2019 was a busy year for the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. The organization directly served more than 100 buildings during the year, well over a quarter of existing Wright-designed structures. Our services included advocacy, technical resources, preservation easements, and Wright on the Market real estate listings.
The most significant achievement of the year was the inscription of eight Frank Lloyd Wright-designed sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List. For more than 15 years, the Conservancy, partnering with several Wright sites, led the effort for this inscription. The nomination of The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright marks the first World Heritage inscription of modern architecture from the United States. The only other American architect to be so honored is Thomas Jefferson, whose Monticello and University of Virginia have been inscribed on the list. Conservancy Executive Director Barbara Gordon traveled to Baku, Azerbaijan, in July to represent the organization as the nomination was inscribed by the World Heritage Committee.
This year, the Conservancy’s Board of Directors approved a new Strategic Plan, which includes four strategic priorities in Advocacy, Technical Services, Education and Capacity Building, that will guide our work over the next three years. This plan will strengthen and increase the Conservancy’s capability and responsiveness to ensure the continued preservation and protection of Wright’s remaining built work, while also focusing our efforts to educate and encourage more people to become active participants in our mission.
Our mission to advocate for the remaining built works designed by Frank Lloyd Wright was front and center in 2019. The Conservancy addressed 18 different advocacy cases. In March, the importance of the then-pending World Heritage nomination became clear with the effort to stop a proposed 299-foot-tall high-rise in Oak Park, Illinois, that would have cast shadows on nearby Unity Temple. Unity Temple’s status as a World Heritage site nominee was a compelling part of the argument against the development.
Saving the endangered Booth Cottage in Glencoe, Illinois, was an important effort throughout the year. The Conservancy worked closely with the Village of Glencoe, the Glencoe Historical Society and Landmarks Illinois on the future of this little known, but significant, early Wright work. We also celebrated the grand opening of the rebuilt Lindholm House that was moved from Minnesota to Pennsylvania after a multi-year effort determined that there was no viable long-term future for the house due to significant encroachment of new commercial development in its backyard.
Our two main Conservancy events allowed members to experience two advocacy projects first-hand. In May our annual Out and About Wright was located in Dallas, Texas, and included a tour of the Kalita Humphreys Theater. The tour was followed by a panel discussion examining the challenges facing the future of the building. During our October conference in Los Angeles, attendees toured the Freeman House, a textile-block structure whose current condition has been a serious concern for the Conservancy.
The Conservancy provided technical resources to 27 sites. These sites included the Kalil House in Manchester, New Hampshire, where the Conservancy provided information on restoration consultants, including architects, masonry specialists and real estate professionals to the Kalil family as they prepared the house for a sale that led to its purchase by the Currier Art Museum in Manchester. For the Baker House in Wilmette, Illinois, the Conservancy facilitated a pro bono inspection by architect John Eifler. At Kentuck Knob in western Pennsylvania, the Conservancy’s Preservation Programs Manager John Waters provided on-site input to staff as they discussed maintenance issues.
Preservation-minded owners of two Wright-designed properties donated preservation easements to the Conservancy in 2019. The owners of the Hoffman House in Rye, New York, and the Henderson House in Elmhurst, Illinois made sure that those houses would not be put at risk as they transitioned to new stewards by donating easements. The preservation easement is the strongest legal protection available for historic properties. The Conservancy holds easements on 22 Wright-designed properties in 10 states.
2019 was a record-breaking year for the sale of Wright-designed properties. The Conservancy’s Wright on the Market included 25 different properties, 15 of which sold during the year.
Other activities included visits by Gordon and Waters to individual sites to meet building stewards. Gordon spoke at Unity Temple and other locations about the World Heritage nomination and inscription, while Waters spoke at public sites including Westcott House in Springfield, Ohio, and Kraus House in Kirkwood, Missouri, about Wright’s architecture and its stewardship.
This fall, the Conservancy kicked off the celebration of its 30th anniversary. Over three decades, we have much to be proud of including saving numerous buildings from demolition and encroaching development, providing hundreds of referrals and preservation information for building stewards at private and public sites. Our educational programs and events held each year allow people from around the world to experience Wright’s work first-hand, and understand the important influence that he had on modern architecture.
The Conservancy looks forward to an eventful 2020 as it continues its mission to facilitate the preservation of all remaining Wright-designed buildings through advocacy, education and technical services.
Posted on January 27, 2020