, the artwork and guitars accumulated, and the junking expedition prizes were turned into furniture and light fixtures it took on a different look. In truth it was a full 12 years before I declared the job “done.” But of course it was not. A new roof, the yard cleared of anything that had to be mown for rock garden, hot tub, an 8’x30’ herb garden, and an outside home for our duck, many revisions, new bathroom, this and that, and here we are today.

Somehow 30+ years has filled the building with art work, one of a kind furnishings, odd antiques, musical instruments, and my new art hobby 1:12 scale miniature buildings, 10 of which now crowd the living room display space along with an enclosure for our two bunnies. Hardly room for another drawing!

Today it is a quirky but wonderful home for my wife, a scientist and talented artist, and I. What will it become next? Who is to say? Check with Terrie regularly on her blog Myhouse thetradingpost.com to find out!

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