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A new role for Frank Lloyd Wright home that survived Sandy

A Frank Lloyd Wright house that was flooded by Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey is high and dry in Arkansas. And it’s getting thousands of visitors as part of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

The Bachman-Wilson House, originally located in Millstone, New Jersey, was one of Wright’s famed Usonian homes. The architect created these small, simple structures for middle-class Americans, and about 60 were built.

The Crystal Bridges Museum had the home moved to Bentonville, Arkansas, where it was aligned on the same axis Wright used when laying out the building in 1954.

More than 80,000 people have toured the Bachman-Wilson House in the past year. The home is presented as a retreat — a place to get away from it all without having to get away.

“You’re completely immersed in your natural environment,” said Dylan Turk, a curatorial assistant at Crystal Bridges. “Wright’s using materials that are American and comfortable — woods and natural materials — because he feels that is more connectible than steel, which is what other architects were using at that time.”

Wright desired an American identity among everyday homes and labeled his style “Usonian,” for the “United States of North America.” He wanted them to be affordable, and charged just $400 for the plans for the Bachman-Wilson House. The house cost about $30,000 to build.

Wright actually never visited a Usonian home, Turk said. He was busy working on the Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, when the Bachman-Wilson House was built.

“Wright valued everything he designed, but he was also working on, at the time, The Guggenheim, which he thought would be his shining moment as an architect. He may have been a little preoccupied,” Turk said.

While it wasn’t part of the Crystal Bridges’ initial plan, the Wright-designed home fits in with the museum’s concentration on art, architecture and nature, Turk said. Crystal Bridges architect Moshe Safdie sited the museum above Town Branch Creek. The Bachman-Wilson House overlooks Crystal Spring, a tributary well out of the flood plain.

Students from the University of Arkansas’ school of architecture, which is named after Wright protege Fay Jones, designed a welcome pavilion nearby. Wright, Jones and Safdie each won the American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal.

“I wish I could have said I initiated the action to get the house, but I didn’t,” Safdie said. While he hasn’t yet seen the Bachman-Wilson House in Arkansas, he said he was thrilled to hear about the acquisition and noted that he, Jones and Wright each now have an influence on the museum’s grounds.

“The trilogy has pleased me,” he said.

Before the house opened on a recent chilly morning, Turk sat down on the living room’s low-slung bench, which abuts a cinder block wall designed as a barrier for the world outside. Across the room is a wall of glass, broken up by mahogany door frames and window frames cut in the shape of a maple tree’s winged seed pod. The room faces southwest to catch the afternoon sun.

“He wanted you to be as close to the ground as you possibly could be because he thought that grounded you,” Turk said. “You’re looking up. You can see the tops of the trees through the clerestory windows.”

A rust-colored floor, heated from beneath, extends beyond the glass.

“He pioneered radiant heat in the United States. If you are outside on a cool night, you can feel your house,” Turk said. “He wanted you to feel your house in as many ways as you possibly could.”

The Bachman-Wilson House flooded a number of times in New Jersey, most recently when Sandy hit in 2012. When its owners considered moving it to preserve it, Crystal Bridges said it would fit in with its mission.

“Art is not just a painting that hangs on the wall,” Turk said. “If you want to be creative, it doesn’t have to be limited to a canvas.

“This is familiar. It’s a house,” he said. “Most people live in a house, so it allows us to open up this space for people to come in and go, ‘Huh, my house doesn’t look like this. Why?’ or ‘I have this in my house. Why do I have this in my house?””

If You Go…

CRYSTAL BRIDGES MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART: Located in Bentonville, Arkansas. Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Monday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Wednesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Free general admission includes Wright house.


Frank Lloyd Wright School raises $2 million to remain open

The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture has reached a $2 million fundraising goal that will keep it from shutting down.

The Scottsdale-based Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation announced this week that the school’s doors would remain open, The Arizona Republic reports.

The institution’s future has been up in the air after it lost accreditation status last year. The Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission, which accredits universities and colleges, decided it would no longer recognize schools that are part of larger institutions with missions beyond education.

Because the foundation also oversees historical-building preservation and the Wright archives in New York, the academic program must be incorporated as a financially independent subsidiary. The $2 million will help make that happen.

The foundation and architecture school is now working on a “change of control” application to the Higher Learning Commission, including legal and incorporation documents. The commission is expected to review the application in June. If approved, the school can file documents with both federal and state agencies. The process is expected to be completed by 2017.

Wright, who died in 1959, designed 1,141 architectural works. More than one-third of his buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places or are in a National Historic District.

The school operates at two campuses, Taliesin West in Scottsdale and Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Students attend the Scottsdale campus in the spring and fall terms, with summer classes held in Wisconsin. The school offers a three-year master’s program and has continued to admit students since the accreditation change.

The Frank Lloyd Wright school had only 23 students during the recent fall term, making it likely the nation’s smallest accredited, degree-granting architecture program. Dean Aaron Betsky said the school hopes to grow to around 40 to 45 students by 2019 and eventually 60 to 65 students.

More than 217 individuals, foundations and corporations contributed to the $2 million “independence campaign.” Donors included several high-profile architects such as Wright’s grandson Eric Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry, known for the design of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum building in Bilbao, Spain.

Regional briefs: Protection grows for lake’s ‘stepping stones’ | And more

The Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge will expand to include most of St. Martin Island and all of Rocky Island in Lake Michigan, adding another 1,290 acres to the 330-acre refuge.

The islands are part of the Grand Traverse chain, which extends from Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula to Michigan’s Garden Peninsula.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy announced the expansion in late September.

“It’s gratifying to see our shared conservation missions coming together to protect these unique Great Lakes islands,” said Tom Melius, Midwest regional director of the FWS. “We couldn’t do this without a common vision among all the partners.”

Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1912 as habitat for migratory birds and consists of the 325-acre Plum Island and the smaller Pilot and Hog islands. With the addition of St. Martin and Rocky Islands, the refuge will increase by five times its original size.

