Category Archives: Architecture

Frank Lloyd Wrights Allen-Lambe House

Today is John Adam’s birthday so you really should revisit my John Adam’s blog (Part 1 and Part 2) to celebrate this great American President.


Planters along the edge of the Allen-Lambe property line.

Planters /fence along the edge of the Allen-Lambe property line.

My copy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Field Guide lists two FLLW buildings for the state of Kansas, the Corbin Educational Center (built as the Juvenile Cultural Center in 1957) and the beautiful Allen-Lambe House.

The Allen-Lambe House was built in 1917. Wright considered it one of his best houses, and it the last of his Prairie Houses to be occupied (by its original owners.) It was commissioned by Henry Allen, a successful newspaper man and single term  Governor of Kansas and his wife Elsie Nuzman Allen a socialite and arts activist.

The house is at the corner of 2nd and Roosevelt streets.

The house is at the corner of 2nd and Roosevelt streets.

Designs and drawings on the house began in 1915 and the Allens moved in by 1918. They lived there until 1947.

The Allen-Lambe House is located at 255 North Roosevelt Street, in the northwest portion of Wichita, Kansas. The site is approximately one acre of flat land in a residential neighborhood on a corner lot. The house is a two-story Prairie-style home with a partial basement…. Mr. Wright designed the house in a L-shape for privacy purposes. There is a courtyard on the north side of the main section of the house, which is enclosed by the building on the south and east, by a garden teahouse on the west, and by a brick wall on the north. Even though the house is very open, it is well protected from neighbors by the L-shaped plan and the garden wall that runs parallel to the street. []

Floor plan (including garden and tea house.) The planters are on the right. [Image courtesy:

Floor plan (including garden and tea house.) The planters are on the right. [Image courtesy:]

Governor Allen must have been a pretty strong-willed man.  He held Wright and the construction crew firm to the original budget of $30,000. (Not something that happened often with Wright’s houses.) The house, which came with a built-in vacuum system and a security system had an additional $6,500 budget for custom furniture.  He also got Wright to include two items that the architect notoriously despised, a basement and a garage.  Wright thought both promoted clutter.

2 story wing of the Allen-Lambe house.

The 2 story wing of the Allen-Lambe house. (Right side of the Floor plan)

Wright specified the following materials for the construction of the Allen house:


  • Oak wood (for the trim)
  • Red quarry tile
  • Red gum wood
  • Brick
  • Copper (for the sinks)
  • Marble


  • Brick
  • Clay tile (for the roof — He wanted to
    create an Asian feel, as an omage to
    the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo he was working on
    at the time)
  • Marble

The materials reflected the local landscape. Bringing the outside INSIDE was very much on Wrights mind.

The walls are a gold color, the ceilings are a hazy blue color to make you feel like you are outside, and the ledges underneath the ceilings are a green color, which is suppose to make you feel like you are standing under trees. [

A tile flooring flows from the terrace into the living room and dining room. The only things separating the indoor space from the outdoor space are glass doors.

Views to the exterior are through “light screens” which consist of clear glass doors and windows with terminal windows or side windows framing the views to nature with art glass. Exterior window flower boxes raise the prairie floor up to establish a strong visual relationship to nature.  []

The Allen-Lambe house is open to the public on a limited basis. Tours are by appointment and must be arranged 10 days in advance of your visit. Call 1-316-687-1027 to book a tour. ($10 per guest.) Guest must be 16 years old and up. And each tour must be between 5 and 20 people. Can’t book a tour?  Consider a walk by. The exterior is easily seen from the street.

Another angle of the house. (Garden side)

Another angle of the house. (Garden side)


Thanks to my husband, Bill for going out of his way to take all the original photos in this post and feeding my love of all things FLLW.

If you like the Allen-Lambe house you might want to check out another lovely Prairie style home we visited, the Martin House, it is in Buffalo, New York.


Tiny Houses 8.27.13 Thought of the Day

Floor plan for Penny, Sheldon and Leonard's floor (The Big Bang theory) [Image courtesy: Floor Plans of Famous Television Shows]

Floor plan for Penny, Sheldon and Leonard’s floor (The Big Bang theory) [Image courtesy: Floor Plans of Famous Television Shows]

I’m a sucker for a floor plan. I  don’t know what it is … but I love to read a floor plan and imagine what a house will look like when it is built. I get kind of the same feeling as I do when I read a well written piece of descriptive fiction and can let the words stew up there in my brain until the characters and action and setting are fully formed into a story. I don’t need a movie studio to come along and render it for me — I’ve got the imagination to that myself — but if some one comes along and does a particularly creative and inspired interpretation of the story I take note and give a little nod of appreciation. Same with floor plans. I don’t need a builder to assemble the bricks and mortar and flooring and marble — I’ve got that interior-ly designed in my head — but if some Architectural-Digest-art-editor wannabe does accompany the floor plans with a spread of 4-color photos or line illustrations that’s nice too.

English: Dana-Thomas House (1902) 301 East Law...

English: Dana-Thomas House (1902) 301 East Lawrence Avenue Springfield, Illinois Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dana-Thomas House

Dana-Thomas House (Photo credit: mstephens7)

The thing is… it’s not particularly likely that I’m going to need the floor plans I peruse any time soon. We aren’t on the hunt for a new house. But — to continue the novel analogy — I’m enjoying the fiction and fantasy of stepping into another lifestyle.

