Wright Home First Opening to the Public (1957)
Reprint from WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL, SUNDAY, AUGUST 18, 1957
Frank Lloyd Wright's first prefabricated house, built on a wooded knoll near Crestwood, will be opened to the public today.
The house has been watched by thousands in the Madison area as it has been building, and the builder has had to erect a stout fence to hold back persons who have wanted to enter. Now the fence will be opened.
The house, 85 feet long and containing 2,000 square feet, has all of the earmarks of the genius of Spring Green. Yet it is prefabricated in a factory of Marshall Erdman and Associates, at 5117 University Ave.
"The amazing, and significant, thing about this house is that it is made of conventional materials yet designed in such a way that the rich, full genius of Mr. Wright shows through," says Erdman.
"This is of course, not a prefabricated home for everyone. It's for the person who found that the Wright designed home, built on a conventional basis, would cost them $60,000 to $100,000. They wanted the charm and the feeling of a Wright home, in the same way that they might want a fine painting, but they couldn't pay the price.
Use Stock Items — "So we have attempted to combine his design with adaptations of stock items available on the mass market." The big masonry piers, and huge expanses of glass in odd and varied forms are gone.
"Mr. Wright likes heavy wooden shakes for the roof," says Erdman. "That gets to be mighty expensive. So, in this house, we have used asphalt shingles and substituted wooden battens under the shingles at regular intervals for the same effect."
"Mr. Wright would make window areas individually, with different sizes and shapes. We have used standard awning type windows, each 2 by 4 feet, stacked to achieve various effects."
The exterior of the house is of slightly textured masonite board, with the horizontal V-battens on 16-inch centers to accentuate the longness and the lowness of the house. At the lower edges of the roof, the familiar facia board has been eliminated, for a sharp angle terminus to the roof.
Inside, the same horizontal V-battens have been used on the same 16-inch centers. The living room is sunken, with three broad steps rising to the dining and kitchen areas of the house and to the gallery that stretches to the bedroom wing. In the pilot model, there are three bedrooms and two baths, all with the faintly Oriental flavor that is a part of the Wright trademark.
Lot Adds Charm — The lot upon which the house is located contributes much to the charm of the living room with its large, almost walk-in fireplace. The view through the windows blends with the inner view in an effect that Wright likes to achieve.
The house, which sells for $34,000, is now going into production in the prefabricating plant of the Erdman firm. Orders have been received from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Connecticut, and Illinois, Erdman said. They are currently being sold by the 30 dealers which handle other Erdman prefabricated houses in the country.
And, with the wide publicity which the current Wright model has received, there has been an increased interest in dealerships. Late last week, persons interested in becoming dealers came to Madison from as far away as Texas to view the house. The Wright model is located in the Faircrest addition to Crestwood at the south edge of the built-up area.
Wright Visits Site — Wright, himself has often been a visitor to the site, and has watched and checked the building of the house.
Erdman first became associated with Wright when he made a surprise visit to Taliesin several years ago to try to convince Wright that he – Erdman – should build a Wright-planned church for the First Unitarian Society in Madison. Wright assented, and a close association between the two began. When Erdman shifted his operation from custom building to prefabricating, he asked the Spring Green architect for plans for such a house and – to the surprise of many – Wright assented.
The architect, however, made one stipulation. No house can be built on a lot until Wright, or a member of his staff, has made a visit to the site and approved the lot.
Hours of open house will be from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday at 12 noon to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. A fee of 50 cents is to be charged. The open house will be continued through Sept. 16, 1957.