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John D. Haynes House / Newspaper Article

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Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 682
Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana

PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:42 pm    Post subject: John D. Haynes House / Newspaper Article Reply with quote


Fort Wayne News Sentinel

News-Sentinel, The (Fort Wayne, IN)

May 25, 1991



Edition: FINAL


Page: 8SU

Estimated printed pages: 6

Article Text:

Look under "Indiana" in William Allin Storrer's respected "The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Complete Catalog," and you won't find Fort Wayne. According to that book, Wright never designed a home in this city.

But John Shoaff knows better. He lives and works in the only Fort Wayne house the legendary architect designed.

"It's definitely authentic. We have Wright's working drawings of the home. But we simply had no record that the house had ever been built until Mr. Shoaff sent us pictures," says Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, archivist for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The fact that it hadn't been documented in the foundation's catalogs or in Storrer's book were "simply oversights," Pfeiffer says.

Storrer has promised to include the home in his next edition, Shoaff says. Shoaff revels in his one-of-a-kind find, although rumors that Wright designed other local homes have circulated for years.

Architect Alan Grinsfelder's home at 2131 Forest Park Blvd. is often mistaken for a Wright design because it bears many of his prairie-style elements. It was actually designed by Chicago architect Walter Burley Griffin, who was an associate of Wright, Grinsfelder says.

Griffin, however, was famous in his own right: The Australian government used his design for Canberra, the capital of Australia, after his plans won an international competition in 1909.

Two homes in the Sanibel Acres addition off Hobson Road also have a connection to Wright. They were designed in the 1960s by John Randall McDonald, a Wright student.

''The developer had the idea for a whole area of these kinds of houses, but he ran out of money," says Max Shambaugh, who once owned the McDonald- designed home at 3332 Sanibel Drive. The other is at 3344.

Those houses were "really far-out" for their time, Shambaugh says, and they feature many of Wright's signature elements: spare Ja! panese styling, balconies, indoor waterfalls, beamed ceilings, light c oves.

But Shoaff says there's a noticeable difference.

''There's an artistry to Wright's work that his apprentices just never mastered."

An unassuming place

If you just drove past the Wright designed house, Shoaff's brick and natural wood home shrouded in untrimmed evergreens, you'd never guess it was the work of one of the world's greatest 20th-century architects.

But pull into the circular drive and under the compact carport and you'll feel compelled to see what's beneath that low, floating roof.

The house was finished in 1952, seven years before Wright died at age 89 in Phoenix.

Except for its hipped - not slat - roof, it's typical of 182 "Usonian" homes Wright designed in the final stages of his 60-year career, Pfeiffer says. In the mid-1930s, Wright began to scale down his prairie-style mansions into much smaller, affordable family homes.

''That was the bulk of his work," Pfeiffer say. "Wright believed that any architec! t could build a large house for a rich man. But to build a small house and make it really beautiful and functional, that was really the test of an architect's mettle. He believed that, in a democracy, every man was entitled to a beautiful home."

Practicality also shaped Wright's designs.

''It was difficult to get (construction) labor - and money - in the middle of the Depression, so Wright began to consciously develop a more economical use of space," Shoaff says. "But during this time, he also matured as an artist. His mastery of asymmetrical elements is much greater. This is a highly disciplined design with an extremely sophisticated integration of design elements."

Wright "orchestrated" the home's compact design around a simple square. He enlarged and rotated that square over and over, the same way a composer creates a score using a recurrent musical theme. But that's not something the average visitor would realize unless he stud! ied Wright's meticulous, autographed architectural plans, which Shoaff owns and treasures. Even an amateur, though, can see that the house abounds with Wrightisms: Unnecessary curves and superficial decorations have been eliminated. Natural materials - particularly brick and sturdy tidewater red cypress - have been used indoors and out. The home's low, horizontal lines blend with their natural surroundings, a rolling 1-acre lot studded with bushes and trees. The gravity heating system is sunk beneath the terra-cotta floor, an idea Wright took from Japanese homes he visited in the 1920s. The lights - bare incandescent bulbs - are recessed in the wooden ceilings.

Even with just 1,340 usable square feet, there is an incredible sense of spaciousness. In the main living-dining area, tall expanses of glass bring the light and landscape indoors. A red cypress cathedral ceiling, which contrasts with low 7-foot ceilings in the entryway and hall, follows the exact contour of the roof and adds even more visual space. A huge skylight - another Wr! ight hallmark - fills the boxy, little kitchen with sunshine.

The living room's showpiece, a cantilevered brick fireplace that juts out into space, demonstrates Wright's mastery.