We have a fairly modest house in a land of mini mansions. The house across the street from ours easily boast triple the square footage of our humble abode. There’s another house, further down the road, whose garage is larger than our sweet little cape cod. So right off the bat you’ve probably guessed that, despite my anxiety over lack of storage space, I comfortable with smaller living. But lately I’ve been really fascinated with super little houses.

There’s a company called Tumbleweed that I’ve been watching for a while. They do a line of awesome cottages and tiny houses (houses so small you can build them on a trailer base and tow them with a RAM pick up.) Take the Cypress 20 for example…

Tumbleweed's Cypress 20's floor plan

Tumbleweed’s Cypress 20’s floor plan [Image Courtesy: Tumbleweed]

How the heck did they fit all the essentials of living into such a little space?

Tumbleweed's Cypress

Tumbleweed’s Cypress has a wee footprint but a lotta style. It has 144 sq ft on the first floor plus room in the loft. [Image courtesy: Tumbleweed]

Tumbleweed built their first tiny home in 2001.

Cozy loft bedroom in the Cypress 20 lets you get in touch with your "shabby, chic, and romantic" sides, all while camping.

Cozy loft bedroom in the Cypress 20 lets you get in touch with your “shabby, chic, and romantic” sides, all while camping. [Image courtesy: Tumbleweed]

They produce building plans and ready-made tiny homes.

A bookshelf hides the sliding ladder that gives access to the sleeping loft in the Cypress 20. In a modern age of Kindles and Cloud storage small living becomes ever more possible.

A bookshelf hides the sliding ladder that gives access to the sleeping loft in the Cypress 20. “Bookcase” is, perhaps, not the best choice of words… In this modern age of Kindles and Cloud storage small living becomes ever more possible — your entire book collection can fit into a device the size of a slim paperback and your movie collection can be stored virtually. [Image courtesy: Tumbleweed]

I don’t know that I’m ready to commit to a Tiny Home lifestyle, but I do think one would make an awesome studio. Hmmmm Christmas is coming….

To see more Tumbleweed Houses click here.

Williamsburg (part 4)

Textile 3

[This is part four of my What To Do in Williamsburg Blog for part one go HERE. For part two go HERE. For part three go HERE. ]

Previous tips included:

  1. Planning your trip in the Fall or Winter to avoid the heat and crowds.
  2. Staying in a Colonial House.
  3. Engaging with the locals.
  4. Visit the Wren Building
  5. Take the Rubbish, Treasures and Colonial Life Tour & the Behind the Scenes Tour
  6. Visit the De Witt Wallace and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museums
  7. Tour the Governor’s Palace
  8. Tour the Thomas Everard House.
  9. Visit Bassett Hall.
  10. Get spooky with it.

Today we’ll  touch on some odds and ends in Williamsburg and travel down the road to the current capital of Virginia, Richmond.

11. Stop in to see the craftsmen making things with wood.  Bill likes woodworking so we spent time at the joiners near the Capitol on Frances Street…

Saw envy at the Joiners.

Saw envy at the Joiners.

Where they do ordinary work, like making sashes for windows and  bellows for the Gunsmith Shop….

Making 1 of three large wooden panels for the bellows.

Making 1 of three large wooden panels for the bellows.

…and fancy work, like this decorative piece.

The craftsmen at the Joiners used a lot of fine carving skills to make this wooden ornamental panel.

The craftsmen at the Joiners used a lot of fine carving skills to make this wooden ornamental panel.

We also went to the Cabinetmaker’s shop, which is on Nicholson Street, closer to the Palace Green.

Bill has a talk with one of the cabinet makers.

Bill has a talk with one of the cabinet makers.

Both shops had beautiful sets of hollows and rounds for making moldings.

Hollow and round plains on the shelf.

Hollow and round plane sets on the shelf.

12.) Get your Ps and Qs in line at the Printers. Bill indulged my love of graphic design with a trip to the Printers. We had a nice long talk with printer and he was kind enough to let me have a go at the press.

First I inked the plate.

First I inked the plate.


Added paper, cranked the carriage into place then PULLED the press down.

Rita putting paper on press

Cranked the carriage back out and lifted the paper tray and…

Gazette rita's pull

Taadaaa… my impression of a colonial paper. (Get it? IMPRESSION? It’s a letter-press. Never mind, it’s a printing joke.)

13.) Stroll along Duke of Gloucester Street. We  especially enjoyed the Blacksmith, the Silversmith and the Milliner.


The Milliner shows off a hat that would have been popular around 1790. I like to think of it as a Mrs. Bennett or Mrs. Dashwood appropriate hat. (Yes that is Jane Austen reference.)

14.) Stand witness for the prosecution at the Courthouse. Learn about the 18th Century justice system first hand with the Order In The Court program (it runs several times a day and is free with your Williamsburg pass).


The Williamsburg Courthouse is one of the original buildings and was still in use when Goodwin and Rockefeller began to rebuild the town.

We saw several civil trials which required audience participation.

A Williamsburg visitor takes on the roll of a townsperson who has failed to come to church -- an offense which was against the law.

A Williamsburg visitor takes on the roll of a towns person who has failed to come to church — an offense which was against the law.