Along with the other islands in the Grand Traverse chain, St. Martin Island is part of the Niagara Escarpment and has significant bluffs, which have rare native snails and plants associated with them. In addition to the bluffs, the island also supports forests, wetlands and an extensive cobblestone beach.

Both St. Martin and Rocky islands, along with others in the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge, provide important stopover habitat for birds that migrate through the Great Lakes each spring and fall.

In other regional news …

• GE GOING: General Electric Co. announced in late September plans to move 350 Wisconsin jobs to Canada due to Congress’ inaction to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. In response, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, said, “We have seen significant job losses across the country directly related to the failure of House Republicans to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Now, the state of Wisconsin is feeling the brunt of their extreme economic agenda.”

• RYAN’S DISINTEREST: U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville said he’s not interested in replacing Rep. John Boehner as speaker of the House of Representatives. Boehner announced in late September that he will be resigning at the end of October.

• LAKEFRONT LAND DEAL: The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ board has put off deciding whether to sell a parcel of state-owned lakefront property to one of Scott Walker’s major donors. The agency wants to sell 1.75 acres along the Rest Lake shoreline to Elizabeth Uihlein for $275,000. Uihlein and husband Richard donated nearly $3 million to Walker’s presidential super PAC. She owns a condominium complex adjacent to the property but it lacks lake access.

• DON’T MESS WITH HIS VIEW: Richard Uihlein is also in the news for seeking state approval to keep a 12-acre floating bog away from property in northern Wisconsin. He’s proposing moving the bog north and fastening it to the lake bed, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. “This is the most preposterous idea that I have ever heard,” said Brett McConnell, an environmental specialist in the conservation department of the Lac Courte Oreilles band of Lake Superior Chippewa. “I would hope that every single person affiliated with the flowage would be opposed to this.”

• DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DATA: Forty-three people in Wisconsin lost their lives to domestic violence in 2014, according to the Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report released in conjunction with anti-violence walks hosted by the Zonta Clubs of Madison and Milwaukee and by End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. The report says 36 people were victims of domestic violence homicides. Six people were perpetrators of homicides who then committed suicide and one individual was a perpetrator of domestic violence who was killed by responding law enforcement. 

• LIFTING THE CAP: University of Wisconsin-Madison officials plan to ask UW System regents for permission to lift the school’s cap on out-of-state students, a move they say would attract more young people to Wisconsin. It also would bolster the school’s coffers considerably as it struggles with deep budget cuts. Currently out-of-state undergraduate enrollment at any UW campus can’t exceed 27.5 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment based on a three-year average.

• BAN THE BOX: In response to a bipartisan bill recently introduced in Congress that removes the box on federal employment applications that ask whether job seekers have a past felony conviction, state Sen. Lena C. Taylor, D-Milwaukee, announced she planned to re-introduce her state “Ban the Box” bill “to give residents who have made a mistake in life a fighting chance.”

• COSBY LOSES DEGREE: Marquette University rescinded an honorary degree it awarded Bill Cosby in 2013, when he gave the annual commencement address. Other universities, including the Jesuit school Fordham University, have taken back degrees bestowed on Cosby. Cosby has been accused by at least 20 women of drugging and raping them. “By his own admission, Mr. Cosby engaged in behaviors that go entirely against our university’s mission and the guiding values we have worked so hard to instill on our campus,” Marquette president Michael Lovell and provost Daniel Myers wrote in a letter to the Marquette community.

WRIGHT RESULTS: Frank Lloyd Wright experts announced on Oct. 6 that the Madison house Linda McQuillen bought for $100,000 has been verified as an American System-Built House, part of Wright’s effort to develop and market well-designed homes at a more affordable level — his first effort to reach a broader audience. It is the second such house identified in the past four months, one out of only 16 ever built and 14 still standing.

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Madison house purchased for $100K by retired teacher is a Wright home

Linda McQuillen long wondered whether her 1917 home had any connection to Frank Lloyd Wright, thinking at best maybe one of his peers designed it as an imitation of the architect’s famous Prairie School style. It turned out she was living in the real thing.

Wright experts announced this week that the Madison house McQuillen bought for $100,000 has been verified as an American System-Built House, part of Wright’s effort to develop and market well-designed homes at a more affordable level – his first effort to reach a broader audience. It is the second such house identified in the past four months, one out of only 16 ever built and 14 still standing.

“It’s pretty exciting, I’ve got to tell you. And pretty overwhelming,” McQuillen said, sitting in the front room of the 1,800-square-foot house she spent a quarter of a century refurbishing and decorating with Mission-style furniture.

It took years to unearth the evidence about McQuillen’s home, located in a neighborhood less than half a mile from the University of Wisconsin campus where Wright went to school in the 1880s.

This much was known: It was constructed in 1917, an addition was built in 1924, and an open-air porch facing the street was enclosed three years after that. By the time McQuillen bought it in 1989 it was in such bad shape that a tree was growing through the roof of the garage.

“Over time we have completely redone the house without any indication it was a significant house,” said McQuillen, 69, a retired teacher who now works part-time for the university as a math education consultant. “I didn’t know it was a Frank Lloyd Wright home and had no imagination it would be.”

The first real clue she got that the stucco home adorned with leaded glass windows may have any real Wright connection came in November 2009, when she received a letter from Mary Jane Hamilton.

Hamilton, a Wright scholar who has written about the architect’s family and homes in his native Wisconsin, had been hearing whispers about the Madison house for years but had never been able to prove a link to Wright.

There was no reference to it in any of the catalogs of known Wright homes, and it had some distinctly uncharacteristic elements, like a band of dark red brick around the stucco exterior. There were no known drawings of the home linking it to the first owner, and no photos had been found showing the house as it looked when it was first built.

Hamilton said her “eureka” moment came when she found a 1917 Wisconsin State Journal newspaper advertisement by a Madison building company offering the American System-Built Homes. The same company was named on the 1917 building permit for McQuillen’s home, which indicated it was building a spec house.

