June 9, 2017

Preservation Personals: Iowa Prairie House Seeks Design-Loving Owners

  • By: Jared Foretek

A two-story home on a tree-lined street just a block away from a bucolic college campus ... sounds like the American dream, right? Well, I’m all that and the innovative work of one of the most important American architects to ever live, Walter Burley Griffin.

He started work on me in 1911, six years after leaving Frank Lloyd Wright’s famed Oak Park studio and the same year he married the visionary Marion Lucy Mahony, who also worked on my design.

What they came up with here in Grinnell, Iowa, was a novel riff on a prairie house and the first signs of what would become their unique style, expressed in my L-shaped interior, low-pitched gable roof, decorative brick facade and more. Wright’s influence on Griffin was clearly diminished by this point, but certain Wrightian techniques remain, most notably in the way my veranda eases into the landscape.

The National Parks Service says of me—known as the B.J. Ricker House—that “while building upon the past, [it] is thus a clear introduction to the houses of the future” in my National Register of Historic Places entry.

Despite being over a century old, I’m in great shape. Even the leaded art glass windows and handmade tile fireplaces remain beautifully intact. With 2,900 square feet and five bedrooms in a pleasant, walkable community steps from Grinnell College, I’m the perfect house to raise some little architects.

See more of this livable work of art here.

Iowa Prairie Front

photo by: Matthew Karjalahti

Grinnell, Iowa 50112.

Iowa Prairie SW roof line

photo by: Matthew Karjalahti

You can see Griffin and Mahony's signature decorative brick work between the windows.

Iowa Prairie East Side walkout

photo by: Matthew Karjalahti

My veranda flows effortlessly into the surrounding landscape.

Jared Foretek is an editorial intern at the National Trust. He enjoys historic train stations, old bars, and interesting public spaces.


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