List of Wright’s 60 Usonian Houses Altered

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RJH
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List of Wright’s 60 Usonian Houses Altered

Post by RJH »

Out of Wright’s supposedly 60 Usonian houses it is interesting to conduct a list of how many had their original “footprints� altered by additions. These are the ones I know about. Please feel free to add to the list:

1. Glore House – former owner Richard Katz hired Paul Harding to design a TV room addition. Owner told me personally he only did it because the house was not selling.

2. John O. Carr House – Addition added with basement. Architect won an award for the design. Storrer gives addition a negative comment in his book. In FLW: The Houses, photos basically only show the addition and not the rest of the house leading readers to think it is Wright’s design.

3. Harper House – Addition by Moontoth adding more bedrooms, family room, swimming pool and garage doubling the size of the house.

4. Shultz – massive MBR addition put on commissioned by Mr.
Shultz and designed by TAA.

5. Armstrong House – Addition by Jack Howe

6. Laurent House – Addition by Jack Howe.

7. Rayward House – Addition by TAA.

8. Hoffman – Addition by TAA.

9. Eppstein House – Addition by unknown.

10. Schaberg House – Addition by Jack Howe.

11. Keys House – Addition(s).

12. Thaxson House – Addition.

13. E. Clarke Arnold House– Addition by Jack Howe.

So, 13 out of 60 = 22% have been altered.

Ed Jarolin
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Post by Ed Jarolin »

Interesting question. I'll throw in a few.

Manson -- if infilling the carport qualifies

M.M. Smith -- addition to the bedroom wing by TAA

Alpaugh -- addition by Glen Arai Assoc.

Weisblat -- addition by TAA

Levin -- addition by TAA

Walker -- addition

Edwards -- addition by TAA

Adelman (Phoenix) -- additions

Blair -- addition/modifications by Bruce Goff

Teater -- addition/modifications

Price Jr. -- addition by TAA

Bachman-Wilson -- addition

Arnold -- addition by John Howe

Sunday -- addition by John Howe


Changes from the original designs executed at the time of original construction such as occured at Trier, Ablin and other very late houses probably are best put in another category.

Guess that jumps up the percentages quite a bit.

In my opinion the additions executed for the original owners to accomodate their expanding families are certainly justifiable, but still unfortunate from an architectural purists point of view. The additions by subsequent owners are less justifiable. As noted by others, if the house doesn't meet your needs don't buy it in the first place. That said, there are some additions that 'work' and some that don't. One of the worst, imo, is that to Thaxton, one of my favorite compact plans. One of the best, though in contradiction to my general theory, is Teater. Imo, actually an improvement that 'corrects' some shortcomings in the original design. Some will call this last sacrilege, but that's how I see it.

jlesshafft
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Post by jlesshafft »

Let's add a couple of more...

Rosenbaum - addition by FLW

Haynes - interior remodeling, removal of interior walls

ozwrightfan
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Post by ozwrightfan »

As regrettable as that may be, it could have been more. As much as we all may like to see these houses remain intact they are peoples homes, not museum displays. I believe however that additions should be sympathetic to the original and executed by an architect that has knowledge and experience in this field. Lets face it FLW had no hesitation in altering his own buildings to accommodate his clients growing family needs etc. From what I have read he believed that buildings didn't remain static , they changed as the need arose. Taliesin a case in point.

Reidy
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Post by Reidy »

Wright also added a room to Bazett in the 1950s for the Franks. He planned Hanna so that the owners could take out interior walls (i.e. bedrooms) as the children left home, and they took advantage of this. That didn't, strictly speaking, change the footprint of the building.

RJH
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Post by RJH »

Thanks everyone for the information. As it stands now that makes 27/60 or a whopping 45% have had their footprints altered (authentic FLW additions don’t qualify). This was way more then I could have ever imagined.

I saw Thaxson published in a 1950’s edition of House + Home Magazine. It was a gem of a design. The addition is atrocious and how the owner who commissioned it calls it sympathetic is beyond me.

What bothers me the most is when people say “the house can be put back the way it originally was.� As a FLW owner and someone who has first hand knowledge of restoring a Wright Usonian I totally disagree with this.

