The David & Gladys Wright House, Designed by Dad Frank Lloyd Wright, Now Saved
In the architecture world, no name carries more weight than Frank Lloyd Wright. But, as a dispute in Phoenix, Arizona shows, the name alone does not protect iconic buildings from demolition threats. A 1952 Arcadia home built for Wright’s son, David Wright, was in danger of being torn down a few years ago by then-current owners, the 8081 Meridian Corporation.
The David & Gladys Wright House is the only Wright residence based on the same spiral concept as the Guggenheim Museum, and boasts a unique coiled, concrete façade. The property was purchased in June 2012 by 8081 from J T Morning Glory Enterprises, who had placed the house on the market in 2011 after it sat unoccupied for two years.
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The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy worked to avoid losing the home by searching for a new buyer who would purchase the property intact from the developers. They also explored the possibility of multiple buyers purchasing the house to gain immediate control over the property, and then transitioning to a sole owner for long-term preservation.
“We think that such a buyer would value the house as is, and restore it and perhaps the original citrus orchard that surrounded the house,” said Janet Halstead, executive director of the Conservancy, at the time.
Since they heard about the demolition possibility, the Conservancy worked to get approval for historic preservation/landmark designation from the city of Phoenix, buying more time to save the home. (No demolition permit can be granted while historic preservation designation is being considered, and if it is approved, an automatic one-year delay will be applied to any demolition permit request; landmark status ups it to three years.)
The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy urged supporters to send letters pushing for these designations to the mayor, individual councilmen, the Historic Preservation Commission of Phoenix or the Phoenix Planning Commission.
Ultimately, the online petition gathered nearly 30,000 signatures in support of saving the David & Gladys Wright House. The preservation community celebrated in December 2012 when lawyer and custom home builder Zach Rawling purchased the house, sparing the Frank Lloyd Wright icon from the wrecking ball.
Rawling, who grew up nearby, has opened the house for small, guided tours by appointment only. To learn more, or to schedule a tour, visit davidwrighthouse.org.
Read more about the David & Gladys Wright House, plus other sites worth seeing in the Phoenix area, in the Fall 2015 issue of Preservation.