16 March 2010

The Usonia Fire: An Update

I had a suspicion when I blogged yesterday afternoon about the fire in the Usonia community of Mount Pleasant, New York, that the house that had burned down was not designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and today's newspaper account indeed seems to be backing down from its original reporting, although it's still not completely clear (the headline and caption say Wright-designed house but the story itself says a house burned down in the "neighborhood designed ... by Frank Lloyd Wright.")

Not that it makes the fire any less of a tragedy for the family that lost its home, or even for architecture aficionados, but the house that burned down seems to be one of the many designed by a Wright disciple rather than by Wright himself.

There were 47 houses built in Usonia, three designed by Wright and the others designed by other architects (here's what Wikipedia says). Wright also designed the layout of the community, which was conceived after World War II by a group of friends who believed in the principles of modernism espoused by Wright.

In the years since it has matured into a quiet, discreet, wooded neighborhood of houses whose value has risen significantly and which beautifully retains its original Wrightian (if I can use that word) qualities. I've never been in one of the Usonia houses and I haven't driven through the neighborhood in years, so I can't say I know it well at all. But my sense is that it has managed to retain its integrity without turning into a museum. It's a living neighborhood. I feel bad for the people who lost their house.

If you Google "Usonia + Pleasantville" and then click "images," you can see what some of the Usonia houses look like - ta


Jane said...

I grew up in the "Usonia community of Mount Pleasant, New York", and while the house that was destroyed was not one of the few FLW-designed homes there, it was still a treasure, and of course this is a tragedy for the family and the community. But Usonia is still more than a neighborhood, as it was SO much more for those of us who lived there in its early years. I hope the family will feel that in the comping weeks.

If you would like to read more on Usonia, check out this book:


Jane Tamlyn-Hayden

pringstrom said...

That's the Jerry Podell residence (1959), by David Henken (a FLW apprentice). The lower level addition was by Peter Gluck, for the Lieberman family. It was adjacent to the Sol Friedman House (1949) by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Stephanie said...

This was my house - my childhood home - The Jerry and Charlotte Podell house built in 1959. The loss we feel is unimaginable. My father is no longer alive and obviously, though we miss him each and every day, we are thankful he is not alive to have witnessed this. We haven't told my mom as yet - not sure we will.

Stuart Bassesches, a childhood friend who writes a great blog for Modernism Magazine http://moderngreenhaus.blogspot.com/ - wrote a lovely piece the other day - almost like he knew what is was like to grow up in Usonia. Wish I could post pics of my house (before the corrupted addition went on), but I'm not sure if that's possible on this thread, though Stuart posted two on his blog. Our home was was just to the left of the Friedman House where I spent many a summer's day swinging on their hammock. It will be sorely missed.

P.S. Hi Janey.

inchirieri apartamente cluj said...

I agree with Jane that it is still a tragedy tragedy for the family and the community because the house burnt. Of course, if the house would have been a Frank Lloyd Wright opera the impact on the society would be even greater.