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03.19.2014
Wright Goes to Bentonville
Crystal Bridges Museum acquires a Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian House from New Jersey.
The building will be the first Wright Usonian House in the Ozarks.
Courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum

The Bachman Wilson House has sat beside the Millstone River in the Borough of Millstone, Somerset County, New Jersey, since it was constructed in 1954. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it is a prime example of the great architect’s Usonian style of residence. As sedate and idyllic as Somerset County may be, the natural environs have wreaked havoc on the house. The river has risen up several times over the years to flood the fine little pavilion, spurring the owners—architect/designer team Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino—to strike out on a multi-year quest to find a purchaser capable of relocating the historic building to an appropriate context where it might be preserved. That search ended with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which has acquired the house and is preparing to move it to its 120-acre grounds in Bentonville, Arkansas.

“We’re honored to be able to preserve and share this significant example of American architecture, as Frank Lloyd Wright’s work embodies our own mission of celebrating art and nature,” said Crystal Bridges director Rod Bigelow in a statement. “The Usonian concept was intended to provide access to architectural quality for all families, which melds well with our philosophy of welcoming all to view American masterworks in our natural setting.”

 

In its new setting, the house will be sited a short distance from Crystal Bridges’ main building, along 3.5 miles of trails with views overlooking the native woodland setting as well as Crystal Spring, the natural spring from which the museum takes its name. The house will be available for study and some limited programming. Crystal Bridges has an ongoing partnership with the University of Arkansas and anticipates that its new acquisition will lead to the development of additional educational programs specifically related to the university’s Fay Jones School of Architecture.

Architect Fay Jones, an Arkansas native, met Frank Lloyd Wright in 1949. Jones later became an apprentice at Taliesin East and a member of the Taliesin Fellowship.

“There’s no substitute for direct experience of something. This house will be a resource for the school in terms of presenting first hand the principals that Wright built by,” said Marlon Blackwell, department head and a professor at the Fay Jones School of Architecture. “It will give them an opportunity to see the work of a master and will influence them, not so much in style, as in principal. That’s the key. How do the principals that Wright aspired to translate to the 21st century? Those can be discussed, observed, analyzed, and speculated about.”

Site preparation will begin this spring, with reconstruction to follow toward a goal of completion in early 2015.

Aaron Seward