Held at:





Internet – various sources


Urishay Room: The Spencer family and Baker University

Place name:

Michaelchurch Escley, Golden Valley




The Baker University Collection on this website provides the background to how the Drawing Room from Urishay Castle near Michaelchurch Escley was removed in the early 1900s and exported to America as architectural salvage. In the 1920s it was acquired – probably from Marshall Fields department store where it was used as a display – by the wealthy Buckingham family and donated by them to the Chicago Arts Institute.

In the 1960s it was acquired by philanthropist Helen Spencer and donated to Baker University in Baldwin City Kansas , where it today forms part of the University buildings. This paper gives some additional information on the Spencer family and the nature of their involvement in that transaction.


Helen Elizabeth Foresman was born in Joplin , Missouri on November 8, 1902 to Frank Wade and Frances Foster Foresman. She attended elementary school in Amarillo , Texas , and high school in Pittsburg , Kansas , followed by study at the University of Kansas . She married Kenneth Aldred Spencer on January 6, 1927. They first resided in Pittsburg , where Mr. Spencer was employed in his father's Pittsburg & Midway Coal Mining Company. In 1940, they moved to Kansas City , where Mr. Spencer founded the Spencer Chemical Company.

In 1949, Kenneth and Helen Spencer established a foundation for charitable giving that in 1961 was named the Kenneth A. and Helen F. Spencer Foundation. Kenneth Spencer died in 1960, leaving Helen Spencer sole owner of the Spencer Chemical Company. In 1963, she oversaw its sale to Gulf Oil Corporation as Gulf's Spencer Chemical Division. As President and Director of the Kenneth A. and Helen F. Spencer Foundation from 1960 until its dissolution in 1979, Mrs. Spencer ensured that the Foundation's charitable contributions served the purposes which she and her husband had envisioned for advancement of the arts, sciences, and education within the Kansas City region.

The Foundation's many large construction projects of this period include the Kenneth Spencer Research Library and the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas, the University of Kansas Medical Center's Kenneth Aldred Spencer Memorial Chapel, the Spencer Art Reference Library at Kansas City's William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, the Helen Foresman Spencer Rare Book Room Addition at Kansas City's Linda Hall Library, the Spencer Auditorium and Kenneth A. Spencer Laboratories Building at Kansas City's Midwest Research Institute, the Helen F. Spencer Center for Education at Kansas City's St. Luke's Hospital, the Kenneth A. Spencer Chemistry Building and the Helen Foresman Spencer Theatre for the Performing Arts at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, and the medieval wing of Baker University which houses its Quayle Bible Collection in the Urishay Room, which was acquired from the Art Institute of Chicago for the purpose.

Mrs. Spencer served on the governing boards of many institutions and was the recipient of numerous honors. She died on February 15, 1982 at her residence in Kansas City .




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