You MIGHT even get a chance to be on the judge’s bench (even if you’re a woman == as long as you go along with premise that you are a man for the purposes of historical accuracy.)

Court House Judge Rita

Yes, that’s judge Rita conferring with the bearded judge to the right on the fate of some poor soul. Don’t worry I was very easy. Every body else was a hangin’ mood, but not me.

15. EAT. There are four Colonial Taverns to choose from in the city, Christiana Campbell’s, Shield’s, King’s Arms, and Chownings. I liked King’s Arms the best because they have an amazing Peanut Soup.  Dinner at any of the Taverns is by candle light and includes period entertainment, but be warned … it will be an expensive meal. You might choose to eat at one of the restaurants at Merchant’s Square  (which is between Colonial Williamsburg and Williams and Mary. The bus that runs in a clockwise circle around the historic district has a stop at Merchants Square so you wont have to get in your car.) We liked the Cheese Shop on the square, and especially the Aroma Coffee Shop on Prince George Street. If you do decide to step into your horseless carriage just go out Richmond Road and you’ll find the usual suspect of chain eateries, an oddly prolific collection of pancake establishments and some rather nice restaurants of the non-chain variety (yes, there are still some of them out there.) We enjoyed sushi at Kyoto and American fare at Food for Thought (the best food I ate all week was the Food for Thought’s quinoa salad.)

carriage riding down the roadTime to travel down the road and into the present, leaving 18th Century Williamsburg for 21st Century Richmond. Well, almost… there’s still a lot of history to explore on this trip.

Richmond is the capital of Virginia and during the American Civil War it was the Capital of the Confederacy. The city is ripe with monuments & museums to the South (and given the whole Slavery thing, that made me a mite itchy. But I do love my history, so…) While in the city you can visit the Museum and White House of the Confederacy, the Virginia Historical Society,  Hollywood Cemetery or take a stroll down Monument Avenue.

We went to Tredegar Iron Works on the James River. You get two museums in one location here. One is run by the National Park Service and the other is part of the American Civil War Center. We went into the (free) Park Service museum and enjoyed the displays and movie on the third floor. The Map Room is a great way to orient yourself on Richmond’s role in the war.

Photograph of the Tredegar Iron Works, shortly...

Photograph of the Tredegar Iron Works, shortly after the Evacuation Fire of 1865; despite the original caption of the image, the works themselves survived largely unscathed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The outdoor exhibits had seen better days, but this museum is a gem in the rough. I hope they get some funding and can restore all the exhibits to top-notch condition.

Next stop: Shopping. Carytown  is Richmond’s “Mile of Style” and we enjoyed a mild weather stroll down the main drag of boutiques and unique shops. This quaint shopping district won Southern Living Magazine’s “Best Neighborhood to Shop In” nod by the magazine’s readers.

Flower Power Case at Anthill Antiques, Carytow...

Flower Power Case at Anthill Antiques, Carytown, Richmond, VA (Photo credit:

We ate at the Can Can Brasserie a beautifully restored building that made you feel like you’d stepped off the streets of Paris. I kept expecting to see Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec stroll by the table. The atmosphere was delightful, so was the food (I got half a Roast Chicken Salad and a half order of their Roasted Apple & Rutabaga Soup. ) And don’t forget to order a Eloise (their special version of a Shirley Temple.)

But our big find in Richmond, besides the wonderful company, was the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts… which I will talk about tomorrow.

Williamsburg (part 2)

Textile 3

[This is part two of my What To Do in Williamsburg Blog for part one go HERE.]

Yesterday’s tips included:

  1. Planning your trip in the Fall or Winter to avoid the heat and crowds.
  2. Staying in a Colonial House.
  3. Engaging with the locals.

Today we’ll focus on some [FREE] tours.

4. Visit the Wren Building.

The first State House of Virginia was in Jamestown. But it burned down. Then it burned again. And again. And a fourth time. The governor and the citizens of Jamestown thought they’d better look for a better location for their capital. They chose Williamsburg (then known as the Middle Plantation) because the town already had a market, a church — Burton Parish, and a school — William and Mary. The architectural gem of William and Mary is the Wren Building. It sits at the opposite end of Duke of Gloucester Street from the Capitol and it is definitely worth a visit.

English: The front of the Wren Building at the...

English: The front of the Wren Building at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The building began construction in 1695 and was completed in 1699. It is the oldest restored building in Williamsburg. It has suffered three major fires (in 1705, 1859 and 1862) and been rebuilt each time. Between 1928 and 1931 it was restored to its Colonial appearance. Every student at William and Mary has at least one class in the historic Wren Building during their time at the college. The college counts three US presidents among its alumni; Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Tyler. Their portraits hang in the Great Hall.

Free tours of the building are available M-F 1-5 when school is in session. Hint: As you climb the steps to the front door look for a patch of darker red brick to your left. You’ll see the initials of some of the school’s earliest residents carved in the bricks.

Wren Building from the William and Mary Campus side. (Photo credit: Bill.)

Wren Building from the William and Mary Campus side. (Photo credit: Bill.)

