The best part of our visit to The Field of Dreams was seeing a highway sign for Cedar Rock State Park and Lowell and Agnes Walters estate designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright. Since Nellie was with us at Field of Dreams, we had to make a separate trip to visit the Walter’s estate. We actually ended up spending another night in Cedar Falls to facilitate the visit. Another reason we like to make reservations last minute to be able to remain flexible.
Lowell and Agnes Walters commissioned the house in 1948 and it was built between 1948 and 1950. The couple lived in the house for over 30 years. Having no children, they decided to leave the home to the people of Iowa and Agnes turned over the estate in 1982 after Lowell passed. She later died in 1986 at the age of 90.
This home is an excellent example of Wrights Usonian residential style, which is basically simple living in one with nature. The living as one with nature is the main thing we love about Wright’s houses, but the simple living is taken a bit too far some times. His homes (we have visited 3 now so we are not experts) are relatively small with low ceilings and lots of horizontal lines. The main living area is the focus of the house, the kitchen and bedrooms seem to be an after-thought. We live in a very small space so you wouldn’t think we would mind this aspect, but when/if we ever live in a sticks and bricks home again it will have a large kitchen since that is my favorite room.
The Wright house we visited in Florence, AL Wright himself never visited, not before during or after construction. They said he basically send a bunch of puzzle pieces and his apprentices assembled it. According to our guide he was very hands-on on this project; he not only designed the home, but all furnishings, draperies, floor coverings and many of the decorative items. He also remained friends with the Walters and there were a couple of pictures of him at the completed home as a visitor. He even left his signature on the home which is pretty rare.
The Walters respected Wright and left the house the way he intended it even some aspects that they may not have liked. Anyway, on to the tour. Here is the front view. The part of the house on the right separated from the main house by a carport is the maid’s quarters. The Walters did not have a maid and used this as a guest house.
And the rear, on this view you can see three sets of French doors leading to the three bedrooms. And on the end is the “garden room” which is the main living and dining room and is a garden inside and out. Note that these plants are planted in the ground inside the house, and some are decedents of the original plants imported from south America by Wright. Also note how low profile the furniture is allowing the windows and nature in exterior become part of the décor.
One of the features we really liked in the house is the dining room table. Instead of having a “leaf” to make the table larger, you can add space by moving the coffee table and another side table to join with the dining table. The main table has concave edges with the other have convex edges so they fit together.
We have been told that most of Wright’s homes have a common theme or feature through the home. Although our guide did not mention it and we didn’t ask, we believe this home’s repeat feature are these back lit reliefs in the brick filled with colored Corning Glass from New York.
In this era of homes, the bathrooms are usually not very impressive and this one is the same. They are so small it could be claustrophobic unless you live in a motorhome. To accommodate the smallness, they used a design meant for use in railroad cars. There is only one facet to fill either the sink or the tub, and when the tub is in use the sink swivels around and covers the toilet. When you need the toilet or to drain the sink it swivels around over the tub. Interesting use of space.
Of course, he installed his favorite corners, of glass-on-glass corners so no view obstructions.
The bricks inside and out have deep grout lines on the horizontal and almost filled in grout on the vertical to further emphasize the horizontal lines of the house. Same with these long selves in the hall accessing the bedrooms.
Love the double decker utensil drawer at Mom’s house, little did we know it was a Wright design.
Misc house pics.
For this estate Wright didn’t stop at the house. He also designed a very large fire pit, entertainment patio. They say they often cooked a hole lamb, a half a pig or a quarter cow over the fire. Would have loved to be part of these parties. These cute little tables (also designed by Wright) are for the fire pit dinners. You place your plate on the top level and the lower smaller pedestal is for your drink. I can’t believe that the design didn’t take off, seems like a brilliant idea. Maybe our next career…
He also designed and built a boat house on the property about 75 yards from the house on the Wapsipinicon River. What a wonderful space, a desk, bedroom enclosed area and sitting in a screen enclosed patio over the river. There is also a small kitchenette and water closet.
On the lower level is where the boat was kept, including a rail way to launch the boat on its special made carriage. Luckily, they had a motorized wench.
We were also visited by a bald eagle on the river while we visited the boat house, we saw one on the ride home thru the country as well. Just love seeing them.
Just one more note, per the guide a typical house at the time was about $30k, and the Walters and Wright agreed on about $120k. The final cost was closer to $160k. Love, Love, Love his dedication to style, and simple functionality, but really.
Since my rant on the Field of Dreams post I have to share this. For this state park, the tour is free with a stated suggested donation of $5 per person. This is remarkably lower than the other FLW houses we have visited. When we arrived, it was never mentioned. There was a sign or two, but never a word mentioned of donating. When we were leaving, I had to ask where we could donate and gave the full $5 each suggested donation.
Peace Love and the biggest bestest happiest birthdays ever to the love of my life, you know who you are!!!