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Obituary: Long-time owner of Elam House - Austin, MN

Posted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 9:38 am
by DavidC

Posted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 12:27 pm
by Roderick Grant
Mr. Plunkett had quite a resume. The article indicates that he was still a resident of Elam at the time of his death. Or did he just own the house, which is on the FLWBC list of overnight rentals? Seems odd that a man of his obvious wealth would amble, bathrobed, into his kitchen of a morning to find strangers buttering their breakfast toast.

Posted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 1:28 pm
by dkottum
The Elam house rental does not include the entire house or its living room, only the former playroom wing of the house. The Elam rental website describes the rental:

"The Plunkett family resides in the main part of The Elam House. The guest rental area includes a large living room, kitchenette, bedroom with a private bath and walk in closet; and a portion of the hallway. A pocket door in the hallway separates the guest rental area from the Plunkett residence."

Posted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 1:38 pm
by Roderick Grant
I suppose it may have been, in part, a way to allow the aging, widowed owner to stay in his house safely. At 98, it is unwise to live alone.

Posted: Wed Jan 09, 2019 5:23 pm
by Patryko
Warren Francis Plunkett's son, Peter, who is a lawyer with the family law firm operates the house rentals. He lives on the family side of the house and there was space for his father. The rental comes with a tour of the whole structure, which we received when we stayed there. May Mr. Plunkett rest in peace.

Posted: Sat Jan 19, 2019 3:37 pm
by Paul Ringstrom
When I first happened upon the Elam House (1951) I was amazed as it didn't fit into my vision of what a Wright Usonian was supposed to look like. It did not fit the low-to-the-ground horizontal structures that I had visited many times in many different places.

Might this be a house that John Howe had a lot of input?

Posted: Sat Jan 19, 2019 5:39 pm
by SDR
Photos like the one below give the impression of a butterfly roof. In fact, this is one of Wright's flat roof / shed roof designs, like the Seth Peterson cottage or the Shavin residence, and several others -- but on a
much larger scale. The elevation drawings, further down the page, make this clear.



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© 2009 by TASCHEN GmbH and by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation; photos by Juergen Nogai, 2008, from Frank Lloyd Wright 1943 - 1959 ("Taschen III"), pp 231-32



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Plan, photos, text above © 1993 by William Allin Storrer




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Drawings and text © 1988 A.D.A EDITA Tokyo Co., Ltd. and by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Posted: Sun Jan 20, 2019 4:07 pm
by Rood
Paul Ringstrom wrote:When I first happened upon the Elam House (1951) I was amazed as it didn't fit into my vision of what a Wright Usonian was supposed to look like. It did not fit the low-to-the-ground horizontal structures that I had visited many times in many different places.

Might this be a house that John Howe had a lot of input?
Perhaps.

On the other hand ... and though it might be somewhat sacrilegious for me to say so, the 1950 Elam House design has always evoked in my mind a certain affinity for the design of the Unitarian Church in Madison ... from the previous year ... 1949. Indeed, the Church design does have a certain domestic quality of its own

Posted: Sun Jan 20, 2019 4:45 pm
by jay
One thing that I find somewhat un-Wright like in the Elam house, is how the tallest point in the main room is "trapped space" by way of the vertical stone column. (picture #2 in from SDR above) In most other Wright structures from this period, the tallest point of the projection always has the "release", usually with a corner window (or skylight), as seen in the guest room portion of the Elam house... I recall reading in Donald Hoppen's book that Wright disliked "trapped space" where the wall met the ceiling. But maybe in this case it would've been overwhelming to open up that corner?

Posted: Sun Jan 20, 2019 4:54 pm
by SDR
In all of these houses with "tipped-up" roofs, the pitch seems just a bit too extreme -- sort of JetsonsModern, if you will -- in photos at least.
Wright gently spoofing MCM, while participating wholly in the sport ? A sublimated response to those upstart kids trying to horn in on his long game ?

S

Posted: Sun Jan 20, 2019 6:39 pm
by jay
I mostly agree. However, Teater's Knoll would be one exception, which is pure beauty in my opinion. Also think Dobkins is wonderful.

Posted: Sun Jan 20, 2019 6:45 pm
by SDR
I first thought of Dobkins as my "normal-sized" example, until I remembered that the remainder of the roof there is not flat, but a low hip. And maybe most of these houses (other than the baby) do as well -- including Elam.

Teater is surely in a category of its own, with its prow-shaped plan and its fenestration "descending from the roof" rather than rising from the sill ?

A unique opus, bless its pointy little heart !

https://nthp-savingplaces.s3.amazonaws. ... merman.jpg

http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/ ... ow1_0.jpeg

Posted: Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:35 am
by Roderick Grant
Stromquist got the same treatment as Teater. The relationship would have been more obvious if Stromquist had been built of stone, as originally intended, rather than concrete block.

Posted: Thu Jan 24, 2019 7:47 pm
by SDR
Blair, Alpaugh, Shavin, Eppstein, and Harper could be added to my list; Harper (at least) has flat and low-pitched roofs as well, like Dobkins . . .

S

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2019 11:49 am
by Roderick Grant
But only Teater and Stromquist have that unique fenestration, along with the shed roofs.

I have never been in either (though apparently I have a standing invitation to visit Teater). The photos give the impression that the floors of these two houses dip toward the window walls because of the way the transoms are designed. We are so accustomed to transoms being parallel to the floor, that it is disconcerting to see them at an angle.

By the way, Henry Whiting, II has written two excellent books about Teater. They may be hard to find these days, but worth the effort and cost.

Update: "At Nature's Edge" is on Amazon for $24.95. Amazon also has 2 copies of "Teater's Knoll" at the hefty prices of $864.56 and $977.00, which seems a bit much.