Monday, March 21, 2005

Mason City to sell Wright-designed hotel on Internet

Mason City leaders are looking for someone to take over the renovation of a historic downtown hotel and they may look to an on-line auction-house for help.

Mason City education specialist Monica Doyle says putting the Park Inn on E-Bay does not mean the city has to sell the structure -- the last remaining hotel designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The ad format is not a binding contract and people who are interested will contact the city via the ad. Doyle calls E-Bay a "dynamic way to get people all over the world to see what we have here in Mason City."

The Mason City Foundation was overseeing restoration of the Park Inn but pulled out last month, due to a lack of support. The hotel is now owned by the city. Doyle says the city can post the listing on-line for up to three months if the city council wants to do so. She says the city can run the ad for 90 days or pull it at any time for any reason. All of the e-mail will go to Doyle and she says it would be a great way to reach organizations all over the world that "we don't know about."

Councilman Max Weaver suggested the city ask groups to get together on their own and he says city staff members should be willing to help any group that comes forward.The city council is scheduled to vote on whether to advertise the project on E-Bay at Tuesday's 7 P.M. meeting.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Wallflowers for years, Frank Lloyd Wright homes are a tough sell


The spacious old house in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood seemed to be an attractive property.

The 90-year-old brick and stucco structure is 2,700 square feet, has four bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths and sits on nearly half an acre - a large lot in the city. It also has the cachet of being designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, widely considered America's greatest architect.

But it seemed nobody wanted to buy the house, which had been on the market for about a year and a half. Until the owner took the unusual step of selling it at an auction.

The owner had discovered a hard truth about Wright homes in this era of big, open living spaces and spa tubs: They are difficult to sell.Home buyers today are in search of huge master-bedroom suites, expansive kitchens and large family rooms, none of which are standard in Wright houses, mostly built from the late 1890s until his death in 1959.

With the added cost of preserving an older historic home and the premium price tag placed on Wright houses, many languish on the market for years."

Many people are interested in Frank Lloyd Wright properties. But not everybody really wants to live in one," said Jan Kerr, a real estate agent in Oak Park, Ill., site of many Wright homes, who has sold seven in her 26-year career.

Just ask Arlene Moran of Galesburg, Mich., about 160 miles east of Chicago. Moran's three-bedroom, two-bath home designed by Wright, on which she spent about $180,000 for renovations, has been for sale for two years."I've begged people to call me back after they've seen it and tell me what they consider not desirable," Moran said.

She has set a firm price - $375,000 - to recover her costs, but Moran has refused offers from people who planned to use the house as a bed-and-breakfast or time-share vacation home.

"You need to have somebody who's going to take care of it," Moran said. "These people were interested, but I wasn't interested in them. These things should not be done to a work of art."

The owner of the Wright home in Rogers Park decided to put it up for auction as a last resort after the house failed to receive any offers, said Ken Goldberg, executive managing director of Sheldon Good Brokerage and the broker for the house during its last two sales.

People who wanted to live in the house thought the bedrooms were too small, and half of the prospective buyers were developers who thought the limitations on future development on the large lot were too restrictive, he said."It's been a very tough sale because it's overpriced.

Secondly, the Frank Lloyd Wright house doesn't belong in East Rogers Park. It's out of place there," Goldberg said. "Had it been in Oak Park (Ill.) it probably would've sold 10 times. We took the price from $2.5 million to $1.9 million, and we still had resistance."

Some Wright home sellers have unrealistic expectations when setting their price and believe that a Wright-designed home entitles them to a 20 percent markup, said Ron Scherubel, executive director of the Chicago-based Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, which tracks the sale of Wright homes.

The owner of the Rogers Park home is Chicago-area restaurateur and developer Reza Toulabi, who bought the home and adjacent lot in 2000 for nearly $700,000, according to property records.It sold at auction last week in eight minutes, for several hundred thousand dollars above the opening bid of $750,000.

That sale marks the second known time that a home designed by Wright has been put up for auction, Scherubel said. The first was in the Cincinnati area, and it sold for $400,000 in 2003 - half the price of the opening bid of $800,000.

The Rogers Park home, in the 7400 block of North Sheridan Road, was built in 1915 for Emil Bach, a Wright enthusiast who co-owned a brick company. The structure reflects Wright's transition from the Prairie Style to his Usonian period, during which he created moderately priced homes with more open floor space.The home has an adjacent yard that is zoned for low-density development, such as a two-flat or townhouses, which has been used as a selling point. The new owner does not have plans to build on the yard next door.

Several Wright enthusiasts said any development on the side lawn would not honor the architect's design.Frank Miller, 36, a banker whose family lived in the house from 1969 to 1978, said building a structure next door would change the way light filters into the home.