Hamilton and Mike Lilek, curator of the Wright-designed American System-Built Homes in Milwaukee, toured McQuillen’s home in November 2009 and quickly found other indications that they may have made a significant discovery.

Framing studs in the basement were 24 inches on center, a known Wright deviation from the typical 16-inch span. The window pattern is custom designed, along with the latches.

Since then, Hamilton worked to gather more proof, including finding a drawing among more than 900 of the American System-Built Homes in Wright’s archive at Taliesin West in Arizona that resembled McQuillen’s house. All the evidence they collected led Hamilton and Lilek to finally conclude that the home was an authentic Wright.

It’s also the first and only known example of the AA model from Wright’s American System-Built House series ever constructed, Lilek said.

McQuillen said the news makes the money and hard work she invested in fixing up the house more than worth it.

“It does feel like a reward, a vindication that when I saw the house and could see beyond the disrepair that I knew there was something substantive,” she said. “The house really spoke to me.”

Frank Lloyd Wright house rediscovered in Shorewood

A Frank Lloyd Wright house has been rediscovered after being hidden in plain sight for years in Shorewood.

“It went from ‘Your house can’t possibly be a Frank Lloyd Wright house” to ‘Your house is most definitely a Frank Lloyd Wright house,’ Pat Wisialowski, who has owned the Shorewood home since 1993, said. “It was very exciting.”

It was constructed in 1917 as an American System-Built House, part of Wright’s effort to develop and market well-designed houses for any income level — his first effort to reach a broader audience.

There are currently 13 others standing in the Midwest, including six in Milwaukee and one in Oshkosh. The venture never really got off the ground with developer, the Richards Co., due to World War I-related economic and financial issues.

The two-bedroom house in Shorewood is a “Model A203,” with the original art glass windows in place. A basement-level garage was added in 1976 and an open porch at the rear of the house was enclosed for added living space at an unknown date. 

Earlier owners knew it was a Wright home because it was advertised as such when it was sold previously. But by the time Wisialowski bought it, she was told it was designed by someone who used to work under Wright.

There it remained until a man drove by the house about five years ago and insisted to Wisialowski’s husband Roger that it was a Wright house. That led to an investigation by another Wright scholar but he later died and the mystery continued.

It wasn’t until a couple years ago that her husband mentioned the story while playing the game Sheepshead with Pat Lilek, who happens to be the mother of Mike Lilek, curator of the Wright-designed American System-Built Homes in Milwaukee. 

At first, Mike Lilek said he was skeptical.

“Only 433 Wright designs were executed and they are well-known and carefully researched, so I thought it couldn’t be,” he said. Then he visited the house and saw the Wright similarities. 

But he needed more. So he embarked on a research project.

Among other things, he discovered a lawsuit filed by Wright against the Richards Co., demanding royalties he wasn’t paid.

The lawsuit said Wright was dissatisfied with the way the houses were being built and claimed he wasn’t receiving the full accounting of homes being built, according to Lilek.

Lilek also found the original drawing for the house. He said no one ever connected the dots because the drawing was filed in the archive in an unusual folder — with no name or address. 

Lilek said Wright probably didn’t even know about the house.

“I would say there is a probability there will be more,” he said. 

For Wisialowski, at one point she said she and her husband would have been content just suspecting it was a Wright house. But she is glad they now definitely know.

“Part of it was like a vindication or validating because I’ve been here for 22 years. I always felt it was very special,” she said.

Future of Frank Lloyd Wright School divides leaders

The future of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture has divided the institution named for the iconic designer. The quest to keep its accreditation status has some school board members concerned the degree program will end, while its foundation denied the school is in danger of closing.

The Scottsdale-based Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which operates the school, announced last week that it would not independently incorporate the school as a way to stay accredited. The Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission, which accredits degree-granting colleges and universities in 19 states, changed its bylaws two years ago to prohibit accreditation for schools that operate as divisions of a larger organization.

Without accreditation, the school would be unable to offer a Master of Architecture degree, which offers students the chance to learn from those who once worked with the legendary architect.

The foundation’s decision has shaken the school’s Board of Governors, who say the program may have to shut down when its accreditation expires in 2017.

“The school could continue but it would not train architects that could become licensed. I’m not sure what value it would bring to them or to the profession,” said Maura Grogan, board chairwoman.

Foundation President and CEO Sean Malone disagreed, saying the possibility of the school closing in the future was not “grounded in fact or reality.”

He said he understood the board’s desire to try separating the school from the foundation to meet the new accreditation criteria, but it wouldn’t have been feasible.

“It was determined that it just wasn’t appropriate to do that and simultaneously be committing long-term funding at well over $1 million a year,” Malone said of the foundation’s financial support.

Wright, who died in 1959, designed 1,141 architectural works. More than one-third of his buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places or are in a National Historic District. His Taliesin estate in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and one in Scottsdale, dubbed Taliesin West, became laboratories of sorts for student apprentices.

Approximately 20 students are enrolled at the Wright School, which was initiated in 1932. They divide their time between Scottsdale and Wisconsin. Besides education programs, the foundation also oversees preservation, restoration and tourism related to Wright-designed buildings.

Since 2012, Wright officials have considered other options to keep its accreditation, such as jointly partnering with another institution.

“It’s my understanding the foundation has looked into this in the past and has not found suitable partners,” Grogan said. “I’m unclear what has changed at this point.”

Malone said the school has already received “significant interest” from a number of institutions nationwide.

“I’ve heard suggestions that partnering with somebody else is in essence the definition of closing the school – which is completely inaccurate,” Malone said. “There are no plans, intentions or willingness whatsoever to close the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.”

Grogan said she is hopeful that the board and the foundation can come to a resolution. Now, the sides agree that the school provides a unique learning environment.

“To sit in a dining room and overhear conversations from four or five generations of people all debating, arguing, sharing and laughing – it’s a very, very special place,” Grogan said.