5.) Take the Rubbish, Treasures and Colonial Life Tour.   Rev. W.A.R. Goodwin, the pastor at Bruton Church convinced John D. Rockefeller Jr. to join him in a dream of restoring the sleepy little 1920’s country seat back to  the glorious colonial capital it had once been. That took a lot of money, a lot of research and a lot of digging.  There is no better way to learn about how that transformation took place than on the 90 minute Rubbish, Treasures and Colonial Life tour. Meet members of the staff, learn about how archaeological methods have changed over the years, and see the treasures that await their turn to be cataloged. Tickets are FREE with your Williamsburg Admission Pass, but you must make a reservation prior to the tour.

Glass fragments are sorted by type in drawer in the Archeology labs in Williamsburg.

6.) Another great free tour is the Behind the Scenes tour. This tour takes place at the Bruton Heights School and focuses on preservation techniques (as opposed how the objects are found, put together and cataloged.) You’ll see the studio where educational videos, Emmy Award winning broadcasts and blogs are made…

Film Studio at Williamsburg's  Bruton School facility.

…then go to one of the restoration labs to see work being done on an 18th century item. We visited the Textile Lab where they were restoring some quilts for an upcoming show at the De Witt Wallace Museum.

Over sized quilt being restored at the Textile Lab

Over sized quilt being restored at the Textile Lab
Detail from an over sized quilt being restored at the Textile Lab.

Detail of quilt

6.) Go to the De Witt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. With a substantial permanent exhibit and wonderful traveling exhibits we have never been disappointed by a stop at the twin museums that are accessible through the recreated Public Hospital on Frances Street.

The Frenchman's Map was on display as part of a temporary exhibit on maps and mapmaking. Drawn when the French moved into the city after during the Siege of Yorktown, It is the Rosettastone for Archeologist trying to restore Williamsburg.

The Frenchman’s Map was on display as part of a temporary exhibit on maps and map making. Drawn when the French moved into the city after during the Siege of Yorktown, It is the Rosetta stone for Archeologist trying to restore Williamsburg. The Bodleian Plate, another key to what the Colonial Capital looked like, is also on display.

This is a terrific way to spend a rainy (or cold) afternoon. And if you are traveling with youngsters the Children’s room in the Abby Aldrich Museum is delightful.

Looking up to the past.<br /><br />A young visitor finds both human and equine re-enactors equally fascinating andfriendly on Duke of Gloucester street.

Looking up to the past.
A young visitor finds both human and equine re-enactors equally fascinating and friendly on Duke of Gloucester street.
  • To read my article on Williamsburg: A Winter Escape in 2011’s Mason-Dixon ARRIVE Magazine click HERE and scroll down == it is the third article on the page.

Thought of the Day 8.2.12 L’Enfant

Pierre Charles L'Enfant

Pierre Charles L’Enfant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pierre Charles L’Enfant was born on this day in 1754 at Anet, Eure et Loir, France. Today is the 258th anniversary of his birth.

L’Enfant was educated at the Royal Academy in Paris as an engineer before joining Lafayette  to help the American side during the War of Independence. He arrived in 1777 at the age of 23 and fought as military engineer. He joined George Washington’s staff  after recovering from injuries at the Siege of Savannah. He attainted the rank of Major of Engineers in 1783.

He moved to New York after the war and established a civil engineering firm. In 1788 he redesigned the  New York’s city hall to be the United States’ first capitol building, Federal Hall.  The building was the site of George Washington’s inauguration and where the Bill of Rights was signed.

Federal Hall, Seat of Congress 1790
hand-colored engraving by Amos Doolittle, depicting Washington’s April 30, 1789 inauguration. [Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons: public domain]

In 1791 the US Congress authorized the building of a capital city on the Potomac River. George Washington appointed his old friend L’Enfant  to design the new city in 1791.

L’Enfant’s “Plan of the city of Washington” March 1792 is at the Library of Congress. [Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons. This image is in the Public Domain.]

“Congress House” (the Capitol) was to be on top a hill, a place of honor overlooking the rest of the city.  The “President’s House” (the White House) was to be a grand mansion fit for the leader of the country. His plan outlined the need for public spaces including a grand public walk (today’s National Mall) ). It would be 1 mile long and 400 feet wide and would stretch from the Capitol to an equestrian statue of Washington (the Washington Monument is now where the statue would have been).

The western front of the United States Capitol...

The western front of the United States Capitol. The Capitol serves as the seat of government for the United States Congress, the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It is located in Washington, D.C., on top of Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall. The building is marked by its central dome above a rotunda and two wings. It is an exemplar of the Neoclassical architecture style. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to “A Brief History fo Pierre L’Enfant and Washington, D.C.”:

L’Enfant placed Congress on a high point with a commanding view of the Potomac, instead of reserving the grandest spot for the leader’s palace as was customary in Europe. Capitol Hill became the center of the city from which diagonal avenues named after the states radiated, cutting across a grid street system. These wide boulevards allowed for easy transportation across town and offered views of important buildings and common squares from great distances. Public squares and parks were evenly dispersed at intersections.

Wide avenues and public squares would make it “people’s city”, while monuments  and inspiring buildings would give it the stature and importance of world capital.

While he was concerned with the grand vision of the city  his bosses on the Congressional appointed committee were concerned with how much the project was going to cost . They  wanted to keep the wealthy plantation owners in the area happy. L’Enfant “delayed producing a map for the sale of city lots (fearing real estate speculators would buy up land and leave the city vacant).” And he angered the commission when he had a prominent resident’s house torn down because it was in the way of one his boulevards.  When the city’s surveyor went behind his back and produced a lot map L’Enfant resigned. He was never properly paid for the work he did on the Capital.

