Survey on Usonian Houses Reveals Common Concerns

As a part of its mission to facilitate the preservation of Wright’s existing structures, the Conservancy continually researches best practices for the preservation and maintenance of those structures. We strive to make information on those practices available to the owners and stewards of Wright-designed structures. As a part of this process, last fall the Conservancy partnered with Emily Butler, a graduate student in the preservation studies program at Tulane University, to create a survey for Usonian house owners and stewards. One of the primary goals of the survey was to gather information on this group’s experiences in maintaining these unique structures.

We were extremely pleased to receive more than 60 responses, including seven from stewards of public sites and four from former homeowners. The survey’s questions ranged from basic data, such as building materials, to more in-depth questions about maintenance practices and ongoing preservation issues. To no one’s surprise, issues that regularly came up included those related to concrete floors and flat roofs. While descriptions of some significant floor restoration projects were shared, discussion of roofs focused much more on regular, preventive maintenance. Examples of this maintenance ranged from periodic sweeping of leaves and other debris from roofs, to the annual laying of heat cable in the late fall to prevent ice damming. Other significant areas of concern were wood finishing and the maintenance and repair of door and window hardware.

It was clear that many of those who responded looked to the Conservancy for restoration and maintenance information, particularly assistance on locating skilled craftspeople and appropriate building products. The Conservancy regularly receives this type of inquiry from building owners and we work to provide effective, up-to-date responses.

Butler is now in the process of interpreting data from the survey as a part of her Master’s thesis focusing on the preservation of Wright’s Usonian-era houses. When complete, Emily’s thesis will be available as an additional tool for the preservation of Wright’s Usonian houses.

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Posted on March 13, 2018

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