Artful Wright house right for art

People who appreciate inviting, glass-framed living rooms, subtle red concrete floors and custom fretwork see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House as a piece of art. Wright, however, envisioned the two-story residence as a place for art.

The Gordon House in Silverton, Oregon, the only Wright building in Oregon and the only one of his residences open to the public in the Pacific Northwest, has towering walls and plenty of clean-lined spaces that serve as perfect backgrounds for captivating contemporary art.

The concrete-and-wood house, designed by Wright in 1957 for Evelyn and Conrad Gordon, was built from 1963 to 1964 on the Gordons’ farm on the Willamette River near Wilsonville. In 2002, the dwelling was dismantled and moved next to the Oregon Garden.

Evelyn was a weaver and artist who saw her home as an accommodating sequence of galleries to display her paintings, prints and sculptures.

Original paintings, many by Northwest artists, hung on every wall, including in the kitchen where cinder blocks rose 15 feet to meet a skylight.

She had Native American weavings, a metal sculpture by James Shull and — sharing Wright’s passion for Japanese art — a Haku Maki woodblock print.

Roger Hull, curator emeritus of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, is helping the nonprofit Gordon House Conservancy reacquire Evelyn’s collection and return it to her beloved home.

One of her pieces, a Charles Heaney oil painting, prompts Hull to say that Wright and Heaney, who moved to Portland as a teenager, were both inspired by the American West and its spacious landscapes that allowed for an interplay of architecture and nature.

Until the collection is reassembled here, art appreciators can view changing exhibits. The upcoming “Wright Angles . . . Home is Where the Art is” features two dozen oil paintings, caricatures and cartoons by Larry Kassell of Silverton.

Like Heaney, Kassell is attracted to relics, from derelict homes and barns to rusty trucks and tractors.

Kassell’s original works will be exhibited through Sept. 1 at the Gordon House, 869 W. Main St., Silverton.

In another exhibit, Roycrofter artisan CJ Hurley of CJ Hurley Century Arts will present his collection of paintings paired with poetry in the Gordon House Living Room Gallery Sept. 6-28. There will also be a reception Sept. 13 for “Houses, Landscapes, Flowers & Dreams, The Poetic Art of CJ Hurley.”  

Year-round, art appreciators can sit the in the built-in library seating and take in Wright’s well-preserved creation, which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Wright was an artist before he was an architect, says Molly Murphy, the Gordon House executive director, “and colored pencils were his famously favorite medium.”

He produced a colored pencil rendering of buildings he designed, including the Gordon House, that represented his vision of the project after an introductory interview with the client.

The original renderings are protected at the Taliesin West archives and his original pencil set is part of the collection at his home and studio in Spring Green, Wisconsin. But the Gordon House sells a 9-inch-by-26-inch art print of the residence’s rendering onsite and on-line for $20.

Wright also enjoyed sketching the flora and landscapes of the natural world, adds Murphy. “He called these his Nature drawings. Some of his fans refer to them as the ‘weed sketches.’”

She continues: “His organic architecture concepts marry the building to the site as though they were always meant to be together. The Gordon House is a wonderful example of this at both its original and current location.”

Wright collected art, especially Japanese prints, which he sold off to support his lifestyle when money was scarce. To help tell this story, Murphy says the Gordon House displays traditional Hiroshige and contemporary Haku Maki artwork.

Through the AP members exchange.

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Frank Lloyd Wright tower in Racine opening for public tours

Frank Lloyd Wright fans will get their first look at one of his most unusual buildings, an industrial tower with a tree-like design, when a home products company opens its former research and development center to the public this spring.

The 15-story tower at SC Johnson’s headquarters in southeastern Wisconsin is regarded as one of the country’s most important examples of cantilevered architecture. The first floor looks like a tree trunk, with second and higher floors springing off the core like branches.

The design may have helped inspire SC Johnson scientists. Within eight years of its 1950 opening, they developed four of the company’s most successful products – Raid bug killer, Glade air freshener, Off insect repellant and Pledge furniture polish. “They really felt like they were in a creative environment,” said Gregory Anderegg, the company’s global community affairs director.

Wright described the 16-million-pound structure as having a “taproot” design, with a circular core supporting its entire weight.

The building is divided into seven levels, each with a square main floor and a round mezzanine above it. Scientists could shout to each other through the open space and send tools or supplies up or down with a dumbwaiter. The outer walls are made up of glass tubes that let in natural light while blocking out the industrial landscape that surrounded the building when it opened.

Sean Malone, CEO and president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, described the tower as an “iconic building” and one of the 20th century’s great works of architecture.

Scientists were still working in the tower when Anderegg started with SC Johnson in 1979. They moved out three years later when the company opened a new research and development center nearby. The facility then sat mostly empty until this year when SC Johnson finished a five-year, $30 million renovation of the research tower and adjacent administration center, also designed by Wright. Both buildings will be included on free tours beginning May 2.

H.F. Johnson Jr., the third generation of his family to lead the company, hired Wright to build the administration center in the 1930s. The architect’s career was in a lull following a scandalous love affair in which he left his wife for a family friend. The SC Johnson project and Fallingwater, the groundbreaking home built for a prominent Pittsburgh family about the same time, brought him back into the limelight, where he remained until his death, Malone said.

The administration center that opened in 1939 introduced open-floor-plan offices, with employees seated in a single great room. Pillars that are 21 feet tall (6.4 meters) support the roof. That allowed Wright to use glass tubing for exterior walls and bathe the room in natural light. He carried the idea over to the research tower and installed 60 miles (96 kilometers) of glass tubes between the two buildings.

The architect described the great room as a “corporate cathedral” and designed the research center as its bell tower, Anderegg said.

As in his other buildings, Wright also designed the furnishings, including three-legged chairs that had be to converted to four legs to stop workers from toppling over when they reached for something on their desks.

