Hidden away in a wooded neighborhood of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in the 1970s has come on the market for the first time.
The 1,300-square-foot house, with two bedrooms and two baths, is one of Wright’s Usonian homes and hit the market last month for for $1.2 million. Wright designed the house in 1938 for a retired teacher in Wisconsin, but it was never built, according to JoAnn Barrett, the agent for the listing.
The design was revived four decades later. Fred Haddock, an astrophysicist at the University of Michigan, and his wife at the time, Priscilla Whiteford, contacted Wright’s widow in the mid-1970s, saying she could earn money from Wright’s unrealized plans, said Deborah Fredericks, who later married Haddock. She still lives in the house; Haddock died in 2009.
The firm Wright founded to handle his legacy, Taliesin Associated Architects, managed the entire project, Ms. Fredericks said. Taliesin chose the site—10 acres sloping to Honey Creek—the placement and the house plan, according to Wright’s vision. Usonian houses were intended to blend into their surroundings. The house was completed in 1979, two decades after Wright’s death.
“Wright called it a jewel box,” Ms. Fredericks said of the design of the home, which has the name the Whiteford-Haddock House after its original owners.
The design was dubbed a “Below Zero,” tailored for the region’s cold winters. The roof slopes sharply for snow to slide off. Haddock made a few adjustments: he tweaked the radiant floor heating, a weakness in other Wright houses.
“Wright specified iron pipes in concrete. Fred was a chemist and knew a reaction would occur that would make the pipes fall apart, so he had them use copper pipes wrapped in another material,” Ms. Fredericks said. The radiant floor heating still works.
The high ceilings, sloping to 20 feet, are unusual for a Wright house, noted Ms. Barrett.
In the center of the home, a 30-foot tower rises above the circular staircase going to the basement. “Fred hated having that space go to waste, so he put books there,” Ms. Fredericks said. He reached his 6,000-volume library by ladder, depositing his choices into a not-Wright plastic bucket suspended from the ceiling.
On a platform between the dining room and master bedroom, a large flat-screen television lies horizontal and out of sight until summoned to rise into view, thanks to a hospital-bed mechanism.
“You try to keep everything within the historical standards, but still have a modern life,” she said.
The kitchen was updated from the original “domestic area” marked on the blueprints. However, all the original cupboards, as well as remnants of the redwood used, have been stored.
Usonian principles called for open-plan living areas, all on one level, and small bedrooms that would be used only for sleeping, Ms. Barrett noted.
Haddock died in 2009, and Ms. Fredericks has decided to downsize. “It’s going to be really weird after this to live in a house where people come to see me and not the house,” Ms. Fredericks said.
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