Frank Lloyd Wright Bachman-Wilson House, Bentonville, Arkansas

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Photo From the Crystal Bridges website

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From the Crystal Bridges website:

Known as the Bachman-Wilson House, this structure is an example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s classic Usonian architecture. The word “Usonian” was derived from an abbreviation of “United States of North America.” Wright created this term to describe a distinctly American style of residential architecture he developed during the Great Depression to be within the reach of the average middle-class American family.

This house was originally built for Gloria and Abraham Wilson in 1956 along the Millstone River in New Jersey. It was subsequently purchased by architect/designer team Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino in 1988 and meticulously restored. When the house was threatened by repeated flooding at its original location, the Tarantinos determined that, in order to preserve it, they should sell the house to an institution willing to relocate it. After the Tarantinos conducted a multi-year search for a suitable institution, Crystal Bridges acquired the house in 2013. The entire structure was then taken apart and each component was labeled, packed, and moved to the Museum, where it was reconstructed in 2015.

Our tour guide was a good one, quite knowledgeable, but our group had a couple of builders and one architect who added much to the conversation.

The clerestory windows catch your eye first, one person said the windows were shaped with a Native American motif, another said they were meant to represent whirligigs. I go with the whirligig theory as the house was built in New Jersey, not New Mexico.
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The back side of the home, with sliding glass doors downstairs to have the outside and inside be one space, true to FLW’s philosophy.  The deck upstairs is off the master bedroom.
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Back of home at night, giving it a much prettier look.

[NB: the photos with the writing in the lower left corner come from the CB website. Mine do not have that writing in it.]

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The home has a carport (where the people are standing) and according to our guide, FLW coined the word carport. He did not believe in utilitarian enclosed spaces. The windows in that wing belong to the kitchen.
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The kitchen is compact but full service, all the bells and whistles.
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Fridge behind wooden doors on left.
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The living room had a long, very long, very very long, built in sofa that while very typical of a FLW design, seemed impractical. Everyone sits side by side?? Everything is built to the square – the tiles line up with the sofa which line up with the wall lines. In the original home in NJ, the screws on the paneled overhang were required to have the screw head lines facing up. Moving the house here, they changed screw heads so they wouldn’t have that detail to obsess over.

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The fireplace on the right wall isn’t exactly practical and the guide didn’t know if it was ever used in its NJ setting. Note too, no overhead lighting, very few outlets, lamps are low, no standing lamps for reading at night. No room for a 60″ flat screen either!

Looking into the dining room, basically a table built in, where people are looking into a wall while eating, unless you are the one chair that looks out.

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When the Tarantino’s agreed with Alice Walton to have CB rebuild the home in Bentonville, there was a large discussion about where it was to be situated. The rule was it had to have a vista that included water, as it did originally in NJ. Below the house is a small pond.

The grounds are pretty so I will say CB did everything right to get the house a new perfect home.

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Leaving and entering, visitors come through a Viewing Pavilion, designed by students at University of Arkansas

We weren’t allowed upstairs and no photos allowed inside at all, hence ones here are from CB. It’s a small home – two bedrooms and two baths, The home is a bit cold, colder than other FLW homes I’ve been in. In all honesty, I could not live in this house, even being by FLW. But one of us was glad to see it nonetheless. 🙂

12 thoughts on “Frank Lloyd Wright Bachman-Wilson House, Bentonville, Arkansas

  1. No offense to Wright, but his designs suck. Give me a home or building designed by one of his apprentices, E Faye Jones.

    Not far from Bentonville in Eureka Springs is Faye’s iconic Thorncrown Chapel. Now THIS is modern architecture, not FLWrong.

    1. Don’t disagree and many people in our group talked about Faye, know several of his homes in and around Fayetteville etc. Yes, seeing his chapel in Eureka Springs is in our “should have” column.

  2. Interesting house, considering what was generally available to the public at the time. It does look ‘cold’, but wouldn’t people living there come up with an area rug or two and maybe some artwork for those barren concrete block walls?
    If there weren’t a Frank Lloyd Wright would there be an E. Fay Jones?

    1. What a strange Simon and Garfunkel song. I guess that was on side B of the album?

      I think the hardest part of touring a FLW house is being the one who says out loud “lord, who’d want to live in this”? There’s a secret handshake I guess that those comments are only allowed to be said after the guide has left the building. It’s assumed that by paying for and taking a tour you and the others have a built in appreciation and acceptance of FLW’s work. To criticize him within the walls of his house would be sacrilege.

      I wouldn’t live there for any amount of money.

      PS: We got the distinct sense from what we overheard others saying that not everyone who visits CB knows or cares there’s a FLW house.

      1. The song’s genesis is their break up as a duo. Art was an architecture major at Columbia.
        If you think this house is hard to furnish/live in, just see his Usonian houses designed around a hexagon. Anyway, I’d live there (even if it’s one of the least inspired of the Usonian houses I’ve seen).

  3. Thank you for all the travel reports! Visiting more FLW houses is on my to-do list. I quite like the kitch n in this one, especially the materials. But, the eating and lounging spaces seem of limited usability. “Big” archeticts sometimes try to force their utopian vision of living on clients.

    When my parents remodeled an old Tudor in 1984 I recall my father making sure all the screws on switch plates and outlets were aligned and Unscratched! And thus, a pet peeve was born…😀

  4. First, many thanks for all of the your road trip pics and commentary.
    The second floor bedrooms at the FLW House (on website) appear to be somewhat dark and confining.
    Maybe it’s why that floor is not on the tour. However I do admire other elements, like the floating staircase, the fenestration, and all the endless shelving! It is an amazing feat of engineering, planning and patience that this structure was moved from NJ to AK!

    1. The guide went into great detail about how the house was disassembled in NJ, piece by piece, screw by screw, window by window. Reassembling in AR was with the aid of original plans, borrowed from the FLW archives. Some modern measures were taken, like adding insulation in the cement brick wall yet they chose to leave the original single pane sliders and windows. There was no double pane then I guess.
      Yes, the second floor is small and ceilings are low. IMHO, the size of our tour group was too big, preventing seeing tiny details one might in a group of three or four. I agree the stairs would present a problem for visitors but it would be nice to see those rooms and then see the view down to the living room.

  5. We took a tour of Taliesin West, the Arizona outpost of Frank Lloyd Wright ‘s projects the guide there confessed that the FLW homes were difficult to heat, impossible to air condition, and maintenance nightmares. So our guide surely did not drink the coolaid.

    1. Interesting. The FLW house at CB when rebuilt put in a/c because Arkansas heat is oppressive. As for maintenance issues, the builders in our tour group asked how on earth the flat roof over the car port was able to support the NJ snow and how often did it leak? Our guide didn’t have an answer. Your guide was right.

    2. PS: meant to tell you I laughed out loud at your comment in an earlier post about your friend with the tricked out truck who can’t park it as his condo garage. I never got a chance to tell you how funny that was!

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