''I still haven't figured out how Wright did that," Shoaff muses. "The brick mason was afraid to kick out the props when he was done for fear the whole thing would collapse. The original owner had to come in and kick them out himself. As you can see, it's still standing."

The home's other six rooms - a library (originally a music room), two baths and three bedrooms - feature narrow windows, board-and-batten paneling and built-in shelving, desks and piano-hinged cabinets.

''This is very comfortable living," Shoaff says. "I was married at the time I moved in. And other people have moved in here with entire families. That's a testament to its excellent design."

Sometimes it's hard for Shoaff to believe that the man who designed the vanguard "Fallingwater" house in We! stern Pennsylvania, the impressive Guggenheim Museum in New York City, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and the Johnson Wax administration building in Racine, Wis., would deign to create small family homes in the likes of Fort Wayne, Marion, West Lafayette, South Bend and Ogden Dunes.

''But then, Wright had his ups and downs, too," Shoaff says. "He went through a period when he didn't design major works. He was simply available for work like any other architect, where he charged a standard consultation fee."

A radical idea

That's exactly how John Haynes and his wife, Dorothy, got him to design their house - Shoaff's house - 42 years ago.

Fort Wayne resident John Haynes, who died a couple of years ago, had long admired Wright's work when he wrote a letter asking the celebrated architect to create a house for his family. Wright, surprisingly, answered yes.

Dorothy Haynes Stock, who was then 24, and her former husband made their initial trip to Wright's school of architecture, Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wis., in 1949.

''I remember him wearing a tam and a cape and carrying a cane," she says. "He was very impressive, but I had a nice, regular conversation with him. It didn't seem like he was someone special. It was just like two people talking."

When Wright's plans for the tiny, four-person home were finished, however, the Hayneses faced two problems: They had a hard time finding local crafts- people who were able to implement Wright's newfangled designs. And Dorothy had just had her third baby, transforming them into a family of five.

The Hayneses chose Charles Sipe, who's now retired in Monroeville, to do the carpentry work and construct the built-in furniture according to Wright's plans. He and Haynes took a few trips to Spring Green for consultations, and Wright's students - but never Wright himself - visited here.

The house "was very radical for its time," Sipe remembers. "All of the exposed wood was cypress. We had to order it and have the lumber made. And ! everything that hinged - cabinet doors, folding screens - had piano hi nges. The roof edging was 14-16 inches wide and very difficult to fit. . . . We went through a lot of trial and error on that roof."

In the end, the economical $25,000 house cost $52,000.

The Haynes family - all five, and then six, of them - settled in. But Wright's design withstood the overflow.

''It was so functional," Stock says. "It was the most livable house I've ever been in. My children rode their tricycles around on the terra-cotta floor. We even had a surprise party with 40 or 50 people and we never felt crowded. We loved that house."

The neighbors, however, did not. The Haynes family heard more negative than positive comments about their new-wave abode.

''Most people thought we were crazy. People would ask, 'What is it, a filling station?' But then, in 1952, not very many people appreciated Frank Lloyd Wright," Stock says.

The Hayneses finally needed more space - they eventually had six children - so they reluctantly moved ! in 1958 to the unusual circular house next door. The late banker Donnelly P. McDonald Jr., former president of Summcorp, purchased the Wright house.

New ownership

It was during that time that Shoaff - who had developed a fascination for Wright's designs while studying at Williams College and Yale University - fell in love with the house.

In 1973 - two owners later - he heard through the grapevine that it was on the market and snapped it up for a mere $38,000, less than the original price of $52,000.

Shoaff refuses to estimate what his house would be worth today, although a similar Wright-designed house in Madison, Wis., recently sold for $300,000. A Wright-designed, 1,800-square-foot house in Houston was listed at $500,000.

''I hate to speculate," Shoaff says. "It's not like something you can put a price on. This is more than just a house, it's a work of art."



:Local architect John Shoaff relaxes in the main living area of his North Washington Road home, the only one in Fort Wayne designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. His well-orchestrated design, which includes a wooden cathedral ceiling, built-in cabinetry and tall windows, gives the illusion of spaciousness.


:Wright favored using natural

materials, such as common red

brick, even in the shower, above.


:Built-in shelves and narrow

decorative windows in the

main hall, left, help

conserve valuable space.


:Wright-style elements are apparent in this house at 3332 Sanibel Drive, above. It was designed in the 1960s by John Randall McDonald, Wright's student. Alan Grinsfelder's house at 2131 Forest Park drive, right, is often mistaken for Wright's work but was designed by his contemporary Chicagoan Walter Burley Griffin.PHOTO (4)

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