Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Long-Lost Cousin in Ohio

I recently was part of a tour sponsored by the Society of Architectural Historians to Springfield and Sidney Ohio. Sidney has one of Louis Sullivan's gorgeous small banks and I was glad to see it again and find it still in excellent shape.

I knew that Springfield had a Prairie Style house by Frank Lloyd Wright, but it had been in dreadful condition when I saw it about twenty years ago. Remarkably, it has been rescued. A local campaign helped out by the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy, a group mostly composed of owners and curators of FLlW buildings, has managed a miracle. The house had been divided into apartments, the furniture dispersed, and the grounds neglected. It is now sparkling clean and re-planted.

The house, originally built by Burton Westcott in 1908, has some striking resemblances to Rochester's Boynton House of the same date. I was most surprised when I walked into the dining area and found their table. It has those pedestal legs similar to the Boynton's, with lanterns raised above the top on metal legs. There are two other houses, of course, with similar tables: the Robie House, in Chicago, and the Meyer May House, in Grand Rapids, MI. Both are 1907-08, as well. All the tables have differences, principally in the lanterns. The Westcott table is new, not like the others, built recently from the original designs now in the Archive. I was not sure about the finish, but the staff assured me that it had been researched. It may just be too recent to look right.

It's not surprising that any architect should repeat himself. It's dumb to waste a good idea and nobody ever said Wright was dumb.

The floor plan is quite different and there is very little leaded colored glass. A long garden wall links the house to its garage. The wall supports a pergola which covers a long walk. The plan for the original Boynton garden included a similar garden feature which was never built.

Please note: The Boynton House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s only building in Rochester, is a private residence that is not open to the public. While you may view the house from the sidewalk or the street, please respect the owners' privacy by not trespassing. If you would like to visit a Frank Lloyd Wright house, there are two in Buffalo that are open as museums: the Darwin Martin House and Graycliff; both are well worth a day trip!

Posted by Jean France, architectural historian and longtime Landmark Society trustee

Photo is from the Burton Westcott House website,


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