Westcott House by Frank Lloyd Wright

Westcott House by Frank Lloyd Wright

Completed in 1908, the Westcott House in Springfield was Frank Lloyd Wright’s first residential commission in Ohio. It’s both a prime example of his Prairie Style of architecture, and evidence of the inspiration he drew from a trip to Japan.

In the early 1940s, the house was converted into apartments. By the time it was “rediscovered” a decade ago, the structure had been abandoned and many of its period details were missing. A complete restoration stabilized the buildings and returned them to Wright’s original vision, including reproductions of furniture and lighting present in the original plans.

This is the view from East High St., showing one of the massive urn planters and a sizable front patio, all slightly elevated above street level:

Westcott House by Frank Lloyd Wright

Westcott House by Frank Lloyd Wright

The entrance is actually around the corner and looks fairly modest:

Westcott House by Frank Lloyd Wright

Interior photography isn’t allowed, but I managed to sneak in a couple of photos:

Westcott House by Frank Lloyd Wright

This dining room suite features built-in light fixtures on the corners of an expandable table. It’s a painstaking reproduction of the original designed by Wright for this space:

Westcott House by Frank Lloyd Wright

This built-in birdhouse for martins apparently doesn’t attract birds:

Westcott House by Frank Lloyd Wright

Behind the house is a garden and a garage. Everything is elevated above the street and enclosed with a pergola and a Japanese-inspired trellis, giving it the feel of an insulated compound:

Westcott House by Frank Lloyd Wright

The garden has been recreated based on Wright’s original plot plan using period-appropriate plantings:

Westcott House by Frank Lloyd Wright

I very much admire both Wright’s architecture and his philosophy, and his Prairie concept is distinctly American, drawing its formal inspiration from this land, and remaining subordinate to the Midwestern landscape. The pulling together of different cultural influences [in this case, primarily Japanese] feels very American as well.

But, there is at times something heavy-handed in Wright’s choices, as though his need for a holistic vision trumped the need for livable dwelling. This home features extensive closets and built-ins, surely in response to client needs. But, it also features cantilevered windows that serve to visually extend the low-slung external appearance of the house, but seem to serve no interior need.

The most thoughtful aspect of the home is its simple, slight elevation. At eye level, standing in the great room, the street cannot be seen at all, even though the home is built almost right to the sidewalk. Inside, the ceilings are fairly low [8 feet] and are further lowered through Wright’s use of a crown molding-type element about a foot below the ceiling. On the main level, the open space is divided with partial walls into a great room/library, living room, and dining room. The partitions divide up a large space into three intimate areas while allowing for air flow and an open feel.

In many ways, this is a thoughtful design that can inspire us today, and the hour-long guided tour is well worth it.

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16 thoughts on “Westcott House by Frank Lloyd Wright

  1. When I was growing up, that place was just an unfortunate accepted loss. That stretch of High was a kind of millionaire’s mile & was getting kinda ratty overall. Since it’s rescue the entire area has perked up. It was preceded as a prestigious hood by S. Fountain & succeeded by N. Fountain/Ridgewood. Did you get to visit there?
    The dining room wall treatment at Westcott is pretty cool, too. I would kill for the sleeping porch overlooking the cemetery.
    🙂

  2. Beyond this house and some antique stores, we weren’t really sure where to go in Springfield. Maybe we should have solicited some suggestions before we went. We did stumble across the Hartman Rock Garden, which is a treasure I’m saving for another post!

  3. Yes, I love the Bellevue Hill Park pavillion! According to my research, it was actually built in 1955, but whatever.

    As for Wright, I do think that there’s something heavy-handed about his buildings, but I guess that’s what makes them so unique and memorable. Fallingwater is worth visiting if you ever have the chance. It’s a great example of the scope of his vision, but it also seems really inflexible and basically unlivable to me.

  4. Believe it or not I actually took a picture of the historical plaque. I got 1952, but who knows if the records are actually correct, when it was started vs finished vs dedicated, etc. http://tinyurl.com/3jw5ae2

    I’ve heard of Fallingwater. We’ve been meaning to take a weekend trip to pennsylvania; looks to be only 6 hours away. Thanks for the tip 🙂

    Do you have an example of a home that you consider to be more livable? I’m curious.

  5. 1952 it is, then. It’s 1955 on the city’s site, though.

    I’ve fantasized about having one of my architect friends design the perfect home for me, and the thing that really strikes me about that is that, while I have some specific ideas about layout and flow, I would really need it to be flexible to accommodate changing needs. So, maybe my dream home wouldn’t be “visionary” in the conventional rockstar-architect sense of the term.

    For instance, Fallingwater was designed for a family with young kids, but it seems like a really static space to me. Wright designed all the furnishings and, while it’s incredible to experience the scope of his vision, it seems impractical to expect that a family’s needs [in terms of space usage and furnishings] wouldn’t change as the kids grow older. Obviously, this family chose all this, and maybe it’s just the kind of commitment I wouldn’t be able to make.

  6. I enjoyed your article. A collaboration of professionals dusted off the dirt and polished this crown jewel of the City then delivered it to responsible stewards ensures we have continued positive press like this. I was the Project manager of Phase I and II and the Contract manager of the GMP contract of Phase III and I am pleased you experienced and enjoyed Mr. Wright’s work. Regarding other FLW buildings and one fit for the sustainable life style is http://www.thewilleyhouse.com Nancy Willey a family member of mine comissioned FLW on this protype of the Usonian concept. Which Ironically was built just before the Kaufman Residence mentioned above. Flourish and Prosper

  7. Shawn, thanks so much for your comments! I just checked out the Willey House site and need to spend a bit more time examining the photos to understand what you mean. I did notice that its current owner is Steve Sikora, who is a well-known graphic designer. I’d heard before that he lives in some kind of pedigreed home but didn’t know it’s a FLW. It’s a small world…

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  9. Hi guys, I enjoyed your article and I am so glad you had a good time @Westcott. So many people still don’t know about this architectural gem so we are grateful whenever our visitors spread the news. I hope you can come back for one of our events in the summer!

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