SC Johnson rescued equipment and supplies from storage to arrange the research tower as it was in its heyday. Visitors to the complex also can take in a new art exhibit focused on Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes in Spring Green, Wis., and Scottsdale, Ariz. The exhibit done in partnership with the Milwaukee Art Museum and Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation includes nearly a half-hour of the architect’s home movies.

The SC Johnson buildings help to create a Wright corridor that stretches from the Chicago area to southwestern Wisconsin, Malone said. Travelers can see Wright’s home and studio as well as the celebrated Unity Temple in Oak Park, Ill.; visit SC Johnson headquarters and Wingspread, the residence Wright designed for the Johnson family, in Racine, Wis.; and then head west to Taliesin in Spring Green, where the architect moved after leaving Chicago. Additional Wright buildings can be found along the way in Milwaukee and the Wisconsin capital of Madison.

On the Web…


In the market: For a Frank Lloyd Wright home…

Frank Lloyd Wright’s core belief, and that which inspired his designs, was that man and nature were one and should never be separated. He strove to create the perfect balance, knowing that man couldn’t survive without shelter, but could not thrive to his maximum without nature. Wright’s apprentices thoroughly understood this and knew he would want to personally design homes for clients who had land of remarkable beauty where exceptional natural elements were key.

If we think of Frank LLoyd Wright as just being a remarkable architect of his time, we’re completely missing out on understanding how strongly he influenced the modern homes we live in today. He was a pioneer and his clients were equally as fearless. Their stories are almost as interesting as those of their forward thinking architect. Today, his designs are just as appropriate as the day he first put pen to paper.

And since what goes around comes back again, those who went overboard in recent times believing bigger is better, are now thinking about downsizing from their high maintenance eight bedrooms, nine baths back to something functional – say, like two or three bedrooms and two or three baths or smaller. Home size is being actively rethought.

Today, when we talk about wanting an “open plan” in searching for a house, do you realize that it was Wright who conceived and designed it first?

Or today, when we get wistful over the thought of someday having radiant floor heat, did you realize he was using it in 1937 in his Usonian construction?

As you sit sipping your morning coffee enjoying the view of the garden through floor-to-ceiling glass, did you know that he’s considered the first to design a house bringing the outside inside?

Unlike houses of today, in his Usonian designs for the middle class, the rooms Wright designed were used daily and engineered to bring the family together. There was no family room, separate dining room, a living room or large bedrooms. The family gathered in the one living room around the focal point fireplace and talked together. He clearly never envisioned computers and the changes in family life that would evolve. It was Wright who first conceived the flat roof, open floor plan, the organic relationship between the structure and the landscape, and for those in warmer climates, the indoor-outdoor living space relationship. 

As Frank Lloyd Wright progressed through life, so too did his designs evolve, starting with Prairie style, to textile block, to organic and towards the end, the functional Utonian for the masses. One interest that was with him his entire life was community design, which would move people out of cities and into a self-sustaining countryside environment of mixed use.

He moved away from traditional European design and created truly American styles, such as his famous Prairie and Usonian. While now considered an architectural pioneer, his work wasn’t always well received during his lifetime.

Here are 10 of Wright’s properties arranged from some of the earliest to those designed near the end of his life, each of which is considered a work of art.

Many people have purchased and restored his homes all across the United States and these homes are often found on the National Register of Historic Places.

To own a Wright home is to own more than just a piece of history, it is buying the American Dream of moving from the conventional and finding a place of our own.

1. Emmond House 1892

Physical Address: 109 South 8th Street, La Grange, Ill.

Price: $1,275,000

BR: 5 BA: 1 SqFt: 2,638

URL (with http): http://historichomesrealty.com/

Listing Agent: Margaret McSheehy, Historic Homes Realty

Phone: 708-848-0190


Frank Lloyd Wright had interesting character traits aside from being a visionary designer. He was resourceful and was a risk taker. When he built his own house and studio in a Chicago neighborhood, he found it necessary to borrow money from his employer, architect Louis Sullivan. In order to pay it back promptly he had to come up with additional income. Of course selling his architectural services would make the most money, but there was the issue of that pesky little clause in his contract with Adler and Sullivan that said independent work outside the company was forbidden. But Wright decided to take the chance. He managed to build eight of these “bootleg houses” before being caught and fired. 

Except for this larger, more elegant Emmond house in La Grange, Illinois, the others were of modest size with the basic plans being the same. Only a change in details gave each its individuality.

The Emmond House was built in 1892 in La Grange, Ill., and has painstakingly been restored to its original design both inside and out. It was designed in an era when the Victorian gingerbread houses were all the rage. In his bootleg houses, he combined Colonial Revival, Queen Anne and Dutch Colonial, all pared down to simplicity without the curly ques and architectural adornment of the originals. One can see this in the octagonal turret and pointed, equilateral roof. These features would later evolve into his Prairie style. 

Over the years, brick veneer siding had been installed over the original wood clapboard and Wright’s porch addition with open arches had been enclosed along with other architectural changes. Fortunately, original photographs were obtained and paint analysis on wood siding that had been covered revealed the exact original paint color, which was replicated. The exterior restoration was completed in 2007 after six years of restoration. The current owners also worked from plans to restore the interior to its original design. The windows are lead art glass and furnishings are the Wright originals. In 2008 the owners were presented with the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Outstanding Restoration.

Frank Lloyd Wright is one more example of how being fired from a job can be a boost to one’s future rather than a hindrance.

2. Heller House 1897

Physical Address: 5132 South Woodlawn Ave., Chicago

Price: $2,500,000

BR: 7 BA: 4 SqFt: 6,100

URL (with http): http://urbansearchrealty.com/listing_detail/detail.htm?scope=ALL&id=50603928

Listing Agent: Diane Silverman, Urban Search Realty

Phone: 312.337.2400 cell- 312.541.5971


Designed in 1896, it was built during Wright’s shift into the more angular Prairie School architecture. The first of its kind in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, it was considered a “most outrageous house” in the beginning but was then copied many times thereafter. It is an interesting transitional mix which included both the more formal room designs of the day along with important touches of Wright’s angular roof lines and interesting stained glass window designs that closely replicated the building’s exterior details. A unique Wright addition to the design is the Richard Bock plaster frieze of maidens wrapping around the upper roof line. Unfortunately, during a sandblasting in 1971, much of the detail was lost.

