Frank Lloyd Wright’s Iconic Sondern-Adler House In Missouri Is Going Up For Auction

Real Estate

A live auction will be held August 12 for the Sondern-Adler house, a Kansas City, Missouri home that inspired famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright to call it “a little gem.” Heritage Auctions is preparing to hold the auction in the living room of the home. Bidding will also be accepted by phone. 

The 2,965-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath estate will be sold without reserve to the highest bidder regardless of price. The residence was last listed for $1.65 million in 2018.

The classic L-shaped Usonian home in the historic Roanoke neighborhood of Kansas City was designed by Wright in 1939 for Clarence Sondern as a modest 900-square-foot residence. In 1944, the Sonderns sold the house to Kansas City clothing retailer Arnold Adler, who hired Wright in 1948 to expand the home to its current 2,965 square feet, adding a great room, a third bedroom and two additional bathrooms. 

According to a 2014 article in the Kansas City Star, “The Adlers were thrilled with the house, and as Wright reached celebrity status, the house became the talk of Kansas City. Arnold Adler died in 1951, and his wife, Virginia, remained in the house until 1962, selling the house to Richard Stern, president of the largest municipal-bond company in the Midwest, Stern Brothers.” 

The newspaper called Stern “an admirable caretaker of the house.” His renovations included numerous repairs and steel beams to reinforce failing foundations, roof and walls.  

Stern donated the house to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in 1985 but retained a life estate and lived there until his death in 2001. The museum subsequently sold the house to its current owner, Jim Blair, who said the residence is a masterpiece.

 “The fact that someone can invest in it at auction now is a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s like being able to buy a Monet.”

Nestled on a wooded, hilly lot, the house is not visible from the road. “It’s very private,” said Nate Schar, director of luxury real estate for Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, adding that “the front yard is big, and the back of the house looks like it’s floating in a tree canopy.” 

He said the home’s stewards have been careful to preserve as much as possible of Wright’s creation and that most of the original finishes and furnishings are intact. A few pieces of original furniture will remain. 

“It’s like a time capsule,” said Schar. “It’s beautifully maintained and restored. Everything from the lighting to the design, the layouts, the kitchen cabinets — everything is original.”

Indoor-outdoor living comes with the territory for Wright homes, and the Sondern-Adler House is no exception. The residence, which features a flat roof with a cantilevered overhang and clerestory windows, is constructed of Tidewater red cypress and brick. 

Brent Lewis, director of design for Heritage Auctions, said the house “holds many of the innovations that Wright pioneered during the 1940s, such as the use of natural materials, glass light screens and clerestory windows, thoughtful built-in furniture and an overall inspired sensitivity to its natural surroundings.”

Fans of Wright’s designs will appreciate the intimate spaces created in and around the home with the use of local materials. In fact, some architecture students and Wright aficionados who have admired the Sondern-Adler house from afar have booked overnight stays in the home through Airbnb.

Built-ins and private nooks favored in many of Wright’s homes are on display. The sunken living room is anchored by a massive fireplace. Wright’s unique casement windows fully open and allow for natural cooling in the summer and expansive views.

The home is in the heart of Kansas City and minutes away from The Plaza, Westport and 39th Street shopping districts, as well as the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and the Crossroads Art District. 

Bidders are required to register prior to the sale. A comprehensive due diligence package has been created to aid buyers in evaluating the property. For more information, call 855-261-0573 or register at

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