The city was built, but the design had been greatly altered. Gone were the arrow straight streets and parkways. The Mall between the Capitol and the White House was a tree-covered park of irregular shape. Cows grazed on it.

Visitors ridiculed the city for its idealistic pretensions in a bumpkin setting and there was even talk after the Civil War of moving the capital to Philadelphia or the Midwest.

But in 1901 the McMillan Commission resurrected L’Enfant’s ideas and updated them for a modern city. The Mall was reclaimed, cleared and lined with American Elm trees. Memorials to Lincoln and Jefferson were added, and Museums and government buildings lined the perimeter.

L’Enfant worked on commissions

after the Capital, but non were very successful. His design for Philadelphia millionaire Robert Morris’ mansion was called Morris’ Folly. His final years were spent at the home of his friend William Dudley Digges, near Bladensburg, Maryland. He was buried there, but his body was exhumed and reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. His tomb now overlooks the city he helped design.

Tomb of Pierre Charles L'Enfant, designer of W...

Tomb of Pierre Charles L’Enfant, designer of Washington, D.C.’s original city plan, on the grounds of Arlington House (the Robert E. Lee Memorial) at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, in the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

FLLW Pope-Leighey House

In the 1920s and 1930s Frank Lloyd Wright (FLLW) began to look seriously at the way the common man lived. He wanted to design a series of affordable houses that were beautiful, streamlined, suited for their site and used local materials.  What he came up with was the USONIAN.

USONIAN houses were typically built as a single level dwelling. The houses had two wings. The public wing had a living and dining room. There was a  hearth wall that separated this formal area form the work area of the kitchen, “service core” of the house.  Then the house would bear off to a private wing for the bedrooms. FLLW’s goal was to build a USONIAN for $5,000 including the Architect’s fee, but, as with most  of his projects they tended to come in over budget. According the Wright foundation only 60 USONIAN homes were built.

One of those houses is the Pope-Leighy House in Virginia.

Loren Pope was a writer and copy editor for the Washington Evening Star when he approached Wright about building the house in 1938. He was  making $50 a week at the newspaper when he began to dream about owning a USONIAN home. Pope had a love for architecture and had read Wright’s Wasmuth Portfolio (a two-volume set of Wright lithographs with line drawings and schematics of his early buildings). He met Wright  at a DC event and convinced the architect to design him a USONIAN by writing him a letter.  He appealed to Wright’s desire to bring his artistic aesthetic to the common man (AND appealed to his ego) “There are certain things a man wants during life, and, of life. Material things and things of the spirit. The writer has one fervent wish that includes both. It is for a house created by you…. Will you create a house for us? Will you?” Wright’s answer was magnanimous “”Dear Loren Pope: Of course I am ready to give you a house.” 1

The Evening Star financed a loan of $5,700 for the 1200 foot house. (Down from Wright’s original proposal of 1800 ft.)

Floor plan of the Pope-Leighy house

Some of FLLW’s houses were build on octagons, but the Pope house was based on a 2 x 4 foot rectangular grid. There is radiant heating in the floor which was made of concrete and painted Cherokee Red (a favorite color of FLLW.)  Other favorite Wright materials are used as well, Tidewater red cypress, brick and glass. The exterior vertical mortar on the brick work was tinted red to match the red of the brick, while the horizontal mortar was left natural cream. That gave a strong horizontal feeling to the walls, and made the house look longer that it really was.

You approach the house from a shady cantilevered carport. This is the “Public” side of the  house Most of the walls on this side lack windows, except for a clerestory at the top. This allowed the family privacy. Wright created a unique clerestory design each house.

Our tour guide opens the front door to the Pope-Leighey house for us.

The ceiling of the carport and the entrance hall are low, but it doesn’t feel claustrophobic. You can see the living room directly opposite the front door and Wright used a sense of compression and release to encourage visitors to go through the entrance into the more important area of the house. The LIVING room was for living, after all. He brings you down a short set of stairs while keeping the ceiling line constant and suddenly the space feels massive. The ceiling height here is 12 feet.

Living room as seen from the entrance.

The living room is warm and lush. The wood, which has been allowed to weather (as FLLW intended) to a stately silver on the outside is waxed to a wonderful rich orange inside. The light from the clerestory windows, the dining room nook to the left, and a screened in porch to the right wash this peaceful room with calm. The room is furnished by period pieces designed by Wright  some of which are original to the house (as well as a few reproduction chairs that visitors are allowed to sit on.)

The house from the garden. The dining nook comes right out into the garden area blurring the line between indoor and outdoor space.

FLLW strived to blur the line between the inside and the outside. When the floor to ceiling windows of the dining room are open he accomplishes the goal. Diners are both in the dining room and in the garden at the same time. The corner window opens completely — with no center sash — to give an uninterrupted view (A concept he borrowed from Fallingwater.)

The kitchen is small according to modern standards, but it was typical for the time. The tall ceilings make the room feel a little larger than it really is. There is a long skinny window  at the end of the kitchen, and FLLW created an herb planter just outside. All Mrs. Pope had to do was open the window and reach out to pluck a few herbs to add to what ever she was cooking. There is also a small utility room off the kitchen.

