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FLW Designed Usonian Cat House (Not Cathouse) For Sale

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 9:01 am
by Wrightgeek
While it is common knowledge that ol' Frank was known to "cat around" from time to time, but who knew about this? And who would have ever thought that you could buy an original FLW designed structure in this day and age for less than $10K?

I saw a post about this on the PrairieMod website this AM, and thought it might be fun to share it here. Below is the link to the seller's webpage with all of the details: ... 13123.aspx

So he did a dog house for the Bergers, and this cat house for the Tonkens; I wonder if there is an undiscovered FLW designed Usonian bird house out there somewhere?

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 9:10 am
by Wrightgeek
To try to answer my own tounge-in-cheek question, here is a similar reply. It's certainly not Usonian, and it wasn't designed by FLW, but this is the best I could come up with on-the-spot:

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 10:49 am
by peterm
The upside to this birdhouse, is it looks like it might be "fireproof"...

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 1:18 pm
by egads

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 2:40 pm
by JimM about those huge concrete "bird houses" atop the conservatory at Martin? Apparently there was a "vacancy" sign on them for years!

Tonkens "Cat House" is NOT by Wright

Posted: Tue Nov 23, 2021 12:31 pm
by DRN
While Googling something related to the Tonkens house, I came across an article about a "cat house" designed for the Tonkens' daughter: ... ance-ohio/

The most important part of the article is in the comments. I'll copy the comment here so it might live longer in the ether than the article:
AUGUST 31, 2014 AT 10:28 AM
WOW! Has everyone been hoodwinked about the source of this design done when I was an Apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright in the field supervising the construction of the Boswell house in Cincinnati, OH. Earlier Mr. Wright had sent his grandson, Eric Wright, and me to waterproof the exterior of the Tonkens residence so I was familiar with and became even more friendly with Rosalie and Gerald, even occasionally “house sitting” for them. One day Gerry asked me to design a cat house for his daughter. My dyslexia and difficulty with spelling manifests in the incorrect spelling of residence. The FLLW office was NEVER consulted about this drawing and it did NOT come from Frank Lloyd Wright. It came solely from me. The only relationship to FLLWright was/is that I was an apprentice at the time, and his aesthetic had become a part of my creative psyche. I am not trying to steal any thunder from Mr. Wright. I am merely trying to correct history. This design did not come from him and will not be found in his archives. The only drawing which exists (unless someone has made copies) is the one shown, which I did. Years after I did the drawing I was walking around the Tonkens’ house and saw the decrepit, delaminated cat house on a trash heap near the lot line. Imagine my surprise when the former apprentice, Mark Heyman called to tell me the cat house was for sale at Christies Auction House. The description said I had called Mr. Wright to ask him what to do. Over this i had a good laugh and thought, “How absurd.” That NEVER happened. That story was a fabrication of the seller who had apparently made a new version of the original or else spent an inordinate amount of time restoring the wreckage of the original – anything to attach Mr. Wright’s name to something to elicit an inflated price at auction. I should have refuted the assertion at that time, but thought the story so ridiculous it could never be assume to be true. Now it has grown legs and is once again being presented as a FLLW original. The purchaser from Christies was Tom Monahan of Dominoes Pizza who was amassing an enormous collection of Wright related objects. Later the house was resold for a fraction of what Mr. Monahan had paid. When it appeared for sale on eBay I wrote to eBay to refute their statement that it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Apparently that refutation was never transmitted to either the seller or the buyer. No one wants to believe they have been duped with misinformation. It is now time to put to rest the Frank Lloyd Wright association with this design. It is incompletely, tee-totally mine.
Apparently the "cat house" has been through the auction mill more than once. This one in 2006: ... design/150

Re: FLW Designed Usonian Cat House (Not Cathouse) For Sale

Posted: Tue Nov 23, 2021 11:13 pm
by SDR
Thanks so much for this one, Dan. It is always refreshing to have a record set straight---in this case, straight from the horse's mouth, as it were, and well said too.

The remaining and inevitable follow-up question: who is Mr Olson, and what do we know about him ?


Re: FLW Designed Usonian Cat House (Not Cathouse) For Sale

Posted: Wed Nov 24, 2021 6:30 am
by DRN
According to the John Geiger list, Thomas Olson joined Taliesin on 1/1/1952. The list can be seen on a Chat thread here:


A 1988 newspaper article about Mr. Olson: ... es-111488/
Click on “See article text (OCR)”.

Re: FLW Designed Usonian Cat House (Not Cathouse) For Sale

Posted: Wed Nov 24, 2021 10:55 am
by Roderick Grant
Tom Olson (b 1930) has had a career in Minnesota since leaving Taliesin in 1961. He has designed some excellent houses in the Lake Minnetonka area, one of which was featured on a FLWBC tour in 2000. It is excellent. He certainly merits a book.

Of the FLW commissions he supervised, the only one I know of for sure is Ablin.

Re: FLW Designed Usonian Cat House (Not Cathouse) For Sale

Posted: Wed Nov 24, 2021 10:00 pm
by dkottum
I believe this is the house Tom Olson designed and built for himself near Clearwater, Minnesota. ... 6184-43655

Re: FLW Designed Usonian Cat House (Not Cathouse) For Sale

Posted: Wed Nov 24, 2021 11:02 pm
by dkottum
I also came upon a 1988 newspaper article on Tom Olson from an area paper. ... HdDYY9jslc

Re: FLW Designed Usonian Cat House (Not Cathouse) For Sale

Posted: Thu Nov 25, 2021 12:52 pm
by SDR
Thanks for those links, Doug. Now I have an idea of who Tom Olson is.

That house is a marvel. I wonder who owns it now . . .