For decades, Carl Lopp said he would never let go of Sauer Castle, the dilapidated historic home that his great-, great-grandfather Anton Sauer built high on a hill above Armourdale and the West Bottoms. He wanted to keep it in the family.
Now, he’s put the Kansas City, Kansas, landmark up for sale at an extraordinary price: $10 million. But skeptics wonder just how serious he is about unloading the brick house with the two-story gothic tower rising above the second floor.
No other house for sale in the Kansas City area currently has an asking price even close. The next highest-priced single-family home on the market is a six-bedroom “sprawling estate complete with a panoramic view of Downtown Kansas City” sitting on 37 acres north of the Missouri River for $4.5 million.
A palatial condo on Ward Parkway across from the Country Club Plaza that was until her death last summer the home of Annette Bloch (widow of Richard Bloch, the “R” of H&R Block) is listed for $5 million.
Both have more square footage than Sauer Castle, and neither is a fixer upper.
“There is clearly some other motive here that no one understands, because no one with any level of sanity would believe a vacant structure that is unfit for habitation is worth anywhere near that amount of money,” said Diane Euston, who describes herself as a historian and Sauer Castle defender who is one of Lopp’s fiercest critics.
She is not alone in doubting Lopp’s sincerity.
Soon after the real estate listing appeared, skepticism erupted on the Facebook fanclub site devoted to preservation of the nearly 150-year-old Italianate structure at 935 Shawnee Road that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“The house isn’t going to sell,” one person said. “Loop (sic) knows that.”
Wrote another: “Silly since it wouldn’t be worth 10M in mint condition but good try!”
Lopp did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did the real estate agent who is fielding offers or requests for information, according to the advertisement on various real estate websites.
The Wyandotte County appraiser’s office recently estimated that the 3,856-square-foot house on 2.8 acres is worth $645,557.
It might be appraised for a higher amount, if it were livable. Armed with a court order, officials with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, boarded up the house more than a year ago because it was a nuisance that attracts trespassers.
Lopp bought Sauer Castle in 1988 and embarked on what has become a never-ending rehab project. The castle needs lots of work on its interior, but how much is hard to say. Lopp refused to let a reporter and photographer from The Star even have a peek inside when he invited them out for a tour in October.
He issued the invitation because he wanted to disprove his critics on the Sauer Castle Facebook page, who have long warned that the castle was falling down and have urged government intervention.
He argued that the exterior brick and foundation are solid, and he was not wrong about that. The basic structure did appear to be in good shape. The bricks have been tuckpointed. The foundation was not crumbling, although replacing the rotten, falling-down trim work — Lopp says some of it is storm damaged — on the second floor would seem to be an expensive proposition.
“It’s just wood,” Lopp said and went onto explain why he has for years refused to part with the property, despite pleas that he let someone else take a shot at the restoration.
“I do this because, you know, it’s my family heritage,” he said as he stood on the front lawn on a sunny afternoon in October. “I could be anywhere but I’m here because I love this property. I have over 200 living relatives who I also want to share this with.”
So what’s changed since then?
The real estate listing gives no clue. And so far, neither has Carl Lopp.