Exterior of the bedroom wing looking to the front of the house. This public side of the house offers a lot of privacy to the inhabitants, with only clerestory windows (above eye level) for light and air.

Looking from the end of the bedroom wing to the crux of the building and the dining nook. The garden side of the bedroom wing has large, hip to ceiling windows.

Back up the stairs and to the right is a door that leads to the bedroom wing of the house. A long, very narrow hall with a run of clerestory windows  leads first to a small bathroom (the only one in the house), to the master bedroom and to the children’s bedroom. The hall is very skinny –about as wide as a passage way in a Pullman railway car — so large furniture had to be brought in through the windows.  The children’s bedroom is especially light. With a wrap around window and two additional clerestory inspired at the far wall. Built-ins, like a child’s desk and cantilevered bookshelves make this room a delight.

At the far end of the bedroom wing the children’s bedroom has it’s own cantilevered roof and special windows.

A room to the right of the entrance, opposite the bedroom wing was Mr. Pope’s Sanctum, his study, until the growing family converted it into a nursery for their child.

Loren Pope wrote an article about the design and construction process on the house and it was this article that inspired other middle income families in the mid 20th Century to turn to FLLW and seek out a USONION. The Popes had hopes that FLLW would build them a new, large home, but by the time the could afford one Wright was in the middle of building the Guggenheim. They only lived in the house for 6 years.

In 1947 The Leighey’s bought the home. They lived there happily until 1961 when they received notice that expansion of Interstate 66 would be going right though the property. The house would need to be moved or it would be torn down. After Mr. Leighey’s death in 1963 Mrs. Marjorie Leighey made a deal with the Trust for Historic Preservation and the house was moved to the grounds of Woodlawn Plantation by flat bed truck. (The masonry and concrete foundation are not original, as those could not be moved and were lost when I-66 was expanded.)  Mrs. Leighey continued to live in the house at it’s new location and gave tours on the weekend.  This first relocation proved to be troublesome as the house had been placed on an unstable marine clay foundation. So it had to be relocated a second time in 1995. Although this second relocation site is only 30 feet from the first is much more stable.

Now the house is situated on a piece of land that is very similar to the original plot. It faces almost the same site lines so the sun peaks through the windows just as it did when the Popes and Leigheys lived there.

Wright was delighted with the house. He thought it truly embodied this ideals of USONIAN design.

Motif detail for the Pope-Leighey’s clerestory. Looking from outside the living room toward the front door.

The house is open for tours Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday) from 10-5pm. Tours are limited to 16 people at a time and cost $8.50 for adults. If you are visiting Mount Vernon the Pope-Leighey House is a short drive away and well worth the addition to your plans. (See the National Trust link below for more information)

Other pages you’ll like on the Pope-Leighy House:

•The National Trust Historic Site  Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighy House page

• Peter Beers’s Pope Leighey House, 2003: Mount Vernon, Virginia page. This page has some wonderful interior photos, something we were not “allowed” to take on our visit. All my interior shots are taken from open doors and windows.

1 Pope and Wright correspondence, 1939, reprinted in The Pope-Leigh[e]y House (Washington DC: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1969), pp. 12-15.

Thought of the Day 6.8.12 Frank Lloyd Wright

“I’m all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools.
Let’s start with typewriters.”

–Frank Lloyd Wright

Today is Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday, he would have been 145 years old.English: Frank Lloyd Wright, American architec...

English: Frank Lloyd Wright, American architect, portrait, head and shoulders, facing right. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[As a writer all I can say to that quote is “ouch.”]

Winterthur Museum and Garden

“In beauty may I walk…with beauty before me…with beauty behind me…with beauty above me… with beauty all around me… may I walk…”— Navajo saying

[found on the stones of the labyrinth in the Enchanted Woods]

Winterthur was Henry Francis du Pont’s (HF)  masterpiece. He was born to a live of privilege on the estate in 1880 and began to supervise the gardens when his father, Henry Algemon du Pont (HA), went to Washington to serve as a Senator. HF and his wife Ruth had houses  in South Hampton, Long Island and Boca Grande, Florida, and an apartment in New York City, but he was never away from his beloved Winterthur for more than a few weeks at a time. He died there in 1969.

Oil painting of Henry Francis du Pont as a young man.

HF worked with the formal gardens that were already established on the estate and created his own. And he planted the March Bank. The March Bank was designed so guest and family members would see thousands of flowers in bloom from their bedroom windows every morning. As seasons changed from early spring, to late spring, to summer, etc the rooms would be transformed. Rugs, curtains and other color accents would be swapped out to match the show outside.

Du Pont considered the natural topography of the land when planting. He was a naturalistic gardener. His woodlands were composed of ground cover, shrub, small and large trees. When he planted azaleas he didn’t just pick one shade of pink or purple, he used gradations of the colors to create his “masterpiece of color.”

Looking north from the bowl of the Quarry Garden.

HF began his Quarry Garden when he was just 22 years old. A short hike down the slate stairs brings the visitor to a hidden gem of color and cool solitude. It is the perfect place to sit and relax on a hot summer day.

A more recent addition to Winterthur is the Enchanted Wood. This fantasy garden delights children of all ages. This fairy-tale inspired  garden delights children of all ages with its misty mushrooms, troll bridge, thatched roofed Faerie Cottage, tulip poplar house, May pole, labyrinth and a story circle that feels like a miniature Stone Hedge.

