20 December 2012
The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy has facilitated the purchase of the David and Gladys Wright House in Phoenix, Arizona, through an LLC owned by an anonymous benefactor. The transaction closed on December 20 for an undisclosed price. The property will be transferred to an Arizona not-for-profit organization responsible for the restoration, maintenance and operation of the David Wright House.
Planning has begun for the restoration of the house and grounds, and additional donations from the public will be sought for the costs of restoration at the appropriate time. The new owner will request that the City of Phoenix grant landmark designation to the house. The goal after restoration is to make the house available for educational purposes.
“This purchase is a magnificent and generous action,” said Larry Woodin, president of the Chicago-based Conservancy. “It is a gift to the people of Phoenix, a gift to the worldwide architectural community and to everyone that cares about the history of modern architecture. We are enormously grateful to this benefactor for making sure there will be a new chapter in the life of this important and unique Frank Lloyd Wright building.”
Built in 1950-52 for Frank Lloyd Wright’s son David and his wife Gladys, it is the only residence by the world-famous architect that utilizes a circular spiral plan similar to the Guggenheim Museum in New York, whose construction followed it by six years. Several architectural historians and architecture critics consider the David Wright House to be among the most significant Wright buildings.
When the Conservancy learned of the sale of the David Wright House to developers in June it asked the city to provide temporary protection from demolition by landmarking the property. Various city commissions and committees have recommended that landmark designation be approved but final action has not yet been taken by the city council.
“This is what we have been working toward over the last six months – landmark status and a new preservation-minded owner,” commented Janet Halstead, Executive Director of the Conservancy. “Immediately our Conservancy working group was joined last June by local preservationists and concerned Phoenix residents. Their active and sustained commitment has been remarkable. We worked as a team to explore options, often behind-the-scenes, as well as rallying community support.” Throughout the process, Mayor Greg Stanton and his staff and Michelle Dodds, acting historic preservation officer for the city, also worked continuously for the preservation of this important piece of Phoenix’s architectural legacy.
The Conservancy gathered more than 28,000 signatures worldwide through an on-line petition urging the city to take all available steps to save the house, and a few thousand more supporters were gathered from visitors to Taliesin West and various local efforts. “All of those efforts have been vital in reaching this point,” said Halstead, “and more donor participation and community support will be needed to restore the house and to fully launch its new parent organization.”
Various individuals and organizations in Phoenix have played key roles in the effort: Scott and Debbie Jarson of Jarson & Jarson Real Estate and azarchitecture.com, Grady Gammage of Gammage and Burnham Attorneys at Law, Jim McPherson of the Arizona Preservation Foundation, Will Bruder of Will Bruder Architects, Frank Henry of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, Alison King of Modern Phoenix, Roger Brevoort of Brevoort Preservation Strategies, Anne Wright-Levi and Kimberly Wright, Taz Loomans of Bloomingrock, Dan Mitchell of Long Realty, Sean Malone and Frank Prozzillo of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Wallace Cunningham of Wallace Cunningham, Inc. and Robert Joffe and Bob Hassett of Sotheby’s Realty.
Further details will be announced in January, including how to support the new organization and the restoration of the David Wright House. Details also will be posted on the Conservancy website www.savewright.org.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, an international preservation organization, is based in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1989, its mission is to facilitate the preservation and maintenance of the remaining structures designed by Frank Lloyd Wright through education, advocacy, preservation easements and technical services.