Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Guest Photographer - Laura Spencer

A couple of week ago Laura Spencer from KCUR radio came out with me to photograph along the path (thanks, Laura!). Here are Laura's pictures of the first place we stopped, the remarkable alligator house on Independence Avenue. I learned about it years ago when I found a copy of Kansas City, A Place in Time, a guidebook published by the Landmarks Commission in 1977. Whenever I'm in that area I drive by, and what's remarkable is how little it has changed over the years. I was sorry to see the alligators had recently been painted a bright green, but I guess one shouldn't be a purist about vernacular architecture.

Here's what the guide had to say...

"A rustic cottage, deceivingly constructed with alligators flanking the front steps, came from the imagination of the builder and owner, William C. Howard. The house was remodeled in this manner in 1918 to include the simulation of logs in the upper level."

I have 3 guidebooks about Kansas City architecture, A Place In Time is the oldest (and the only one that listed the alligator house). Two years later in 1979 the Kansas City AIA published a guide simply called Kansas City, which had the oddly chosen cover photo of a prairie landscape probably taken 100 miles from here. In 2000, KC AIA published a much expanded guide based on the '79 book. It also included a survey of local public art and had a chapter called the People's Choice Awards that gave the results of Kansas Citians' vote for their favorite landmarks. Interesting that just like the recent national AIA's America's Favorite Architecture you voted from a pre-selected list. Perhaps they wanted to make sure the new, gaudy casinos that had popped up in recent years didn't win.

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