The estate was a working farm with a prize winning herd of Holstein-Friesian cows before it became a museum. While on a  trip to Vermont to visit the Webb dairy operation in 1923 HF was smitten with the antique American furniture he saw on display. He was attracted to the color combinations of pink porcelain  against the pine cabinetry. It was an “ah-ha” moment, and it started him on major trek in his life. When he got back to Pennsylvania he went antiquing in Chester County and purchased his first American Antique, a 1730 chest of drawers.

The house at Winterthur was originally built by  HF’s great-aunt and uncle the Bidermanns in 1837. It had a mere 12 rooms. Eventually they sold it to Henry du Pont, HF’s grandfather. Henry gave it to HA who added a wing and upped the room count to 30, brought in the cows, and added a railway station.    But Winterthur really blossomed under HF. At its peak the estate employed around 300 people, and had a post office, fire station and its own baseball team.  The house expanded too.  He needed room for his growing collection of American Antiques. He recycled facades and interiors from houses slated for demolition. The magnificent spiral stair case in the entrance hall was rescued from a Southern Plantation that was about to be torn down.  When he was through the mansion had tripled in size and had 175 rooms.

HF had the spiral staircase installed while the family was on vacation. It was a surprise for them when they got back to Winterthur.

If you were a guest at Winterthur when you pulled your car up to the entrance they (the du Ponts or more likely their staff) threw the front and back doors open so the first thing you’d notice was the gardens.  And They kept meticulous records. Guests never ate off the same china or saw the same flowers on the table.

In the formal dining room guest were expected to only speak to the person to their right or to their left (never across the table) so Mrs. du Pont manipulated the conversation at dinner.

Guest usually arrived in the afternoon in time for tea which was sometimes taken out in one of the gardens and was following by a game of Bridge. The best way to curry favor with Mrs. du Pont was to play bridge with her. In fact if you didn’t play bridge, you probably wouldn’t be invited back anytime soon.

Visiting Winterthur doesn’t require an invitation nowadays. The museum and garden are open to the public Tuesdays thru Sundays from 10-5 excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas. For details on planning your trip go to

The Chinese Room at Winterthur. HF found rolls of elegant wall paper with a seamless Chinese image (with no repeats) and knew he wanted it for his home. The only problem? When they unrolled it the room wasn’t tall enough. To solve the problem they curved the top of the walls to meet the ceiling and were able to extend the wall paper to its full height.

A hallway on the sixth floor of Winterthur.

Wooden eagle is one of the thousands of pieces of American Art that graces the halls of Winterthur

RitaLOVEStoWrite and her husband enjoyed their trip to Winterthur. I hope you enjoyed this blog and will be inspired to travel to the Brandywine Valley and see the magnificent house and gardens in person. In the mean time please LIKE the blog or follow me (at the top of the page.) 🙂

Frank Lloyd Wright


This article originally ran in Mason-Dixon ARRIVE magazine.

Visit to learn more about the magazine and community.


Discovering America’s Architect 

In Our Own Backyard 

Nestled among the woods and rocks of Western Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands are two amazing Frank Lloyd Wright houses. Fallingwater, with its cantilevered balconies and waterfall, is perhaps Wright’s most famous house. Seven miles away and high above the Youghiogheny River Gorge is Kentuck Knob, one of Wright’s Grand USONIAN designs.

When Anna Lloyd Jones Wright came home from the 1876 Centennial Exhibition she brought her young son, Frank, a box of Froebel blocks. Froebel invented the blocks to teach children how big shapes were made up of smaller parts, and Frank learned that these simple geometric shapes could be used to make any thing. A few years later when Frank was sent to help at the family farm he developed a love of nature, and was often amazed to find the simple shapes of his blocks in the lush green landscape. Wright drew on both of those formative experiences when he designed Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob.

In the midst of the Great Depression Frank Lloyd Wright found it difficult to land interesting commissions. The bureaucrats in Washington were the only ones doing any building, and they preferred a more classical approach over Wright’s “Organic Architecture”. So Wright busied himself with his school, Taliesin. One of his students, Edgar Kaufmann, jr. (Edgar, jr. never capitalized the “j”) invited Wright to his family’s vacation cabin in the Laurel Highlands. As they walked along Bear Run Wright was enchanted by a waterfall crashing over the rocky ledges. It was one of the Kaufmanns’ favorite gathering places, and he decided then and there to locate their new home on the spot.

“Fallingwater was built from 1936 to 1939 so Wright was 67 years old. He was in a fallow period in his career. He’d just written his autobiography and he wanted show that he could design something dynamic.” Says Cara Armstrong, Curator of Education at Fallingwater, “He went on to do some of his biggest projects, including the Guggenheim, in the decades after designing Fallingwater.” Armstrong advises visitors to “Keep your eyes open and you’ll be rewarded by seeing things differently. Wright used the same ideas on multiple levels.” For example, he used the concept of the cantilever on both the bookcases and the floors of the house.

Because the house is cantilevered “the support is only on one side. So one side is mostly stone and one side is mostly glass.” The large banks of window offer an amazing vista of the woods surrounding the house. Originally Wright wanted to cover the concrete with gold leaf to reflect the changing landscape and the natural setting. That was considered too extravagant by the Kaufmanns, so he painted the concrete instead. The color of the concrete is based on the back of a fallen rhododendron leaf.

