When Bob Trapp was growing up in Russell, Kansas, the tallest building in town stood four floors high.
It’s still the tallest building in Russell.
“When you’re living on the prairie,” says Trapp, “you don’t have to build up. You build sideways.”
Trapp has been a legendary presence in Kansas City for his namesake shop, Trapp and Company—which offers floral design, interior-design services, special-event planning and a varied shopping experience—for a half-century. For much of his long tenure in town, Trapp has gone both high and low when it comes to his living quarters. His current abode, a 19th-floor condominium at One Park Place, is his loftiest locale yet, with sweeping views of Kansas City from the Metropolitan Community College at Penn Valley to just past the Country Club Plaza.
“It’s a lush sea of green in the summer, really,” Trapp says, “but just as beautiful in the winter when the trees are stripped bare and you can see the houses in this historic neighborhood and the view seems to extend forever.”
Most Kansas Citians know the striking former office tower at 700 Karnes Boulevard as the BMA Tower, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as the headquarters for the Business Men’s Assurance Company. It opened in 1963 with some fanfare, as it was the city’s first high-rise skyscraper since City Hall was built in 1936.
This Midwestern monument to post-war Modern style is almost devoid of ornamentation. It makes its statement by its height and the eye-catching exterior grid of black glass and white marble. (The marble was replaced, for safety reasons, with a “crystalized glass ceramic,” the Japanese-made Neoparium, in 1985 and 1986.)
Bob Trapp fell in love with the view first, then the amenities (which include a salt-water pool, a cigar room, a gymnasium, media room and wine cellar) as well as its close proximity to his office and studio on Main Street, the Country Club Plaza (Trapp frequently dines out), and Southwest Trafficway, an artery that can take him quickly almost anywhere in the metro. “For the first time, I feel like I’m living out one of my fantasies: to be living in a beautiful New York City hotel,” he says with a laugh.
A hotel, it should be said, with all the comforts of home, including well-loved objects that have followed him from home to home to home, including his first “grand” piece of furniture—an antique secretary that’s lovely, if not so grand—given to him by one of his earliest patrons in the 1960s.
“My first Kansas City apartment was in the Valentine Hotel on Broadway,” he recalls. “It was tiny, with one room, a closet and a small kitchenette. I didn’t have anything, really. I had just gotten out of the Army, and I was working for Ranchview Florist.”
Trapp’s first serious art acquisition—an unsigned portrait of a sturdy, weathered farmer in overalls—was given to him by the pastor of his church as a confirmation gift when Trapp turned 13 years old. “How could Pastor Wolf and his wife know that I longed to collect beautiful things at that age? My parents didn’t know what to think of it.”
The portrait hangs now in Trapp’s favorite room at One Park Place: a cozy, intimate library with an overstuffed, pillow-laden sofa where likes to read or watch TV after work. “This is where I like to end my day,” he says.
In the hallway outside of the library, Trapp has hung other early acquisitions from a lifetime of collecting, including an 18th-century portrait of a young man that he purchased at R.H. Macy’s in downtown Kansas City. “The nicer department stores had antique departments in those days!” Trapp says.
The broad-shouldered Trapp came to Kansas City after his stint in the Army and a brief run managing a shop for a florist in Columbia, South Carolina. “I’ve never worked so hard for so little in my life,” Trapp says. “And almost all of our business came from funerals!”
Bob Trapp’s career in Kansas City took off when he was taken under the wing of the city’s most energetic party-givers, the late Muriel McBride Kauffman.
But his original career plans had been quite different. “I had been studying to be an opera singer,” Trapp says. “That had been my dream for years. But it all fell apart when my advisor told me that I would have to spend my life traveling.
“Traveling? I was an only child, and the only security I ever really knew was having a home. I was a wreck, and my parents, who were wonderful, explained that I would simply have to re-think things. But looking back on my life, having a home is still very important to me.”
Trapp no longer desires a performing career, but One Park Place may be Trapp’s most theatrical address. The entrance to his apartment has been painted a deep navy blue with silver-leaf accents; it looks like a stage set from Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.
Flashes of blue and silver resonate throughout the apartment (including gilded branches near the sleek mirror-faced gas fireplace, which Trapp adores: “If it’s chilly out, I always have it on.”)
Trapp likes to entertain, and the One Park Place condo, with its indoor parking and concierge services make setting the Mandarin-red dining table—a gift from Charles Price, former U.S. Ambassador to the court of St. James—particularly dramatic as night falls on one of the highest points in the city.
“It’s a sensational building with a terrific view,” Trapp says. “For a lot of the people who live here, this building is quite a calling card—just as it was in the 1960s when it was the tallest and most glamorous office structure in the city. People want to come here just to see it.”
Trapp and Company
ANTIQUES, ACCESSORIES, INTERIOR DESIGN
Trapp and Company