Despite the best efforts of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy (FLWBC), the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Lockridge Medical Clinic building in Whitefish, Montana, was demolished late last night. The building, designed in 1958 and only realized in 1959 after Wright’s death, was unmistakably Usonian. The single-story, horizontally-oriented clinic building featured a generous overhang with a sculpted edge, interior and exterior brick, and a central hearth. The FLWBC notes that this is the first viable, or mostly un-altered, Wright building to be torn down in 40 years, and that it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While the site had originally been purchased by developer Mick Ruis in 2016 and listed for sale last year, public interest in preserving the clinic grew once Ruis announced that if the building wasn’t sold by January 10th, it would be razed. The Montana Preservation Alliance and the FLWBC had been working together for over a year to raise the $1.7 million that Ruis was requesting, and allege that the demolition had moved forward despite putting in a realistic offer. The FLWBC claims that the offer submitted through 341 Central LLC, which was formed to purchase the building, was rebuked, as were their conditions to examine, or salvage, the remaining architectural elements. Ruis’ legal counsel, Ryan Purdy, told The Daily Beast that Ruis had already delayed the demolition timeline to give preservation groups more time to scrape together an offer. “The building has been for sale for over a year,” said Purdy. “It’s a little bit frustrating that there are all these people are rushing to get things done when we’ve had it posted for sale and we’ve been talking with interested parties for over a year.” Real estate prices in Whitefish have increased dramatically in recent years, and the town has been developing at a rapid pace to increase its density. A three-story, mixed-use building will be replacing the Lockridge Clinic, which in recent years had served as a clinic, bank, and finally, a lawyer’s office. With the Lockridge Clinic gone, the only remaining Wright buildings in Montana are the Writer’s Cabin and Farmhouse on the Alpine Meadows Ranch near the town of Darby. Both buildings, now used as luxury vacation rental homes, were designed in 1905 and come from the very beginning of Wright’s career. A video of the demolition can be viewed here.
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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman Wilson House, built in 1956 in Millstone, New Jersey, opened to the public on November 11th in Bentonville, Arkansas. The house was disassembled on the original site and transported to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, for preservation and public display. In 2013, when museum leaders visited the house, recent homeowners, Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino, proposed relocation. The Tarantinos’ land had been prone to flooding and therefore required numerous restorations to the home. To preserve the house properly, they knew relocation was necessary. The museum agreed, the structure was disassembled, and every component labeled. Two trucks transported the parts 1,235 miles to the Arkansas. The house is now situated near the museum’s south entrance, overlooking the woodlands and Crystal Spring. The reconstruction team also consisted of Scott Eccleston (Crystal Bridges’ Director of Operations), Ron Shelby (lead architect with Hight Jackson Associates), and Bill Faber (chief contractor with Bill Faber Construction). The team strove to reconstruct the house as close to the original as possible, reusing most of the mahogany, and recreating the concrete block walls and floors to Wright’s specifications. To further preserve the original structure, efficiencies were added to the re-construction. For example, a climate control system was installed to protect the mahogany, without having to change the interior floor design. Wright’s Bachman Wilson House is named after the original owners Abe and Gloria Wilson and Gloria’s brother Marvin Bachman, an apprentice to Wright. The house is an example of Wright’s middle-income family residences, in his “Usonian” period. Wright's Usonian Houses were normally small, single story, and consisted of native materials, flat roofs, and cantilevered overhangs–visually uniting the interior and exterior spaces. Tickets became available to the public on November 2nd, and, as of November 11th, the house became available to the public during Museum hours, for no cost. Because of the house’s limited space, tickets must be reserved in advance. Visitors have two options: General Admission, which is a self-guided tour, available each day except Tuesday, or Guided Tours, which are one-hour in length, offered any day except Tuesday or Friday. Regardless, anyone, with or without tickets can wander the surrounding grounds or hike the Crystal Springs and Tulip Tree Trails, which offer views of the house. Now that the Tarantino family, museum, and reconstruction team have successfully given Wright’s home a safe environment for preservation, generations to come can experience Wright's magnificent piece of work. For further information, or to reserve tickets, visit the Crystal Bridges' website.
Decades before the Americans With Disabilities Act, Frank Lloyd Wright designed an accessible home for a World War II veteran. Now Wright’s only home designed for a person with a disability will open to the public. Wright’s Kenneth & Phyllis Laurent House in Rockford, Illinois opens for tours on June 6, two days before what would have been its architect’s 147th birthday. When Phyllis Laurent in 1948 urged her husband, who used a wheelchair, to contact Wright about designing a home for him, the architect reportedly responded, “Dear Laurent: We are interested but don’t guarantee costs. Who knows what they are today - ?” The brick and cypress structure’s design is a celebrated example of Wright’s “Usonian” single-story homes. It features an overhang sheltering a carport and a “solar hemicycle” shape typical of the style. The State of Illinois bought the house in 2012 and added it to the National Register of Historic Places. Wright himself referred to it as a “little gem.” Several other Wright buildings have opened to the public lately, including the Emil Bach House in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood, the SC Johnson Research Tower in Racine, Wisconsin, and the architect's home studio in Oak Park, Illinois.