Bachman-Wilson House brings architectural treasure to Crystal Bridges
Hoping to create an American identity among everyday homes, Frank Lloyd Wright had a name for the style of his house plans. “Usonian,” for the “United States of North America,” was his notion to make the homes affordable for the middle class. He charged $400 for a set of plans.
Now the house has a new home in the Ozarks. The Bachman-Wilson House, which cost a fairly modest $30,000 to build in 1954. Its latest incarnation was likely a bit more expensive.
These days the Bachman-Wilson House overlooks Crystal Spring, a tributary well out of the flood plain. The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home was heavily damaged by flooding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The home was repeatedly threatened by flooding in its original location with the likelihood that it would only get worse because of rising tides and climate change.
The owners, architect/designer partnership of Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino, realized that relocating the house was the best option for its preservation. One notion to find a buyer who would buyer to move the home to Fiesole, Italy, a town outside of Florence where Wright lived in 1910.
Fortunately, Crystal Bridges acquired the house in 2013. The house was disassembled, transported 1,200 miles across the country, arrived in Northwest Arkansas in April, 2014 where it was meticulously reconstructed on the museum grounds. Four years later, it sits high, dry and fully restored for visitors to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., visited by more than 80,000 people since its opening a year ago. Admission is free, but a reservation is required.
“Our goal is to provide as much access as possible while being responsible stewards of the house,” says Crystal Bridges Chief Engagement Officer Niki Stewart. “To that end, we will welcome visitors to see the house on their own with general admission, or take a guided tour. Because of the intimate size of the house, we are requiring reservations to enter, while the grounds around the house are accessible without a ticket.
The home was originally located along the Millstone River in Millstone, N.J., just one one of Wright’s famed Usonian homes. The small, simple structures were designed for middle-class Americans to enjoy. At least 60 were built.
It was built originally 1954 for Abraham Wilson and his first wife, Gloria Bachman. Bachman’s brother, Marvin, studied with Wright at Taliesin West, the architect’s home and studio in Scottsdale, Arizona. Bachman and Wilson later divorced.
In 2014, Alice Walton, founder of Crystal Bridges Museum, had the home moved from New Jersey to Bentonville. Crystal Bridges renowned architect Moshe Safdie sited the museum above Town Branch Creek, and the new location for the house matches the original directional orientation of the home. In other words, it looks like it belongs there.
“You’re completely immersed in your natural environment,” says Dylan Turk, an assistant curator. Wright utilized materials that are warm, American and comfortable, wood and natural materials, because he felt that is more appealing than the steel many other architects were using at that time.
Wright was busy working only a bit further further west on the historic Price Tower in Bartlesville, Okla. and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, when the Bachman-Wilson House was built, so he never saw his creation except on paper.
While it wasn’t part of the Crystal Bridges’ initial plan, the iconic architectural style seems to fit in with the museum’s focus on American art, architecture and nature.
Students from the University of Arkansas’ school of architecture, which is named after Wright protege Fay Jones, designed a welcome pavilion nearby. Wright, Jones and Safdie each won the American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal. Jones designed the Thorn Crown Chapel located just west of Eureka Springs and only a few miles from Bentonville.
“I wish I could have said I initiated the action to get the house, but I didn’t,” Safdie said. While he hasn’t yet seen the Bachman-Wilson House in Arkansas, he said he was thrilled to hear about the acquisition and noted that he, Jones and Wright each now have an influence on the museum’s grounds.
The 19-story, 221-foot Price Tower in Bartlesville, now the centerpiece of an inspired art museum and complex, was also designed by Wright. It is the only skyscraper designed by Wright that was realized, and one of only two vertically oriented Wright structures. The other is the S.C. Johnson Wax Research Tower in Racine, Wisconsin. A replica of the Price Tower was constructed in Oklahoma City.
Crystal Bridges Executive Director Rod Bigelow adds, “We are excited to share this historic object that embodies our mission to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites art and nature. As the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in Arkansas, it enhances our region’s offerings with unique engagement opportunities for schools, families, and individuals with an interest in architecture, all at no cost to the public.”
The house is now situated a short distance from the museum, along the trails, with views overlooking the native woodlands and Crystal Spring.The Frank Lloyd Wright house grounds are sponsored by P. Allen Smith, Superior Automotive, Harrison and Rhonda French Family, Meza Harris, and the Tartaglino Richards Family Foundation.
Frank Lloyd Wright House Hours and Ticket Information:
Monday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tickets may be reserved online or by calling 479-657-2335.