Without mentioning which Wright house, let’s take a FLW Usonian house that I know about and call it house X. For augments sake let’s say a selling price right now for house X, which includes the addition, which might have doubled the house size, is $750,000 and property taxes of $12k/yr. Let’s say a FLW enthusiast buys the house and wants to put the house back to Mr. Wright’s original small design. He has to pay to demolish the addition and pay again to put the house back to original (assuming it can even be done due to code). He ends up with a house half its original size and therefore a property worth significantly less….perhaps now only $500,000 or even worse $400,000. What would his mortgage company think? Resale value? Economically, owners just don’t do this because taking off additions lowers the value of the property. Furthermore, they also are receiving a $12k property tax bill due to the high purchase price and larger house.

One final thought. Wescott at once also had a non-Wright sympathetic addition on it. It was immediately removed upon restoration.

Ed Jarolin
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Post by Ed Jarolin »

RJH -- Your point is well made. Much better if the changes, additions, etc. never are done in the first place. It takes an individual or group with very deep pockets to undo the damage. The Joel Silver type of savior doesn't come along very often.

Of course, an inordinate interest in Wright by some high rollers might be a two edged sword along the lines of Thomas Monahan's interest a few decades ago. Rampant price inflation of collectables, striping and auctioning of furniture, etc.

I have this nagging fear that Brad Pitt will decide to buy and restore every Wright house out there and limit or eliminate our access. Thus my already slim chances of ever owning one would totally disappear. Would this be a good or bad thing? The Brad scenario, not my buying one. Thoughts.

RJH
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Post by RJH »

Ed,

You raised some good points. I sense Brad Pitt might not be a collector like Monahan but more of a homeowner like Joel Silver. I don’t think this would drive up Wright furniture prices. At least I don’t think we’ve seen this in the market.

I can easily see Brad Pitt buying Max Hoffman just 30 miles outside NYC. Or, one of the block California houses. Perhaps, even commissioning a grand Legacy Program house such as G.M. Loeb.

I am still waiting for Brad Pitt and Angelina to reserve Haynes!

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Howe added a wing onto Palmer that was very sensitively done, not unlike his work at Weisblat, but his addision to Levin was poor. I believe the enlargement of the Walker bedroom was done at the time of construction, though I may be wrong. But I'm sure Aaron Green did it, and worked it in nicely.

Paul Ringstrom
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Post by Paul Ringstrom »

This whole discussion reinforces the need to encourage the current owners of any UNALTERED Wright home, who want to preserve the building beyond their ownership, to contact the FLWBC and put a four-sided facade easement on their property. If the owner really believes in the preservation of Wright's buildings, and not his pocketbook, he will do this. We can assume that the ones that haven't done this, and are aware of this program, are all talk.

Ed Jarolin
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Palmer House

Post by Ed Jarolin »

The wonderful "Frank Lloyd Wright's Palmer House", published this year, presents plan and photos of the Howe designed teahouse 'addition'. Fortunately, it is a distinctly separate building and is located out of sight of the house. It is a very nice bit of miniature organic architecture itself, but it is fitting that each structure may be appreciated independent of the other.

Quoting from the text refering to the house itself: "It was designed to endure, and it was built with care and skill... it has been maintained with discerning dedication, for half a century, by its original owners."

pharding
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Post by pharding »

RJH wrote:Without mentioning which Wright house, let’s take a FLW Usonian house that I know about and call it house X. For augments sake let’s say a selling price right now for house X, which includes the addition, which might have doubled the house size, is $750,000 and property taxes of $12k/yr. Let’s say a FLW enthusiast buys the house and wants to put the house back to Mr. Wright’s original small design. He has to pay to demolish the addition and pay again to put the house back to original (assuming it can even be done due to code). He ends up with a house half its original size and therefore a property worth significantly less….perhaps now only $500,000 or even worse $400,000. What would his mortgage company think? Resale value? Economically, owners just don’t do this because taking off additions lowers the value of the property. Furthermore, they also are receiving a $12k property tax bill due to the high purchase price and larger house.
The numbers of this post are flawed and overstated. First of all the value of a lot in a desirable major market is a big chunk of the value of the real estate. Most people that add on don't double the size of the house. I don't know about other urban areas, but as outrageous as property taxes are in the Chicago area, $12,000 annual taxes on a $750,000 property is exaggerated from what I know. Reducing the footprint of a house can always be done by code from what I know as an architect. I am not an advocate of adding on to Frank Lloyd Wright houses however in some cases it is absolutely unavoidable and should only be undertaken as a last resort.

