Who Is R.A. Long
November 07, 2012
Robert Alexander Long was born in Shelbyville, Kentucky, the son of a well-to-do farmer. He moved to Columbus, KS when he was 22 to live with his uncle who was a banker. At the suggestion of his uncle, he and his cousins started a hay business. The hay was destroyed, so they sold the lumber for the shed that protected the hay. They discovered that there was a great demand for lumber. A new business was born.
Later he purchased land near Columbus and dug for coal mines. He made a large profit with this business as well.
He married Martha Ellen Wilson in 1876. They had two daughters, Sallie America and Loula.
In 1891, Long moved his family to Kansas City. He purchased timber land in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Washington State. The Long-Bell lumber company had 269 railroad cars.
The Kansas City he brought his family to had sidewalks constructed out of boards, stock yards, packing houses, and half a dozen saloons. The business district was four blocks long, and there were two residential streets. He decided to build his own office tower downtown. It was 16 floors in the Beaux-Arts style. It was the first tall building in Kansas City with an all steel skeleton frame. It is now the United Missouri Bank Building.
R.A. Long financed the building of churches and schools. He also purchased a publishing house for religious books of faith.
In 1920, the Long-Bell Company bought timber in Washington and erected a mill. In 1924, he built a city for the employees and named it Longview. Longview, Washington is still a thriving town today. You can look at their website here.
Long built a home for his family that he called the Corinthian Hall in 1907. It is a 72 room French Renaissance Mansion. It was Kansas City’s first million dollar home. It is now the site of the Kansas City Museum.
Feeling he needed more space for the horses that he and his daughter Loula loved, Long commissioned the building of Longview Farm from 1913 to 1914. Loula lived in the Mansion on the farm from the time of her marriage in 1917 until her death 57 years later. The 2000 acre farm had 42 buildings and 4 greenhouses. Portions of the farm are now sites of Longview Lake, Longview College, and the New Longview Community. As part of the New Longview Community, the Show Horse Arena was converted into an elementary school for the Lee’s Summit School district.
Long was also a driving force for the creation of the Liberty Memorial.
You can read (or view) more about him and his legacy in the following books and video:
- Ours to Give: The Long Legacy of an American Family
- Corinthian Hall: An American Palace on Gladstone
- Robert Alexander Long: A Lumberman of the Gilded Age
- Longdreams: The Story of Longview
- Longview: The Remarkable Beginnings of a Modern Western City
Blue Ridge Branch