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Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House

On this “Frank Friday,” I am writing about my visit to the one and only Frank Lloyd House located in my new home state of Alabama. I toured this home and learned the story of how this iconic home was created in this beautiful corner of Alabama. Located in Florence, Alabama, the “Rosenbaum House” was designed and built by  the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.   As a FLW enthusiast, the story of this family and the life of their home is very inspiring.

Louis Rosenbaum came to the U.S.A. as an immigrant who fled Lublin, Poland, along with his mother and his brother (s?)   He later married Anna, had one son named Stanley.  Mr. Rosenbaum became an American success story, having established and owned 12 “movie houses” in the Muscle Shoals area. This chain was sold to Martin theaters in 1960. Louis lived until 1962.

Stanley grew up in Florence and later attended Harvard and then Denver University for a Master’s Degree.   A very intelligent man who spoke 5 languages, he met and in 1938 married Mildred “Mimi” Bookholtz. Mildred was an intelligent New York girl and his equal. She studied art and music at Hunter College and at Columbia Teachers College. Not only was she intelligent, she also was a model who appeared in many publications including Vogue. Stanley returned to teach English at a local college and brought his big city girl to small-town Alabama to begin their life together.

As a wedding gift, Louis and Anna gave Stanley and Mildred two acres of land overlooking the Tennessee River, and $7500.00 to build their new home.   Building a new home at the end of the depression, the newlyweds turned to an architect student and friend Aaron Green.   Mr. Green, a student in New York, was also a native of Florence and knew that the Rosenbaums plans and ideas were not typical to the style of this area. Mr. Green suggested that perhaps that a Usonian home recently designed for the middle class by Frank Lloyd Wright would meet their budget and style.

A few years earlier, the first prototype Usonian home had been built in Madison Wisconsin.   From the tour, I am unable to remember if the Rosenbaums travelled to Wisconsin to see this home. In her own words, “Mimi” refers to the Jacobs home by saying this was the home for them but at the time, they didn’t have foresight into how their lives would change after four sons. She said “we knew we wanted a house larger than the Jacobs house…we were babes in the woods..” [1]  Mr. Green wrote a Letter of Commission to Mr. Wright on Stanley’s behalf. Frank Lloyd Wright accepted the task.  This meeting also changed the course of Mr. Green’s career,  In subsequent years, he became an apprentice and  member of Wright’s team, working on 40 FLW projects. He was also the first recipient of Frank Lloyd Wright Foundations Gold Medal. [2]

In 1940, and true to Frank Lloyd Wright’s notorious overspending, the 1540 sq. ft. home was completed closer to the amount of $14,000.   Stanley and Mildred later had four sons and their need for space grew.  In 1948, Wright designed the “L” shaped 1048 Sq. ft’ addition. The addition included a larger kitchen and breakfast room, a larger utility and laundry room, a dorm room for the Rosenbaums’ four boys, and a guest area.

Usonian”-of/or related to the United States.  Frank Lloyd Wright adopted this term and used it to define a style distinct to the United States landscape (vs all of The America’s ie Canada and Mexico.) This home would be free of fluff and formality of European style homes. It would be his attempt to provide what he felt all humans deserve, a stylish home tailored to their needs and an affordable option for the middle class. FLW envisioned a home that would be the heartbeat of a family, one with beauty that would incorporate his organic architecture. Practical, Functional, Beautiful, Life-enhancing.

The Rosenbaum family lived in this home for 60 years. In 1978 the home was added to the National Register of Historic Places. After Stanley died in 1983, Mildred continued to live in the home and graciously gave tours to thousands of people. With failing health, Mildred moved out of her home and in 1999 the home was bequeathed to the city of Florence by the Rosenbaum family. The contents of the home were sold to the city for $75,000,  the city further spent $600,000 to the preservation/restoration of this home, which had been damaged by water, termites and time. So important to the history of Florence, this restoration/preservation was done with original plans and made possible not only by scores of experts, professioanals, volunteers.  It was further funded by a 1 cent tax.  One of 26 remaining Usonian homes, this National Historic and architecturally significant home is now a city museum, open to public viewing.  This is where I begin my pictorial tour.

The tour office is located across the side street from the home.  I listened to the tour guide who pointed out the cottage style homes in this neighborhood.   While it was being built, people would often stop by to watch the progress.

Built of local cypress, brick, concrete and glass this home hugs a gentle slope.  The tall trees now block the view of the river.  The now “L” shaped house appears to be multilevel with low-rising steel-cantilevered roofs that covers both the living spaces and carports.

rosenbaumsign

True to FLW design, the public side of the home or the street side appear private. The front door is unassuming and hidden. The materials are organic.

 

rosenbaumfront1

A side view of the home. The carport on the right just our 20 feet with no visible support.

 

rosenbaumside

I wonder will this be a home with a dark interior?

