Living with a Legend
Frank Lloyd Wright is widely considered to be the 20th century’s greatest architect. During a career that spanned more than 70 years, he created buildings that revolutionized the field, and he left an imprint on architecture that is indelible. When he died in 1959, at the age of 91, he had designed 1141 works – including houses, offices, churches, schools, libraries and museums. A total of 532 were completed, and 409 of them still stand. Until recently, however, very few were open to the public. Nowadays, at least 50 buildings can be visited (including the legendary Fallingwater), and a handful can be slept in.
When we launched Boutique Homes, our motivation was to create a collection of striking architectural vacation rentals – properties that travelers would be inspired by and delight in visiting. Nothing epitomizes this vision more than the four Frank Lloyd Wright rental properties we found. For many, staying in a home designed by America’s greatest architect may be as close to the perfect vacation as they’ll ever get.
We have included four on our list. First, pictured above, is the Seth Peterson Cottage, designed in 1958, one of Wright’s last commissions. A small space, it was described by the late William Wesley Peters of Taliesin Architects as having more architecture per square foot than any other building he knew. It’s perched on the edge of a wooded bluff looking out over Mirror Lake, Wisconsin.
Next up is the Bernard Schwartz House (above and two below). In 1938, Wright was invited by LIFE magazine to submit a design for a typical American family home, a so-called ‘Dream House’.
The resulting design was eventually built for Bernard and Fern Schwartz in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. In 1971, the Schwartzes sold the home, and it was resold 33 years later to brothers Gary and Michael Ditmer, who now make it available for rentals.
Another property created by Wright is the Palmer House (top, and below). Built in the Fifties for Bill and Mary Palmer in Ann Arbor, Michigan, it was sold to Jeffrey and Kathryn Schox in 2009, who have recently turned it into a rental property.
The fourth is the Louis Penfield House in Willoughby, Lake County, Ohio (below).
Amusingly, the 6ft 8in Louis Penfield asked Wright on their first meeting, ‘Can you design a house for someone as tall as me?’ Wright, who was known to consider tall people as ‘weeds’, replied, ‘Yes, but we’ll have to design a machine to tip you sideways first.’
As a result, the ceilings are taller than most other Usonians (Wright’s name for the sixty family homes he built), and windows are tall and slender like their original owner. When Wright died in 1959, he had just completed designs for Penfield’s second home, Riverrock House, his last residential commission. It is yet to be built.
There are three other Wright rentals that we know of. The Duncan House (below) was built in 1957 in Lisle, Illinois, but can now be found in the Polymath Park Resort, in Acme, Pennsylvania. In addition to its own appeal, a big draw is its location, just a few miles from Fallingwater.
The resort is also home to three other homes, created by Wright’s apprentices: the Balter House and the Blum House by Peter Berndtson, and the Dream House by John Rattenbury. All are available for overnight stays.
Another Wright rental is the Muirhead Farmhouse in Hampshire, Illinois, a little northwest of Chicago. It’s the only farmhouse known to have been designed and built by Wright during his lifetime, and it remains in the hands of the same family as it was then.
In 2003, the house underwent extensive restoration, and the surrounding 757 acres of farmland are also being re-developed. The land, renamed the Muirhead Springs Preserve, features native prairie wildflowers and grasses, as well as a four-mile limestone trail for walkers, bicyclists and horse riders.
And finally, there’s the Haynes House (below) in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Built in 1952 for Mr and Ms John D Haynes, it has been restored beyond its original state. In other words, many of the 24 original items of furniture that Wright designed for it were never built, or were thrown out over the years, but the new owners have recreated them all (with the assistance of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation).
If you’re a fan of Wright’s work, why not book an overnight stay in one of these homes? If you do, let us know how it goes. RM