Often if the intent is to add more space there are other ways to address that need without a physical direct addition. Often one can dig out a basement to capture more space, if a basement exists. One can add space without physically connecting the additional space to the house.

On Davenport, even though the standard FLWBC facade easement at the time covered three facades, I made the facade easement more robust so that it covered all four facades of the house. I left open the option of expanding the 1921 non-Frank Lloyd Wright garage to accommodate more space for myself or a future owner.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

Ed Jarolin
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Property taxes

Post by Ed Jarolin »

As outrageous as property taxes are in and around Chicago they are considerably worse in other places. While I have made no comprehensive study of the situation, I can relate the following from personal experience.

Seven years ago I was looking to purchase a house in Wisconsin. The sale price would have been in the 400k range. I checked the counties web site to see how their real estate taxes were computed, went through the process and arrived at a figure of 10k or so. Not believing this I contacted the accessors office directly and was told the figure I had arrived at was indeed correct. The person I talked to was candid enough to say, "when people who haven't grown up here see our taxes it makes their eyes water".

Also, when an Erdmann 'Usonian' in Wisconsin was for sale a while back, the asking price was about 750k and the taxes on the listing sheet were, if memory serves, about 15k.

All this is not to knock Wisconsin or anyplace else, but if money is a consideration it really is wise to do your homework before taking a leap you may regret. Taxes of all kinds do vary widely from county to county and state to state.

I recall Wright had his own tax problems in Wisconsin and threatened to burn Taliesin to the ground over it. And he was probably being assessed at the cheaper ag rate to boot!
Last edited by Ed Jarolin on Wed Dec 12, 2007 4:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

RJH
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Post by RJH »

This whole discussion reinforces the need to encourage the current owners of any UNALTERED Wright home, who want to preserve the building beyond their ownership, to contact the FLWBC and put a four-sided facade easement on their property. If the owner really believes in the preservation of Wright's buildings, and not his pocketbook, he will do this. We can assume that the ones that haven't done this, and are aware of this program, are all talk.
I totally agree with Paul Ringstrom on this. I like it. I have already been in contact with the FLWBC about this and Haynes will be getting a 4 sided easement if not more very soon.
The numbers of this post are flawed and overstated. First of all the value of a lot in a desirable major market is a big chunk of the value of the real estate. Most people that add on don't double the size of the house. I don't know about other urban areas, but as outrageous as property taxes are in the Chicago area, $12,000 annual taxes on a $750,000 property is exaggerated from what I know. Reducing the footprint of a house can always be done by code from what I know as an architect. I am not an advocate of adding on to Frank Lloyd Wright houses however in some cases it is absolutely unavoidable and should only be undertaken as a last resort.
The numbers unfortunately are true, pharding. I was at the house a few weeks ago and met with the owners. They were gracious enough to invite me in and I do not want to post anything negative on the beautiful house and my visit out of respect. I did call the Treasurer and they did confirm the property taxes run $12,000/yr. I could see the house being listed in the $700k’s. A reasonable sale price would be in the $600k’s. Still, it doesn’t become economically feasible to tear down 50% of the house to remove the addition. It is altered for life.

I also agree with you that putting an addition on a FLW is sometimes unavoidable and needs to be done as a last resort. However, as the FLWBC has confirmed, this means right before the bulldozers come in. Glore was nowhere near that point. You also didn't do work for the Glore homeowner. You did the work for the "market" and to get the house sold.

Pharding, what you learned in school was basic architecture. Then, there is Frank Lloyd Wright – which most schools including Penn shun. Overall, I think you have good intentions. But, you need to change your thinking with Wright houses.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Juh9rB53Mxg

Off the top of my head other tax data for FLW Usonians:

G-W about $6,000/yr.
Pew about $16,600/yr
Hoffman $157,000/yr.
Sander $9,000/yr.


Ed is also correct about Wisconsin property taxes. A study showed that they were the highest in the country.

28. Trier - Part of carport enclosed for a playroom.

28/60 = 47% Altered

pharding
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Post by pharding »

RJH: I think that you should be careful when you claim to speak for the FLWBC. They speak for themselves. Things can loose something in the translation. You misquoted them on some of your past statements, including your pontification about the Glore House.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

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