The historic Loose Mansion was originally built by Jacob and Ella Loose between 1907 and 1909 at a cost of $250,000. The architect was well known for building embassies in Washington, D.C. Although the mansion was a private home, it was designed for entertaining large groups and constructed to be extremely solid with cement flooring. The mansion had 11 fireplaces, 12 bathrooms and 8 balconies. The mansion’s Carriage House was home to three of the mansion’s full-time staff and Jacob’s 1907 Packard Limousine, shown below. Bedrooms for two more full-time staff were provided on the 3rd level next to the mansion’s original Ballroom.
Although Jacob Loose made his fortune in the cookie and candy business, the money to build Loose Mansion actually came from another source. Jacob and his brother, Joseph, each gave $10,000 to a friend who subsequently discovered copper in the Northwest. Their investment paid off $1,000,000 for each!
Jacob told his wife, Ella, he wanted to give her anything she wanted with some of the proceeds from his windfall investment. She told him she wanted to return to Kansas City (from their current home in Chicago) and build a beautiful home in which they could entertain, and they did!
The first floor is finished with hand-carved Philippine mahogany. This incredible woodwork has been restored to its original condition and is enjoyed by all who attend mansion events. The Grand Staircase provides wonderful photo opportunities for mansion couples and other guests. The hand-carved “S’s” along the stairway stand for “Sunshine,” Jacob’s nickname for Ella.
The Grand Entrance boasts beautiful brass railings, marble floors and walls, and an ornate dome ceiling. Though Mrs. Loose took many of her chandeliers with her to her apartment at The Walnuts where she moved after Jacob’s death, the chandelier that lights the mansion’s evening buffets is an original piece made by Tiffany & Company.
Beautiful one-of-a-kind fireplaces throughout the mansion have been restored and are used for winter events. One is particularly interesting, the Bible Fireplace, designed by Mrs. Loose and Henry Chapin Mercer from Philadelphia. Ella and Jacob’s favorite Bible stories are depicted on this fireplace. Short phrases on the fireplace are written in English, German and Latin. Henry Chapin Mercer’s tile work can also be found in the Sun Porch floor and throughout the mansion’s lower level.
The elegant Grand Salon and Music Room have been beautifully restored and are still enjoyed today for dinner and dancing. The Music Room once contained a large ceiling mural and a pipe organ built for Mr. Loose by a company in New York at a cost of $38,000.
There are three safes in the mansion. Two of them are 6′ by 9′ in size. One with a 2,000 lb. door was installed by the Savings and Loan that purchased the mansion from Mrs. Loose in the early 1930’s. The second large safe in the lower level is believed to be an original. The third safe is a wall safe that once hid behind a painting in the Loose’s bedroom and was home to Ella’s most valuable jewelry. This bedroom is now our second level Parlor, and it contains another interesting fireplace where Jacob spelled his name in the tile but made a game of it.
On the third level, Jacob and Ella had a Ballroom that was later made into offices by a subsequent owner. However, Barbara and Ken Saathoff, the current owners, recently restored this space to function again as a lovely Ballroom. The Saathoff’s commissioned the stained glass window in the stairwell foyer to be designed with the Loose family crest. The portraits of Jacob and Ella on display in the stairwell are photographs of actual paintings of Jacob and Ella on display at the Loose Community Foundation.
The lower level, originally the Cigar and Billiards Room for Mr. Loose and his friends, is now called, “The Sunshine Bistro.” The Saathoff’s commissioned Dan Brewer, a local artist and historian to paint murals on the walls outside the Bistro.
Two large murals depict actual scenes of downtown Kansas City at about the time the mansion was built. Several other murals represent collaborations by Ken Saathoff and Dan Brewer. These include an old barbershop, a scene including Mr. and Mrs. Loose, and a few Tuscany scenes on the walls leading into the mansion’s lower level kitchen. In all, there are almost 50 feet of wall murals in the mansion’s lower level.
