FLW Conservancy hopes for another look at FLW houses

To the Editor:

The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy is the only organization focused exclusively on the preservation and maintenance of all the remaining structures designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. (We own no Wright buildings but strive to protect them all.)  We work with the owners of private Wright-designed houses across the country as well as Wright sites that are open for public tours.

The Conservancy visited the Blossom and McArthur Houses last spring and was very glad to learn of the interest of Jennifer Pritzker in acquiring and restoring these houses and their auxiliary buildings. Though we have not seen the details of the proposed project, the Pritzker restoration track record is a strong one and we have no doubt that the project would be done with sensitivity and appropriateness and with the infusion of financial resources and preservation expertise that would assure a very positive outcome.

We were very disappointed to learn that apparently this possibility was rejected without careful examination due to concerns about introducing a transient element into the neighborhood.  

Several Wright private houses have been converted to overnight stay accommodations. We devoted one issue of our magazine to this topic, and profiled three, including the early 1950’s Palmer House in Ann Arbor, Michigan — a community that parallels Hyde Park-Kenwood in terms of the university connection. The Palmer House owners have indicated that their guests fall generally into three groups: luminaries speaking or performing at the University of Michigan, out-of state parents of university students looking for special accommodations during visits and people who are passionate about architecture. The Blossom and McArthur House B&B project would be the only intact functioning Wright overnight, other than the recently restored Historic Park Inn in Mason City, Iowa, offering overnight accommodations in an architectural setting from Wright’s Prairie period or earlier. As such I believe it would attract special guests who have high disposable income, are concerned about architecture and preservation, and in general would be a respectful, appreciative and very desirable group.

We hope the neighborhood and Ald. Will Burns (4th) will take another look at this creative and well-funded proposal. It provides a neighborhood amenity (who wouldn’t like to suggest to their out-of-town visitors that they could stay in a Frank Lloyd Wright house right in the same neighborhood?) and would help maintain real estate values instead of the drag of a deteriorating site and continuing uncertainty about its future.  Most importantly from the Conservancy’s point of view, it would provide a very practical vehicle to ensure the preservation of these buildings that were keys to Wright’s early career and his development as an architect.  

Chicago is proud of its reputation as a city of great architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright is America’s greatest architect and Chicago is famous as the focal point of much of the first half of his remarkable career. The Blossom and McArthur Houses are important to that history and deserve special attention to determine how they can be well preserved and maintained.

Janet Halstead
Executive Director, Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy