Although he became famous for designing public works like the Guggenheim Museum, the American architect’s bread and butter was building private homes.
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Ask anyone to name a famous American architect and chances are they’ll name Frank Lloyd Wright, and for good reason. Before Wright, who began designing in the 1890s, there wasn’t a definitive style of American architecture—the pinnacle of luxury was owning a European-esque home: think French empire, Italianate, and Gothic revival. To Wright, who was madly in love with America’s landscape, people, and democratic values, this was a tragedy. Throughout his seven-decade-long career, he would design over 1,000 buildings and put American architecture on the map with his innovative ideas and timeless aesthetic. Today he is recognized as one the most accomplished architects of all time. Though he created a number of famous public works like New York City’s Guggenheim Museum, Wright primarily worked with private homeowners to build the homes of their dreams—and his dreams, naturally.
He is perhaps best known for pioneering the prairie-style house, which is characterized by its dramatic cantilevered roofs, neutral colors, minimalist aesthetics, and simple, but striking silhouettes. Inspired by the open, flat expanse of the American prairie, Wright’s designs sensationalized both the interior and home design worlds. But Wright was no one-trick pony. In his later years, Wright would become inspired by both Japanese and pre-Columbian architecture, influences that would dominate the work he created.
Two-thirds of the 400 remaining houses by Frank Lloyd Wright are still privately owned; a few have sadly gone the way of the dodo to make room for newer developments. There are, however, some that are so architecturally significant that they’re now open to the public. (Or, alternatively, you could take a four-day road trip to see nine of his famous works.) Here are 10 unique Frank Lloyd Wright–designed homes across the country that you can visit:
1. Taliesin West
- When: Every day from 10 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
- Where: Scottsdale, Arizona
- Visit: Tickets start at $49, franklloydwright.org
When Wright was living in Wisconsin around 1935, he began to travel to the Southwest to escape the harsh Midwest winters on his doctor’s orders. Once there, he purchased several hundred acres of desert land about 26 miles outside of Scottsdale and established Taliesin West, a place that would serve as his winter vacation home where he would instruct his students until his death in 1959. Inspired by the desert landscape, Wright chose to construct Taliesin West out of native rock, cement mixed with local materials, and Arizona sand. With its low-slung silhouette framed by redwood beams, Wright intended to create a structure that neatly blended into the environment. Today, Taliesin has been reinforced with longer-lasting materials like steel and fiberglass, but it remains an interesting stop on any FLW itinerary and is the homebase of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
2. Rosenbaum House
- When: Tuesday–Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 1: p.m. to 4 p.m.
- Where: Florence, Alabama
- Visit: Tickets start at $10, wrightinalabama.com
The Rosenbaum House, the only Wright-designed home in Alabama, is considered to be the purest incarnation of his Usonian style. The house was built in a classic L-shape and, adhering to Wright’s minimalist tendencies, doesn’t have an attic or basement, features built-in furniture, and was outfitted with radiant floor heating. Newlyweds Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum moved into the house in 1940; unfortunately, the couple immediately ran into a few structural problems, including a leaky roof and a failure of the fancy heating system. However, they stayed in the house until 1999, when Mildred passed away.
Shortly after her death, the city of Florence acquired the Rosenbaum house, which it then converted into a museum. Situated near the Tennessee River, the structure blends the line between the boundaries of the house and its surroundings with its floor-to-ceiling windows and neutral-colored building materials.
3. Hollyhock House
- Where: East Hollywood, Los Angeles
- When: Temporarily closed
- Visit: Free, barnsdall.org
Commissioned by oil heiress, philanthropist, and socialite Aline Barnsdall, Hollyhock House was built over two years—from 1919 to 1921—in the East Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. Hollyhock was constructed during a rather tumultuous time in Wright’s life. He had just moved to the West Coast from Illinois while mourning the brutal murder of his mistress Mamah Borthwick, who he felt was the love of his life.
After Borthwick’s death, Wright’s style took a rather severe turn and gravitated towards pre-Columbian-influenced design: think ominous Mayan temples, obscure Aztec symbology, lots of concrete blocks. With “inverted” windows (windows that aren’t visible from the outside), Mayan revival–style roof decor, a large, cryptic bas-relief mantelpiece, and even a moat, Hollyhock House is a fantastic example of the enigmatic style Wright adopted during his time in Los Angeles.
Although it was originally intended to be a private residence for Barnsdall, she found it difficult to live in and owned it for just a few years before she deeded it to the city in 1927. In 2019, Hollyhock House joined the UNESCO World Heritage list as part of its “The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright” collection. Today, the Hollyhock House is temporarily closed to the public because of COVID, but visitors can relax on the Barnsdall Art Park’s green and observe the home’s intriguing exterior.
On a side note, if you happen to be in the Los Angeles area, consider spending time in Palos Verdes to visit Lloyd Wright’s (ol’ FLW’s son) Wayfarers Chapel. Located on a bluff overlooking the blue expanse of the Pacific, the Swedenborgian church is considered to be one of the best examples of organic architecture. Composed of entrancing glass walls that are completely surrounded by redwoods, it almost feels as if you’ve stumbled into a Californian fairy tale.
4. Hanna-Honeycomb House
The Hanna-Honeycomb House, which is so named because of its hexagonal structure, was Wright’s very first work in the San Francisco area and the first non-rectangular building he designed. Construction began in 1937 and it’s considered a prime example of Wright’s Usonian style of architecture—a simple, utilitarian design that could be affordable to middle-class Americans—even though it has many extra bells and whistles (garden house, double garage, hobby shop) that would push it beyond the reach of the average homebuyer. Originally created for Paul and Jean Hanna, the couple and their three children lived in the house for 38 years until they donated it to Stanford University in 1975.