Today it’s for sale, giving someone new the opportunity to care-take an important part of architectural history for future generations. Within its 6,100 square foot, 3-story interior there are 16 rooms with the possibility of the 3rd floor being used as a separate apartment. Overall there are 7 bedrooms and 4 full baths, solid oak floors, the notable vaulted ceilings and huge rooms. Happily there is an elevator that gives easy access to all three floors, and there are four wonderful Wright fireplaces with magnificent surrounds. The house sits on a 75’ by 164’ lot, with lawn, garden and 2-car garage and is only three blocks from President Obama’s Chicago home.

3. Coonley House North Wing 1909

Physical Address: 281 Bloomingbank, Riverside, Ill.

Price: $2,890,000

BR: 5 BA: 5 SqFt: 6,000

URL (with http): http://tours.vht.com/Viewer/PhotoGallery.aspx?ListingID=50084413&Style=BWI

Listing Agent: Marcee Gavula, Baird & Warner Real Estate

Phone: 708-790-1381

According to Wright in his autobiography, he considered the Coonley house to be his best work of the early 1900s. 

Under construction from 1908 through 1912, the home in the Riverside neighborhood of Chicago was designed for Avery Coonley, heir to his grandfather’s farm machinery fortune. With an unlimited budget, Wright had the freedom to design without financial restraints. He engaged the well known landscape architect, Jens Jensen to design the grounds. These plans were also used in the home’s total restoration in 2000. It’s such a large property with buildings spread out over more than an acre that in 1950 it was divided into two properties with two addresses where the servants’ wing was separated from the main house. The current owners did a painstaking restoration to bring this historical property back to its original grandeur from their extensive research in colors and textures, even restoring the floor tiles by hand and by the inch. The living room mural was re-created by artists working from one remaining small piece. Rooms are large and flowing, the Wright signature ceilings are patterned with wood and the two-story home is done in stucco and tile in the Prairie style with wide roof overhangs. In addition to being on the National Historic Register, the current owners also received the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Landmarks Illinois Preservation Award for Restoration in 2007.

The focal point of the grounds is the large reflecting pool with its rainbow of water lilies

surrounded by terraces. The children’s playhouse building is on the opposite side of the reflecting pool, which Wright also designed. Coonley, distraught over her child being rejected from kindergarten due to her young age, had the playhouse designed as a school room for the education of their only child. From this need, Coonley started a school there for gifted children which grew until it had to be relocated. The Avery Coonley School still functions as a school today in Downers Grove, Ill.

Qualified buyers may also inquire about rental of the property for $6,500/month.

4. Millard House 1923

Physical Address: 645 Prospect, Pasadena, Calif.

Price: $4,495,000

BR: 4 BA: 4 SqFt: 4,230

URL (with http): www.millardhouse.com

Listing Agent: Crosby Doe of Crosby Doe Associates

Phone: 310-275-2222, ext. 579


Frank Lloyd Wright and Alice Millard had that rare type of relationship where each strongly inspired the other, even though their backgrounds were so different. Alice and her husband were rare booksellers while Wright was a visionary artist. When Wright wanted to use his textile block concept for this residence, Alice agreed, but only if he incorporated her large ornate firescreen, large rustic wooden doors and her 18th century Delft tiles into the design. Wright was enchanted by her inclusions; so much so that he showed his appreciation by lowering his price. This wasn’t the first house he designed for the Millards. In 1906 he had designed another home for them in Chicago. Their 1913 move to Pasadena prompted their request for the design of “La Miniatura.”

In the early 1920s, Wright began to think about a simpler home design that a person could construct on their own. The Millard House was Wright’s first Usonian residence, but even after future years of concept refinement, the style never was perfected to the point where the average middle class homeowner could construct one alone. This house, with its massive poured concrete and block walls could never have been managed by the average homeowner. It’s interesting that he did use sand from the site in the concrete mix, making it a part of the land on which it sits. Wright’s vision for this home, as with his others, was to have it focus on the land formation of its building site. Usually he laid his homes horizontally, but with La Miniatura, he designed vertically to take full advantage of the low ravine views that led down to a seasonal creek. Lloyd, Wright’s son, also took a big part in the design by later designing the guest house to mesh seamlessly with his father’s main house, and also did the landscape design for the entire property. One notable landscape feature was the courtyard pond, which image reflected the ravine and creek with the continuation of natural vegetation and large shade trees.

The interior of the main house has a play of changing light filtering in through the open, patterned block walls and expanses of glass and doors opening out to the tranquil views. The vertical ceiling beams appear to have almost a carved beaded look, which coordinates nicely with Alice’s heavily carved doors. High ceilings, glass doors and signature built-ins accentuate the rooms. The main house has a dining room, den, loft, art studio, basement, guest-maids quarters, two kitchens and large living room. The guest house is also open and airy with both opening out to the courtyard garden and pond.

5. Pottery House Designed 1942, Built 1984

Physical Address: 1430 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, N.M.

Price: $4,750,000

BR: 5 BA: 4 SqFt: 5,000

URL (with http): http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/1430-Hyde-Park-Rd_Santa-Fe_NM_87501_M20835-71176?source=web

Listing Agent: David Fries, Sante Fe Properties www.SantaFeRealProperty.com


This exciting spheroid design was the only adobe house Frank Lloyd Wright ever designed, and after seeing it, we wish he had designed more. He started the design for newspaperman Lloyd Burlingham in 1942, but was not able to finish the project before he died in 1959. Developer Charles Klotsche saw the unfinished plans at Wright’s Taliesin Architects and had them update the design and increase the original 2,400 square foot plan to 4,900 square feet. He commissioned former Wright apprentice, Charles Montooth, to finalize the plans, keeping many of Wright’s original details, and to oversee construction. Added was a swimming pool and an underground 2-car garage. Wright would likely have found the innovation of underground parking a plus with cars today costing more than his original house plans. 