Miller's father spearheaded the effort to landmark the home in 1977."The windows are designed to see certain things or have a certain view," Miller said. "The more you build around it, the more you take away from a piece of the puzzle of who Frank Lloyd Wright was."

The house's landmark status means city approval is required before any major changes can be made to it.Along with historic-preservation laws and challenges by conservationists, Wright homes face another hurdle when they go on the market: They seem outdated to some potential buyers.During Wright's career, most families spent time in the living room, and for some, servants cooked meals in far-off kitchens - a style of living that is out of step with today's demand for big, centrally located kitchens.

Maintenance costs for Wright homes also add up, with the newest houses about 50 years old."Anything you do to a Wright house is rather unique," Scherubel said. "Fix-up costs are marginally, incrementally higher in a Wright house because they're custom jobs. You don't go to Home Depot."

Yet while owners of Wright homes may find it takes longer to sell than a typical house in the suburbs, there is still a niche market, said Tim Quigley, board president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy."Interest in Wright's work continues unabated," Quigley said. "It's a mating game, just finding the right people for these houses is a bit of patient search, that's all."

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Forest Avenue in Winter

In what I hope is the last snofall of this season I found myself on Forest Avenue and took a few shots in the fresh snow. The next time I hope its spring!

Peter A. Beachey House
 Posted by Hello

Hills-De Caro House
 Posted by Hello

Nathan Grier Moore House
 Posted by Hello

Arthur Heurtley House
 Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Emil Bach House is Sold at Auction

The Chicago Tribune reports that the Bach House sold in 8 minutes.

A Frank Lloyd Wright house in Chicago's Rogers Park community was sold at auction Tuesday in eight minutes, after failing to attract a buyer for more than a year.

Frank Diliberto, senior vice president of the Oak Brook-based Inland Real Estate Group, which handled the auction, refused to identify the buyer or the winning bid, but said it was several hundred thousand dollars above the opening bid of $750,000.

About 200 prospective home buyers had toured the 4-bedroom, 3 1/2 bath house at 7415 N. Sheridan Rd.The winning bidder is not a developer and plans to live in the house, Diliberto said. The new owner does not have plans to develop an adjacent yard, he added.

Possible development of the yard drew ire from Frank Lloyd Wright preservationists who argued any new structure on the property would alter the architect's design.

In February, Ald. Joe Moore (49th) proposed a city ordinance to rezone the property from multifamily housing to single-family homes."In this case the plan of the buyer seems to meet perfectly with the desires of the community, which is preservation," Diliberto said.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Aaron Green & Frank Lloyd Wright Posted by Hello

Aaron Green Getting it Wright

At the start of his career, Aaron Green got the opportunity every young architect dreams of - to build a home for a sympathetic client, a hometown businessman who was already a patron. But Green gave the job away.

"I don't think I'm the one who should be doing the house," he told the client. "There's a guy named Frank Lloyd Wright."

Wright took the job, and the result for Green was a relationship with Wright that lasted until the Master's death 20 years later and determined Green's direction throughout his career.

In taking the job, Wright asked Green to supervise construction, says architect Jan Novie, who is Green's protege, just as Green was Wright's.

Read the entire article at

Friday, March 04, 2005

Fallingwater Expands Visitor Choices for 2005 Season

Guided tours of this recently restored house on a waterfall resume their regular season (March 15) with several new features designed to enrich the visitor experience at this unforgettable site. Since 1963, close to 4 million people have visited Fallingwater, which was named one of 50 Places of a Lifetime by National Geographic Traveler Magazine

"Now that the restoration is complete, we want our visitors to have an opportunity to experience the house in a more leisurely way so that both its complexity and intimacy can be better absorbed," commented Fallingwater Director Lynda S. Waggoner.

Two special tours now offer a closer experience of Fallingwater. Sunset Tours combine a late-afternoon in-depth tour of the house and grounds, led by the senior interpretive staff, followed with outdoor refreshments. Exclusive Focus Tours allow visitors to tour Fallingwater with a member of the curatorial staff; then share a private lunch and lively conversation about Fallingwater's history.

Fallingwater's daily regular guided tours are offered Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The 8:30 a.m. In-Depth tour offers smaller groups a detailed view of the house with access to areas not available on the regular tour. Photography is only permitted during these In-Depth tours.

The Saturday Land of Fallingwater Nature Hike, a four-hour guided exploration of the house and nearby nature reserve, starts its tour schedule on April 23. Fallingwater is closed on Mondays. Reservations are essential to take a tour and can now be done through a secure website at

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