R. A. Long Building 

R. A. Long Office Restored

          As one studies the history of Mr. Long, it is apparent that he has a very prominent place in Kansas City History.  He was involved in so many projects throughout the city that it seems his mark is everywhere.  One such project was the construction of Kansas City’s first high rise steel skeleton office building.

          After the Long-Bell Lumber Company had outgrown their offices in the Keith & Perry Building, Mr. Long decided to build his own office tower for the company to occupy.  The R. A. Long Building, located at 928 Grand Avenue, stands 16 stories tall and was surely an impressive sight upon being completed.

Long Building in Course of Construction R. A. Long Building in 1906
Long Building in Course of Construction, Kansas City, Missouri R. A. Long Building.  In 1906, when it was built, Long’s office tower was Kansas City's first tall building constructed with skeleton steel framing.

          The building is currently owned by UMB Bank.  The bank leased a portion of the building from Mr. Long before purchasing it somewhere around the early 1940s.  Unfortunately, as was often the case at that time, the building was “modernized” destroying much of the interior.  One must realize that at the time there was not much thought to preserving history.  The focus was on being modern and proving to your clients that you were a forward thinking company.  Fortunately today there are more and more people realizing that we can still preserve history and use the latest technology at the same time.

          Beginning in early 2000, UMB started a major renovation of the building.  This first phase consisted of floors 1-5 and was completed within a few years.  In 2003 the renovation resumed and I was fortunate enough to be involved in the project.  The majority of the building contained nothing worth saving as it consisted of dingy suspended ceiling tile, aged wall paper, etc.  The plan was to remove all of the construction put in place in the 1940s and “white box” the floors for future use.  This consisted of finishing exterior walls, carpeting, installing a ceiling, and basic mechanical and electrical.  The idea being that as the Bank moved a department onto a floor private offices would be built if needed, but that much of the space could be used as open office.

Another view of the R A Long building in 1911.
Another view of the R A Long building in 1911
It was Kansas City’s first skyscraper
Mr. Long’s office was on the eighth floor.

          The exception to this plan occurred on the 8th & 14th floors.  These floors still contained a fair amount of the historic fabric of the building, and were designated “historic preservation floors.”  Any extra doors that had been added to the corridor over the years were removed.  Damaged historic doors were repaired or replaced with replicas.  The marble wainscoting on the walls was cleaned, patched, or restored.  Period Replica lighting was installed, and the wood trim was restored.  Similar attention was given to the exterior walls of the building.

          The crown jewel of the project came one day in September.  I received a phone call from the contractor indicating that when they had done ceiling demolition of the 8th floor (the last floor to be started) they had uncovered something special.  That something was the original box beam ceiling from Mr. Long’s Office.  The beams were in fairly decent shape, but would require some re-construction.  There were also murals on the ceiling in between each beam.  These murals had all been painted over with the exception of four that were concealed beneath fluorescent light fixtures.  These only had holes poked through them from anchoring the lights to the ceiling.  Without much to work with, the contractor was able to remove the best quality mural and scan it into their computer.  They then were able to infill the missing pieces and touch up the colors.  These were then silk screened onto canvas creating 15 new murals that could be installed in the renovated room.


(See pictures below – CLICK on each picture for enlargement.)
Pictures of R. A. Long’s office restored and
the original Boardroom are courtesy of UMB Bank.
The Boardroom The Boardroom
The Boardroom
Ceiling of Boardroom
Ceiling of Boardroom
Wall Map of Nationwide Lumbering Business Enlarged Lumbering Picture
Wall Map of Nationwide Lumbering Business &
Enlarged Lumbering Picture
Fireplace in Office Office Ceiling
Fireplace in Office and Office Ceiling
Office Wall Space Office Wall Space
Office Wall Space
Bath Room Attached to Office
Bath Room Attached to Office
(Note the wrap around circular shower in the corner)

          There were also murals hidden behind the old exterior walls.  These were also in poor condition, but were replicated using the same process as the ceiling.  Only one of these murals was completely absent, so a mirror image of another was used in its place.

          Fortunately, the bank did not stop there.  We were told that we could proceed with a partial restoration of the office.  The floor was original and only required minor patching.  It was then sanded and re-stained.  The South and East walls were bare brick.  The North and West walls were non-existent.  Using the original plan of the office, and a single photograph we were able to create a design that, while not 100% accurate, does give a good idea of what the office must have felt like.  The only part that was not re-created was the North Wall.  The sheer detail involved would not have been possible within the time allowed.  Fortunately, this is the one wall that there is an existing photograph of, so one can see still its original condition.  The office now contains mahogany paneling throughout, restored stained glass, a faux fireplace, period lighting, etc.

          This project was one of the most rewarding I have had the pleasure to work on.  I am glad that we were able to bring back this small part of the Long’s history to Kansas City.  As the number of people who learn about this history grows, I am confident that we will be able to continue to preserve much of what this family left behind.

– Scott Coryell