Saturday, November 26, 2011

Penfield House

I spent the evening in a house that took me back to memories of high school, but also one that I did not appreciate when I visited it as part of my art class all those years ago. It is the Penfield House in Willoughby, Ohio. Louis Penfield was my high school art teacher. He was 6'8" tall and commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design a home that suited his size. (I'm thinking he had more money than just for his schoolteacher job.) The home, overlooking the Chagrin River, is one of 9 Usonian homes that Wright designed. They are small, minimalist and very peacefully settle into the landscape around them.

Last March I had seen Falling Water (PA) for the first time and I loved it. I don't think these houses would please everyone, but I like clean lines and a minimal amount of "stuff" so they are very appealing to me. I was impressed with myself that the house and lot was just as I remembered - because, believe me, it was a long time ago!

The house was built in 1955 and we were invited to an evening of 50's style clothing and cocktails. I was thrilled to wander the house at will. It is very open, ceiling to floor windows, a carport ( a term coined by Wright), and a "floating stairway." The bedrooms are small, and to suit Mr. Penfield everything was taller - even the door handles were located at about my shoulder height.

Mr. Penfield apparently commisioned Mr. Wright to design a second house because he thought the highways being built in the late 50's and early 60's were going to intrude on his peace and quiet. The day the Penfields received the drawing for the new house, Mr. Wright passed away. The drawing hangs in the hallway of the Penfield House. The second house was never built and some are continually trying to raise money to still have it built someday, being Wright's last residential design.

I have been very inspired by the Frank Lloyd Wright homes, however, they are not homes built to last forever. Falling Water had to be partially rebuilt in the 1990's and the Penfield House was renovated in the 1980's at $100,000 cost to his son. So, even though they are unique, they were not necessarily well designed - something I am sure Mr. Wright would have never admitted to in his time.


alphabet soup said...

Wonderful post. I am very interested in architecture and was delighted by the photos. Very clean lines as you say and to me a reminder of things Japanese.
Ms Soup

Kate said...

Your experience is so unique. Not only is this story an amazing part of American and Northeast Ohio history, it is also part of yours.