 

rosenbaumwood

rosenbaumdoor

As I began to walk around the home, I got a different sense.  This home has a view of nature from nearly every room. The style is timeless.

rosenbaumside2.jpg

From the backyard, I really  get a sense of light and the connectedness to the outdoors.  “Organic buildings are the strength and lightness of the spiders’ spinning, buildings qualified by light, bred by native character to environment, married to the ground.”-Frank Lloyd Wrightrosenbaumback.jpg

 

 

Once I stepped inside, I feel the FLW compression-expansion design. (Enter small space and suddenly you enter this large light filled room.)  I have toured many FLW homes, this effect always makes me gasp.  The photo below is upon entering into the living area.  FLW believed that this should be the heartbeat of the home. Classic FLW touches are:the built-in (function) bookcases, the sculpted lighting, small windows on the public side of the home, concrete flooring with FLW invention of in-floor heating, rosenbaumlroffice

The photo below shows another FLW design trait. Notice how the light from the windows cast a playful repetitive pattern.

rosenbaumwindows

This room highlights family life and an area is set up for the piano. I can understand how FLW and the Rosenbaums clicked. Both are highly interested in music and arts. Both are freethinkers. Louis and Stanley Rosenbaum families were very civic minded and giving to the community. Alabama was an area known for it’s white supremacy. Louis and Stanley Rosenbaum were both advocates of racial equality and helped found a local chapter of the Alabama Council on Human Relations. They integrated the public library as there were two separate libraries based on skin color. Stanley once had a cross burned in his yard and worked closely with the ant-defamation league. They gave a loan to a community Methosdist church after it burnt to the ground. Stanley called Ford headquarters after learning that black workers were not allowed to eat in the cafeteria. His activism got the attention of Gov. Wallace, who tried to get him fired.  [3]   “Toleration and liberty are the foundations of a great republic.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

rosenbaumpianoI learned that one of the Rosenburg sons, Jonathon is a famed movie critic.

I absolutely can envision eating in this spot every day. The table and chairs are FLW design that are intended not to compete with the home decor, and are easily able to be moved about the area as needed.

rosenbaumdiningwindow

I absolutely love the frameless glass corners. rosenbaumcornerwindow

Some of the personal effects of the Rosenbaum family remain in the home.  I thought the four kippah’s  in the boys bunk room were so sweet. rosenbaumhats

One of my favorite rooms was this guest bedroom that overlooked a courtyard garden. rosenbaumgrass.jpg

The courtyard gardens show another hallmark FLW design feature of incorporating Asian influence.rosenbaumcourtyardlow.jpg

I left the tour with a sense of understanding how this home meant so much to one family. This small home yet not a cookie-cutter house with one door in the back.  I can only imagine how peaceful and inspiring it must be to live in such surroundings.

“A building is not just a place to be but a way to be.” Frank Lloyd Wright

Great tour.  5 MEGastars *****  2015 this tour was awarded the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence.

MEGatips

  1.  I recommend this site visit for anyone curious about unique homes.   Keep in mind that these homes were built by a man who was born in 1867.  Many of the concepts are in high-end home today.   Very inspiring from that standpoint.
  2. If you are a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture, this home is certainly worth a visit.  The preservation has been meticulously done and stands as a fine example of the Unisonian home. Rosenbaum House website-tour information. The tour admissions area is across the street from the home.  There is a small gift shop at this location. M-S 10-4, Sun 1-4
  3. Bring your camera.
  4. Do spend some time in the Muscle Shoals area.  There is much to do and see in this part of Alabama.  It is an outdoor paradise.
  5. My favorite cafe for lunch is Claunch Cafe in Tuscumbia (6 miles) This cafe takes it up a notch.  Southern-style foods and made from scratch desserts. The chicken salad plate is well known.  **They are only open Sunday-Thursday from 11-2. Meg’s 100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die-Claunch Cafe  400 S Main St, Tuscumbia, AL 35674 (256) 386-0222
  6. Like Steak? George’s Steak Pit wirth the drive to Sheffield for  fantastic wood fired Ribeye! Meg’s 100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die  1206 S Jackson Hwy, Sheffield, AL 35660  (256) 381-1531
  7. Want to eat in one of my top “fun atmospheres?”  The Rattlesnake Saloon serves pub fare in a cave-yes, you read that correctly. Rattlesnake saloon A bit of a drive but certainly an interesting setting. 1292 Mt Mills Rd, Tuscumbia, AL 35674 (256) 370-7220
  8. Like unusual roadside attractions? Check out this Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard! (not far from Rattlesnake Saloon) This is a lovely tribute to the canine world.  If I Ever Had A Dead Coondog Coondog Cemetery Rd, Cherokee, AL 35616  This is a good drive on a winding road. The trip is gorgeous but you wonder if you are ever going to find the spot.

Sources:

  1. Usonian Home definition-Rosenbaum House Mrs. Rosenbaum speaks of her home.
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Green
  3. Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities – Florence/Sheffield, Alabama

 

 

3 Comments Post a comment
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    May 19, 2017

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