|City/Town: • Kansas City
|Location Class: • Residential
|Built: • 1872 | Abandoned: • 1986
|Historic Designation: • National Register of Historic Places (August 2, 1977) • Kansas Register of Historic Places
|Status: • Abandoned • Endangered • Private Property
|Photojournalist: • Emily Cowan • Thomas D. Laurence
Anton Philip Sauer immigrated to Kansas City from New York in 1868. Originally from Hessen Germany, the wealthy entrepreneur spent his younger days traveling all over South America and other countries. Finally settling down in Kansas City Anton owned around two hundred acres and picked a spot that reminded him of his homeland along the Rhine River. Construction started on the mansion in 1871 making it one of the oldest houses still in existence in Kansas City. By 1872 it was completed, costing around $20,000 to build the twenty-room castle which amounts to $424,755 in today’s money. Featuring three Italian marble fireplaces, a glass chandelier imported from Austria, lace curtains imported from Brussels, mirrors imported from Florence, an enchanting walnut staircase, and two stone lions that guard the entry.
Anton Sauer passed away on August 16, 1879, less than ten years after finishing his Italian Villa Castle. His wife/widow Maria Sauer continued to live in the home until her passing on November 30, 1919. The family-owned the house until 1954 when Paul Berry bought the property and lived in it. During this time it acquired a Register of Historic Kansas Places title on July 1, 1977, and the National Register of Historic Places title on August 2, 1977. Berry passed away in 1986 and the house went up for sale, already in a bit of dismay. In January 1987, Bud Wyman, his son and daughter-in-law, Cliff and Cindy Jones, bought the mansion in hopes of restoring it into a bed & breakfast but were unsuccessful. This same year it added the Kansas City, Kansas Historic Landmarks title onto its list on January 29, 1987. Finally returning to the Sauer family, the great-great-grandson of Anton Sauer, Carl Lopp, bought the property in 1988.
The Sauer family suffered a tragedy at the Castle’s pool on August 31, 1940. Cecelia Marie Perkins, aged two & fourth-generation descendent of the Sauers, was found in the Sauer Castle swimming pool by neighbor and relative Agnes Wilson. Wilson found Cecelia floating in the water on her way to use the telephone at the Castle. Her cries were heard by the child’s mother who then waded in to get her daughter. Fire crews showed up to try and resuscitate the two-year-old but failed. John Perkins was so overcome with grief that he hand filled the pool. Now the concrete walls where the pool once was are barely visible.
For decades the Sauer Castle has been troubled with trespassers. A majority of the times they have been met with lethal or excessive force from the owner and in more recent years the caretaker. Here are a few stories:
The Kansas City Times 10 April 1964 —– Five Johnson County school girls picked the wrong driveway to turn around in last night–the horseshoe drive in front of the old Sauer Castle. Paul Berry, a truck driver who owns the mansion, fired a half dozen .22 caliber bullets into the motor car, flattening a tire and putting two holes in a fender and two dents in the hood. It was the second time in as many nights that Berry had been unwelcomed to teenagers. Tuesday night nine youths with nothing better to do paid a visit to the castle, only to be met by Berry, who rushed from the front door and stopped the scattering youths with two warning shots from a .38-caliber revolver. Three of that group pleaded guilty to charges. But the girls last night did not intentionally go to the castle. They said they drove to the district to pick up a schoolmate, got lost and were turning around when their car was riddled with bullets. The girls panicked and with a flattened right front tire sped two blocks to call for help. Berry who had also called the police led patrolmen to where the girls had scrambled from the car and were at the door of a house. Berry was charged with discharging a firearm within city limits and destruction of private property.
The Kansas City Times 19 June 1964 —— Lightning flashed, ominous clouds moved rapidly across the sky and the wind moaned through the clustered pine trees on the grounds of the Sauer Castle. Two fun-seeking youths were arrested by KCK police last night as they sought what little mystery there is in trespassing on the property of Paul Berry. Berry met the youths with a rifle, as he has met others and detained them until police arrived. Booked on charges of trespassing and disturbing the peace.
The Kansas City Times 01 March 1965 —– Curiousity concerning the Sauer Castle today cost 6 youths $50 each in police court. The defendants were found guilty of disturbing the peace and trespassing at the residence of Paul Berry. While the defendants the charges, one did say they were in the vicinity of the Castle because of curiosity. Berry testified that the defendants pounded on his foor the night of February 15. Police arrested the group in a motor car near the Berry home.
The Kansas City Times 03 October 1965 —– Five young men and three young women who were unable to resist the gothic lure of the old Sauer Castle were each fined $75 and sentenced to 15 days in jail yesterday in KCK police court. Police say the eight were arrested at the castle early the morning of September 15 after being captured at gunpoint by the owner, Paul Berry. All eight were charged with trespassing and disturbing the peace. Berry was charged by the eight with assault but the judge dismissed the charges against Berry.
Presently owned by Carl Lopp who has let the Sauer Castle deteriorate through the years refusing any help from historical landmark preservationists and the community. Neighbors have protested the condition of the castle but all the city can do is fine Mr. Lopp when his property isn’t up to code. In recent decades Carl has fallen behind on property tax, leading to the property being listed at tax auction multiple times but at the last minute, he swoops in and pays them leaving him the owner.
Article by AKS Photojournalist Emily Cowan. All inside photos are credit to Thomas D. Laurance
Gallery Below of Sauer Castle
“1 Mar 1965, 29 – The Kansas City Star at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/648405233/?terms=sauer%2Bcastle.
“1 Sep 1940, 3 – The Kansas City Star at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/656968761/?terms=sauer%2Bcastle.
“10 Apr 1964, 39 – The Kansas City Times at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/648313434/?terms=sauer%2Bcastle.
“19 Jun 1964, 36 – The Kansas City Times at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/648129963/?terms=sauer%2Bcastle.
“3 Oct 1965, 159 – The Kansas City Star at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/648334637/?terms=sauer%2Bcastle.
“20 Jan 1962, 2 – The Kansas City Star at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/658914969/?terms=sauer%2Bcastle.
“7 Jun 1931, 40 – The Kansas City Star at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/655459019/?terms=sauer%2Bcastle.
“9 Jun 1954, 1 – The Kansas City Times at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/657717113/?terms=sauer%2Bcastle.
“Everyday is Eventful.” Everyday is Eventful | Whataday, whataday.info/e/1305589.
“The Fate And Future Of Wyandotte County’s Sauer Castle.” KCUR 89.3 – NPR in Kansas City. Local News, Entertainment and Podcasts, www.kcur.org/show/central-standard/2014-12-17/the-fate-and-future-of-wyandotte-countys-sauer-castle.
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