Following is additional information about Jacob and Ella Loose:
Jacob Loose left school in Illinois at 16 and took a job earning $5 a week. Four years later, he and his brother opened a dry goods store in Chetopa, Kansas. In 1878, he married Ella Clark of Carthage, Missouri. They moved to Kansas City in 1882, where he entered the cracker business.
Mr. Loose founded both the American Biscuit Company (merged with Nabisco headquartered in Chicago), and later the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company (later Sunshine Biscuits). He invented the Hydrox cookie in 1905 and the soda cracker in 1917. By 1925, Loose-Wiles employed 30,000 people throughout the United States.
Jacob was a generous benefactor. He started the Children’s Mercy Hospital endowment fund with $25,000 in 1913. After a serious illness, he semi-retired in 1919 and died at his summer home in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1923. His will created the Million Dollar Charity Fund Association.
Mrs. Loose was known for her lavish parties and for her generosity. She supported many causes, but having lost two children as infants, she most enjoyed providing for children’s needs. Among other donations, for over thirty years she bought shoes for youngsters at her favorite orphanage in Kansas City. She was a strong willed, but compassionate woman who cared about the Kansas City community.
At age 60, “Kansas City’s No. 1 society dowager” activated a plan to conquer Washington, D.C. society. For years, she was a popular party hostess and donor there. When she died in Kansas City, most of her estate went to the Million Dollar Charity Fund. Coupled with several other trusts, it helped launch today’s Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and Affiliated Trusts. Loose gifts still benefit Kansas City today.
Jacob and Ella’s most visible legacy is Loose Park at 52nd and Wornall Road, once the Kansas City Country Club. Mrs. Loose bought the land for $500,000 and gave it to the city in 1927 as a memorial to her husband. His statue stands near the Wornall Road driveway of the park that she intended as “a restful place, particularly for children.”
Shortly after World War I, the Liberty Memorial Association was formed in Kansas City. Their goal was to build a lasting memorial to those who offered and gave their lives in defense of liberty and our country. In less than two weeks, this organization raised $2,500,000 from Kansas City and from across the nation to fund the building of the Liberty Memorial. The Liberty Memorial is located just a mile north of Loose Mansion at 100 West 26th Street.
The site for the Liberty Memorial was dedicated on November 1, 1921. The main Allied military leaders met in Kansas City to speak to a crowd of 200,000 people. This was the only time in history that these leaders were together at one place. In attendance were Lieutenant General Baron Jacques of Belgium; General Armando Diaz of Italy; Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France; General John J. Pershing of the United States; and Admiral David Beatty of Great Britain.
The photo here was taken before the dedication and shows Jacob and Ella Loose on the front porch of Loose Mansion with General Armando Diaz of Italy standing between them. The two officers on the right side of the photo were aides to General Diaz. These included General De Luca, who is next to Mrs. Loose. The one on the far right with a cross on his helmet was a Dragoon (cavalry) officer, perhaps Major De Mierry, but this is not a definite identification. The American officer on the far left in the photo is an unidentified officer assigned as escort to General Diaz. An enlargement of this photo is proudly displayed in the mansion’s main level Sun Porch.
On the same weekend that the Liberty Memorial was dedicated, the Loose’s also entertained Queen Marie of Romania and her daughter, Princess Ileana, and her son, Prince Nicolas, at Loose Mansion for about an hour. They were received in the second floor room where we now meet with our clients to plan their events. Queen Marie’s popularity in her lifetime has been compared to Princess Diana in ours. Her great grandmother was Queen Victoria. At age 17, Marie married Ferdinand of Romania, and was crowned Queen in 1914. When Queen Marie and her children arrived in Kansas City for the Liberty Memorial dedication, she was greeted by an enormous crowd at Union Station, and then much of the crowd tried to follow her to Loose Mansion. When they left the mansion, the Kansas City newspaper reported that there were “crushing masses of people that surrounded the mansion making the porches and driveways impassible.”