He used two of his favorite architectural tricks, darkness to light and compression to release, to direct occupants to the more public areas of the house, like the living room and the balconies. He would repeat these techniques to make smaller homes feel much larger.

So what about the waterfall? The Kaufmanns were surprised that Wright planned to locate their house, not facing the fall, but on top the fall. A set of steps lead from the living room down to the natural rock platform at the top of the falls. With the windows open the house is filled with the soothing sound of water rushing over the rocks. Fallingwater, says Armstrong, is a “very spatial experience, you’d never get the same feeling from a book or the web site.”

With an annual operating budget of $4 million Fallingwater is a major tourist attraction in South West Pennsylvania. Albert Einstein was a guest of the Kaufmanns and celebs such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have toured the building. Reservations are strongly encouraged. The House is open mid-March through Thanksgiving, but is closed on Mondays. Beyond the regular tour you can also take a special Family Tour (perfect for children 5 and up), a two hour in-depth Tour, or a Sunset Tour that ends with light hors d’oeuvres served on the pottery terrace. Call 724-329-8501 for more information or to make a reservation.

Dining Room at Kentuck Knob

The Kaufmanns were friends with another prominent Western Pennsylvania business family, the Hagans. I. M. Hagan owned Hagan Ice Cream, now a division of Kemps Ice Cream. The Hagans visited Fallingwater several times, and when they purchased an 80 acre parcel of land nearby they hoped that Frank Lloyd Wright would design their home too.

The 86 year old Wright was very busy at the time. He was working on the Guggenheim Museum and the Beth Sholom Synagogue as well as 13 other private residences. The famous architect never stepped foot on Kentuck Knob. He designed the house based on arial photos and detailed land surveys.

What he created was a 2,400 square feet Grand USONIAN. Lee Martin, a Kentuck Knob guide, explained that Wright believed you could have an “ascetically pleasing (house) for a price you could afford.” USONIAN houses were designed to on modest, affordable scale. USONIAN stands for United States of North American Nation (the extra “I” was added to make it easier to say.)

Like the approach to most USONIANs, the “public side” of the house is almost fortress like. The cantilevered roof puts all it’s weight on the stone core. Since Wright didn’t need the walls to bare the roof’s weight, he designed a unique wooden clerestory (a tall wall with a strip of small windows at the top). With the windows open, the wood screen allowed the family ultimate privacy from approaching guests, while still providing a cooling breeze.

The private side of the house is lined with floor to ceiling windows and a cantilevered wrap around terrace. Wright designed hexagonal skylights (the house is built on a hexagonal grid, there are almost no right angles) in the roof overhang to allow light into the sitting and dinning rooms. He carefully considered how the light would hit the top of the mountain during different parts of the year. The skylights let light in all year long, but they also bring a cozy warmth in the winter.

Another Wright innovation is an invisible window in the “corner” of the living room. Wright designed a large window set into the stone surround with out a sill or frame. Matching indoor/outdoor moss gardens create the illusion of a mirror.

“USONIAN houses,” noted Martin, “have a tall central core with a fireplace and kitchen, wings for living areas and sleeping areas go off in different directions.”  The bedroom wing’s hip to ceiling windows allow an up close and personal look at the abundant nature outside. Residents of the master bedroom would some times wake to see a deer nestled into the warm niche outside their window.

Using stone from a local quarry and Tidewater Red Cypress Wright created a warm rich interior that embodied his ideal of organic architecture.

The architect, who had seen too many of his houses burn down, opted to use copper for the roofing. It’s soft patina adds to the home’s welcoming feel.

Bernardine Hagan had both a sense of style and nerves of steel. She got her way with the notoriously rigid Wright several times. As a business woman in the food industry, Ms. Hagan wanted stainless steel countertops, as opposed to the traditional Wright Indian Red Clay. Wright allowed the change IF Mrs. Hagan could design it herself and find some one else to install the countertops. She did. Mrs. Hagan also requested and received a basement (something Wright abhorred) and an expanded dining room.

In 1986 Mrs. Hagan sold the house to Lord Peter Palumbo, an avid art collector and member of the British House of Lords. He opened the house to the public a decade later. The Palumbos have added an extensive Sculpture Garden that houses 35 major works of art. The house is decorated with a mix of original Wright designed furniture, including some pieces rescued from the Imperial Hotel in Japan, and Palumbo’s more modern art.

Kentuck Knob is open daily from March 31st to December 31st. Regular tours run Tuesday through Sunday from 10 to 4 and on Mondays at 12, 2 and 3. Other tours include an In-depth Tour and a special Sunset Tour on selected dates. Call (724) 329-1901 to make a tour reservation.

Several nearby hotels offer Wright Packages. “The Wright Experience” at Day’s Inn covers admission to both houses, overnight accommodations and a continental breakfast. Mountain View Inn offers the “Classic American Getaway” with stops at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob and the Christian W. Klay Winery, Dinner, Breakfast and deluxe accommodations. If you are looking for the ultimate Wright weekend consider spending the night IN a Wright house at Polymath Park Resort, 30 miles away. The Resort features Wright’s relocated Duncan House and two houses designed by Wright apprentice, Peter Berndtson.

A weekend discovering America’s Architect will change the way you look at architecture and the world around you.

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