R.A. Long: A Gilded Age Baron Worth Remembering
February 09, 2013
In his day, R.A. Long built one of the nation's finest Gilided Age mansions, he owned what was called "the world's most beautiful farm," ran the planet's largest lumber company, and was one of his community's greatest philanthropists.
And he did it all right here in Kansas City.
Robert Alexander Long was a visionary and self-made man who never did anything halfway. His home, Corinthian Hall, was the most modern and opulent mansion in Kansas City when it was completed at the start of the 20th Century. The mansion, located at 3218 Gladstone Boulevard, featured a full-service stable, five grooms, a full-time horse trainer, a church-sized pipe organ, Louis XIV and XVI salons, an elevator, and a bowling alley. A garage across the street had a turntable to turn his Pierce-Arrow limousine so it could be driven without backing out. Long had three other smaller mansions moved to improve his view of the Missouri River and downtown Kansas City. Learn more about Long and his family by watching Ours to Give: A Long Legacy of an American Family. To learn more about their home, check out Corinthian Hall: An American Palace on Gladstone.
The mansion eventually became the Kansas City Museum at Corinthian Hall, which recently reopened after several years of repairs and restoration. Hard hat tours of the mansion are available. With the exhibit walls torn down, visitors can see many of the mansion's features that had been hidden away for decades. Eventually museum officials hope to restore the mansion back to some of its former grandeur.
When his grandchildren needed fresh milk and his daughter, Loula, needed more room for her horses, Long bought 1,700 acres near Lee's Summit and started farming. Longview Farm, located at 1200 SW Longview Park Drive, was one of the most progressive agricultural operations in America, employing and becoming home to dozens of farmhands and their families. You can learn what life was like for the folks down on "the farm" by reading The Longview We Remember.
When Long expanded his lumber business to the Pacific Northwest, he decided his mill workers would have better living conditions than his competitors offered their employees. The result was the planned community of Longview, Wash., which today is a city of 35,000. Long went on to donate money to build and endow many of the city's institutions. Read more about Long and his city in Longdream: The story of Longview.
When R.A. Long died in 1934, his fortune, once estimated at $40 million, had shrank to $1 million, depleted by his extensive philanthropy and the Great Depression.
In this world of 1 percenters vs. 99 percenters, more than a few people have suggested that today's captains of industry could take a lesson from this old-time lumber baron.