But getting to tour this Wright creation can be a bit tricky. The Hanna-Honeycomb house is open, at Stanford’s Heritage Services discretion, just twice a year for public tours. You can email them to find out when the next tour will be.
5. Frederick C. Robie House
- When: Open Thursday–Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Where: Hyde Park, Chicago
- Visit: Tickets start at $20, flwright.org
Located in Chicago’s ritzy Hyde Park neighborhood, the Robie House is considered to be the definitive prairie-style home and is indisputably the most recognizable. With a cantilevered roof and exaggerated overhanging eaves, the building is a brick and concrete ode to the utterly flat beauty of the open plains. The interiors of the Robie House use a delightfully airy open floor plan—a revolutionary choice at a time when contemporary house design favored a maze of walls and rooms. It was completed in 1910 for businessman Frederick C. Robie, although he sadly lived in the house for just 14 months before he was forced to sell it due to financial trouble. The building was nearly demolished twice (in 1941 and 1957), but Wright campaigned to save it—the only times he ever intervened to rescue a building he designed. However, the unique abode eventually got the recognition it deserved and, in 1991, was recognized by the American Institute of Architects as one of the most important structures created during the 20th century.
- When: Open Thursday–Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Where: Mill Run, Pennsylvania
- Visit: Tickets start at $32, fallingwater.org
Besides the Guggenheim Museum, Fallingwater is arguably the most famous building Wright ever created and is considered to be the peak manifestation of his concept of organic architecture. He believed that there could be a harmonious, beneficial relationship among man, art, and nature. Snuggled into Pennsylvania’s hilly Laurel Highlands in the town of Mill Run, Fallingwater is perched above a tranquil waterfall and was built with locally quarried sandstone. Construction of Fallingwater was completed in 1939, and the Kaufmann family used it as a vacation home until they donated the property to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the property’s surrounding 469 acres of land in 1963. Today, Fallingwater is still owned by the Conservancy and is open to the public for tours. The home is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was hailed as the “best all-time work of American architecture” by the American Institute of Architecture, so this one is definitely a must-see.
7. Cedar Rock
When: Wednesday–Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Independence, Iowa
Visit: Free, iowadnr.gov
This dreamy little abode encompasses 1,800 square feet of pure FLW design. Wright oversaw every detail within Cedar Rock right down to the cups and plates that graced the dinner table. Legend has it that the only thing allowed on the property that wasn’t designed by Wright was a Thompson TVT boat. Designed for the Lowells in Buchanan County, Iowa, a family who had become wealthy asphalting rural roads, Cedar Rock is a classic Usonian build: completely flat roof, brick walls, floor-to-ceiling windows aplenty, and concrete floors. Following Walter Lowell’s death in 1981, the home was donated to the state of Iowa, which stills maintains the property.
8. Kentuck Knob
- When: Wednesday–Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesdays from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
- Where: Dunbar, Pennsylvania
- Visit: Tickets start at $28, kentuckknob.com
Kentuck Knob was one of the last homes that Wright ever built—he was 86 years old when he agreed to take the project on. Although Usonian in design, this house has an unusual hexagonal structure. Built with local sandstone and North Carolinian red cypress, the structure’s low-slung profile blends gracefully into the landscape. And if you’re wondering why a house in Pennsylvania is called the “Kentuck Knob,” the home’s fanciful name was inspired by the property it’s built on. Way back in the day, an 18th-century settler named David Askins was considering moving to Kentucky from Pennsylvania but instead opted to settle in the Quaker State’s southwestern corner and dubbed it Little Kentuck. To this day, the area is still known as the Kentuck District—thus, the Kentuck Knob.
9. Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
- When: Every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Where: Oak Park, Chicago
- Visit: Tickets start at $20, flwright.org
What would a list like this be without a mention of FLW’s old stomping grounds? When Wright was just 22 and freshly married, he borrowed $5,000 (about $153,00 in modern valuation) and built his first home. It was the very first time he would have complete creative control over a project. Rather than imitate European design, Wright chose to design his house in the shingle style, an at-the-time popular East Coast design characterized by an asymmetrical facade, large veranda, and, of course, wood shingles.
The home, despite being one of his earliest works, already showed signs of Wright’s clever revolutionary design. His house and studio was one of the first instances where he bucked the Victorian compartmentalized layout of a home (where a living room might flow into a bedroom, which might then flow into a drawing room) and instead opted for an open-concept layout. Wright would expand and renovate the property twice during the 20-odd years that he lived in the residence and pioneered his iconic prairie-style of design at his home studio there.
10. Muirhead Farmhouse
- When: Open on select dates from February through October
- Where: Kane County, Illinois
- Visit: Tickets start at $100, muirheadfarmhouse.com
About a 90-minute drive from Chicago, you can find Muirhead Farmhouse in Kane County. It’s the only farmhouse Wright ever designed—and it’s probably unlike any farmhouse you’ve ever seen. Clocking in at 3,200 square feet and surrounded by 800 acres of quintessential prairie grassland, the almost-ranch-style house is distinctly boxy and sprawls across the property.
Wright built this Usonian-style home out of Chicago brick, concrete mixed with local materials, and tidewater red cypress. Completed for Robert and Elizabeth Muirhead in 1953, the property still remains in the family to this day and underwent an extensive renovation in 2003. The Muirhead farmhouse is open only part of the year during the warmer months, so be sure to check its website to find out when guests will next be welcome.
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