The home is located on nine acres on a rise in the land – though Wright would have said it rose “with” the land – with views of the Santa Fe Desert in every direction, its walls blending into the landscape. The spheroid shape was inspired by Native American pottery. Walls curve to envelope a central walled courtyard. The pool is located at the east wing with an arched bridge over it, but an unusual mark of current design places a spa facility under it. The spa is complete with large hot tub, sauna-steam, and houses a private library. 

The interior has hardwood ceilings and barrel-shaped fireplaces, as well as a huge great room, a sitting room and kitchen. A strong organic feeling pervades the property, emphasizing man’s connection with nature. Based on Wright’s philosophy on man and nature, we feel sure that he would be thrilled at the outcome of the Pottery House.

6. Arizona Wright House Saved 1950-1952

Physical Address: 5212 E. Exeter Blvd., Phoenix

Price: NA

BR: 4 BA: 4 SqFt: 2,553

URL (with http): http://savethewrighthouse.org/

Listing Agent: Bart Morenegg, Prudential Arizona Properties

Phone: 602-361-6164 http://activerain.com/bartmorgenegg


It was touch and go for a while! What happens when an historical masterpiece by America’s most famous architect might be on the verge of destruction? That was the battle in Arizona last year when a Nevada developer bought a Frank Lloyd Wright home that was one of only two he built for family members, and is said to be the forerunner for his

Guggenheim Museum spiral design. It’s a one-of-a-kind Wright designed-and-built residence on 2.2 acres.

Wright designed and built this home for his fourth son by his first wife. David and Gladys Wright lived in it during their lifetime and it stayed in the family until four years ago when Wright’s three great granddaughters sold it to a family for $2.8 million because they could no longer afford the upkeep. They thought the family would live in it and care for it, however, the new family sold it to a Nevada developer that intended to tear it down to build new homes. The home was within days of destruction when the city of Phoenix granted a demolition permit to the developer. However when word of the home’s impending demise got out, it spawned a public petition to save the home and extensive publicity throughout the United States including the New York Times and NPR.

Made of concrete and over 2,500 square feet with stunning curvilinear detail on 2.2 beautifully landscaped acres, the house sits almost at the foot of Camelback Mountain. Located in the Arcadia section of Phoenix, the house has 4 bedrooms, 4 baths, custom cabinetry, exquisite Philippine mahogany woodwork including an eye-catching ceiling design. The great room contains the signature large Wright fireplace. The pool is private inside a courtyard and follows the curve of the access ramp to the upper level

which leads to the master suite and rooftop terrace. It is considered by architectural historians to be in the top 20 of Wright’s designs.

After several months of efforts to find a buyer for the home and at least one sale that was heralded as the home’s savior, but then fell through, an anonymous Frank Lloyd Wright fan bought the home in December for $2.38 million and plans to spend an additional $2 million to $2.5 million to restore it.

Photo credit: Scott Jarson

7. The Berger Residence 1952

Physical Address: 259 Redwood Road, San Anselmo, Calif.

Price: $1,999,000

BR: 3 BA: 3 SqFt: 1,760

URL (with http): http://www.fhallen.com/21218849__259-Redwood-Rd-21218849.html

Listing Agent: Doug Del Fava, Frank Howard Allen – Kenwood

Phone: 707.833.2884


Sometimes an architect is more of an artist and doesn’t relate so well to the reality of a home’s transition from paper to bricks and mortar. Just ask Robert Berger who built this Wright design rock by rock. Such seemed to be the case in his desert rubble designs in the Usonian scheme. At first glance, can you imagine splitting and lifting each of those large rocks up into the rebar? This wasn’t just a difficult task, it was monumental. Though these plans were designed to be owner built, factors such as this were overlooked by Wright. It also resulted in most owners contracting out the work except for one enthusiastic, hearty soul in the form of Robert Berger. Robert, an engineer and college professor, knew that when he was ready to build a house it could be designed by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright, whose style he had admired for so long. So in the early 1950s he commissioned Wright to design a desert rubble home around photographs and topographical drawings of the hillside promontory he had chosen in Marin County, California. He, like many others, arranged for the plans to be designed through the mail, sight unseen.

Due to the Korean War, Robert had to put the house on hold until he returned from his tour of duty. It took him five years to build enough of the home so that they could move in and the remainder was completed over time. As a trained engineer seeking perfection, the house was built carefully and every detail attended to with pride. Robert even built the Wright-designed furniture for the house. In later years, Robert talked about the effort involved and that Wright had apparently overlooked the fact that the design was almost impossible for an owner to build by himself. In time, Wright did try to redesign his Usonian to be more builder-friendly. Between Wright, Robert Berger and Aaron Green, Wright’s associate, this timeless structure will be a rare functioning work of art for many generations to come.

The Berger residence in San Anselmo, California is a 1,760 square foot 2 bedroom, 2 bath Usonian on .9 acres. The contemporary design is timeless and the natural building materials blend in attractively with its natural surroundings with panoramic views over the valley.

8. Andrew & Maude Cooke House 1952

Price: $3,750,000

BR: 4 BA: 3 SqFt: 3,000

City & State: Virginia Beach, Va.

