This is fairly astonishing news coming from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art: The museum has acquired a Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian house, the Bachman Wilson House in Millstone, N.J. In its current location, the house is in danger of collapse. From the press release:
Built in 1954 along the Millstone River, the house has been encroached upon by the river and surrounding landscape over the past decades. Due to repeated flooding, the house has sustained significant damage and relocation has been recommended as a means of best preserving the structure. The owners conducted a multi-year search for a purchaser that could provide an appropriate setting and context for the historic building. Crystal Bridges has now acquired the home, which will be disassembled and moved to Bentonville. There, it will be reassembled on Crystal Bridges’ 120-acre grounds.
A Usonian house — a term coined by the architect — is a one-story house that has no basement or attic and few frills as a way to control construction costs. Wright designed 60 such houses, and named the Usonia after a term coined to describe Americans.
But why this term “America” has become representative as the name of these United States at home and abroad is past recall. Samuel Butler fitted us with a good name. He called us Usonians, and our Nation of combined States, Usonia.
–Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture: Selected Writings 1894–1940, p. 100.
J.B. Hunt Transport has donated its services to transport the Bachman Wilson House to Bentonville, the museum said, where it will be available for study. More from Crystal Bridges press release about the history and architecture:
In 1954, Abraham Wilson and Gloria Bachman (husband and wife) commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design their home. Gloria’s brother, Marvin Bachman, was an apprentice in the Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin Fellowship.
Wilson and Bachman wrote to Wright, asking him to design a house for them, and later met with the architect at the Plaza Hotel in New York, while he was working on the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The resulting design reflects Wright’s Usonian period: a work of art in simplicity and form, representing organic design principles.
When the recent owners, architect/designer team Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino, purchased the property in 1988, the home had previously flooded multiple times. The Tarantinos painstakingly restored the house, using original construction documents from the Frank Lloyd Wright archives. They have both preserved and restored historic elements, and realized original elements of the Wright design that had previously been altered or eliminated. The Tarantino’s restoration work has been lauded with multiple awards: in 2008, the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy awarded the project the Wright Spirit Award; in 2009, the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects created a Preservation Merit Award to recognize their achievement; and Somerset County, N.J. gave the project a Historic Preservation Award.
There is a strong indication that flooding on the property is increasing both in intensity and frequency, threatening the house itself and its viability as a residence. Citing their protracted battle with floodwaters, the owners decided to put the house on the market in 2012. The sale, however, was conditional upon moving the house to a suitable natural site.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, an international organization based in Chicago to facilitate the preservation and maintenance of the remaining structures designed by Frank Lloyd Wright through education, advocacy, preservation easements and technical services, supports this plan of action to save the structure. The Borough of Millstone Historic District Commission in Millstone, N.J. also supports moving the house, citing its removal will not affect the Millstone Historic District.
The sale of the house includes all the fixtures and furniture designed for it. A specialized contractor will be secured for the methodical process of dismantling the house, under the supervision of the Tarantinos, for moving to Arkansas where it will be reconstructed to Frank Lloyd Wright’s original specifications. The Tarantinos will oversee the packing of every building component, built-in furnishings and furniture, which will be carefully loaded into container trucks, transported and reconstructed on site.
According to the Tarantinos, the home’s architectural form can best be described as Pavilion-style, with a tall masonry wall providing privacy from the public-side approach, and a dramatic open floor plan revealing horizontal and vertical planes that pass through the space to the outside.
“The southeast facade consists of 16-foot-tall by 54-foot-long mahogany-framed glazed panels with alternating sets of out-swinging double doors surrounding much of the living/dining area, and provides a passive solar transparency while sharing the opportunity to feel one with nature,” said Lawrence Tarantino. “The Bachman Wilson House goes far beyond providing shelter. It’s an exercise in architecture for architecture’s sake that represents a culmination of principles Wright embraced and developed throughout his long, prolific career. Wright was in his mid-80s when he was working on this house, and he also wrote his book, The Natural House, a summation of his design philosophy, during the same time period.”