URL (with http): http://flwrightbeachhouse.com/

Listing Agent: Jane and Daniel Duhl, Owners

Phone: 757-491-2083


Underlining the fact that owners of Frank Lloyd Wright homes are as special as their illustrious architect, Andrew and Maude Jones not only wanted a house but understood from the beginning how living in a sculptural work of art would bring quality to their day-to-day lives. They refused to settle for the accepted norm. They knew that the only architect who could fulfill their dream was Wright, and Maude started writing to him in 1951 in the hope he would agree to design their dream home. It was a long process with stops and starts and redesigns, but they finally received the completed plans in 1957. The couple didn’t start building until 1959, just two weeks before Wright’s death. It was finally completed in 1960. Though the plans called for a swimming pool, the Cookes felt a pool would be a safety hazard for their young children and left it out of the construction. Prior to commissioning the plans, the Cookes had first purchased an acre of land in north Virginia Beach away from the major tourist area. The lot was on Crystal Lake and in walking distance of the long wide beach of the residential area. It was one of those sites abounding in natural beauty that inspired Wright to design a home that would take full-view advantage of the woodland and dunes along the water. 

Wright’s Usonian design incorporated his passive solar hemicycle aesthetic of a sweeping half circular design leading the eye to dunes and the lake. The street side elevation was enclosed to separate the family from prying eyes and street noise. The drive leading to the house is further sound deadened and made private by stands of loblolly pines and underplantings of large azaleas, camellias, dogwoods, magnolias and cherry trees. Diverted by the conservative entrance, first time guests would never expect to walk in and see the lake through the long curve of solid glass. Wright liked to create drama.

After twenty-three years in the home, in 1983 Maude decided it was time to sell. Daniel and Jane Duhl were the buyers. Daniel, a textile engineer and a legend in the textile industry, first gained fame in the 1960s by developing a casement drapery fabric that didn’t droop and went on to develop a non drooping fabric slat for shades. As an engineer, he had deep appreciation of Wright’s work and he and his wife set about a total restoration of the property, for which an award for preservation from the American Institute of Architects of Hampton Roads was bestowed. During the restoration, the Duhls added air conditioning to preserve the house from humidity when closed, and a 14-foot swim-spa was installed in a stepped down terrace. To hide the pool’s mechanical equipment, they built a large underground bunker into a dune which housed the equipment as well as a sauna and gym. The also added two docks on the lake; one a floating dock for small boats and a large dock that can accommodate two large yachts. In addition to these amenities, the house also has a double carport and a servant’s suite.

9. Tracy Residence 1955

Physical Address: 18971 Edgecliff Drive SW, Normandy Park, Wash.

Price: $935,000

BR: 3 BA: 1 SqFt: 1,120

URL (with http): http://www.windermere.com/listing/WA/Normandy-Park/18971-Edgecliff-Dr-Sw-98166/11224509

Listing Agent: Dustin Keeth


Phone: (206) 244-5900

When Bill and Elizabeth Tracy moved to Seattle to establish their home in the early 1950s, they first found a forested lot on a high bank over Puget Sound with breathtaking views over the water to the snow-capped Olympic Mountains. Bill had previously studied architecture, but became an engineer and Elizabeth had studied art with the owners of Wright’s Goetsch-Winckler House and had visited the home on occasion. When it was time to devise plans for their Seattle lot, they turned to a former Wright apprentice, Milton Stricker. However, when Stricker saw the lot, he said it was so magnificent that it deserved to be designed by Wright himself. He therefore wrote an introduction to Wright and the rest is history. 

The house is considered a Usonian Automatic, where a custom block system was utilized. The Tracys decided to cast the blocks themselves in order to save money, and after work each day, came home to cast two sets of blocks. On weekends, they would take off and explore the Seattle area. They continued this routine until they had cast 1,700 blocks. At this point, they hired contractor Ray Brandes, who had recently completed his own Wright home. After they moved in, they made a commitment to maintain the house perfectly over the years. Today the house has been so well maintained that the home and its location have been much published and loved by Wright aficionados. The buyer of this home will receive copies of all correspondence between the Tracys and Wright as well as photos of the construction process and a DVD of the Tracys discussing details about the building.

10. Duncan House (1957)

Physical Address: 1 Usonian Drive, Acme, Pa.

Price: $299 per night

BR: 3 BA: 2 SqFt: 

URL (with http): http://www.polymathpark.com/

Listing Agent: contact Tom Papinchak

Phone: 877-833-7829


In the 1950s, Frank Lloyd Wright was refining his Usonian concept of affordable good design for the average man. During this time he had a series of eleven prefab houses constructed by a Wisconsin builder, Marshall Erdman. These homes were constructed on lots of the buyers. The prefab package contained all the major structural components, interior and exterior walls, floors, windows and doors, as well as cabinets and woodwork. The buyer had to provide the foundation, the plumbing fixtures, heating units, electric wiring, and drywall, plus the paint. Before the buyer could purchase the house, he or she had to submit a topographic map and photos of the lot to Wright in order for him to optimally position the house. If Wright agreed that the finished product had been completed as planned, he would allow his red glazed signature tile to be installed on an exterior wall. With the exception of one on Lighthouse Hill in Staten Island, New York, all of the houses in this series of prefabs has either been moved, as in the case of the Duncan House, or has been lost to neglect.

In December of 1956 the artistically inclined wife of electrical engineer, Donald Duncan, happened to be looking through an issue of House and Home magazine. She saw the article about the prefab Usonian project, which prompted the Duncans to build one in their home town of Lisle, IL. Years later after Duncan died at age 95 in 2002, the house became run down. It was dismantled in 2004 and moved to Polymath Park in Pennsylvania. It took a year to restore it inch by inch to its original glory.

Polymath Park is a 125-acre tract of woodland owned by Tom Papinchak. It is a non-profit organization run by the Usonian Preservation Corporation. It is comprised of three homes, the Duncan House by Wright and two others by one of the original Wright apprentices, Peter Berndtson. The park rents out each of the homes for a minimum of a two-night stay for those desiring to experience Wright up close and leisurely immerse themselves in architectural history. Proceeds from the rentals go to the upkeep of the houses and educational programs on architecture. 

Those who have stayed there were notably impressed by the way they can stand in any interior location and the space and oblique angles are in perfect combination and repetition to create a balanced whole. Polymath Park is only 15 miles from Wright’s masterful design, Fallingwater and his mountain house, Kentuck Knob.