No Little House On The Prarie-Frank Lloyd Wright Cedar Rock
Inspired by my recent re-visit to Scottsdale, Arizona, Taliesin West, each Friday during April, I have been writing about some of my Frank Lloyd Wright site visits. On this “Frank Friday,” I visit the home that thus far is my favorite Frank Lloyd Wright home.
Called “Cedar Rock” this home is located near Quasqueton, Iowa “Quasky.” Far from the flat farmland that comes to most peoples minds when they think of Iowa, this home sits on limestone bluffs overlooking a bend on the scenic Wapsipinicon River or as Iowans call it “Wapsi,” I know this because I lived in the wonderful state of Iowa for a bit. there are ten FLW buildings in the state of Iowa.
This home was designed and built from 1948-1950 for Lowell and Agnes Walter. Mr. and Mrs. Walter ran a successful road building business and held patents. In 1944, the business and patents were sold to the employees enabling the Walter’s to build their dream retirement life.
The Walter’s lived in this home for 30 years. As no children were born to this couple, the estate plan was for their “baby” to be given and cared for by the people of Iowa. In 1981, Mr. Walter’s passed away andin 1982, Mrs. Walter donated this estate to the Iowa Conservation Commission. She passed away in 1986. In 2009, The Department of Natural Resources assumed most of the expenses. This estate is currently an Iowa State Park, Cedar Rock State Park. Guided Tours are run from May-October, Wednesday through Sunday. From the visitor center, I caught a ride to the estate.
At the entrance to the home, I learned that the home was to be called “Opus 497” as it was FLW 497th commission. Designed as a three-season home, this estate is a perfect example of Organic Architecture in harmony with the site and nature. As you may have gathered by the word Wapsipinicon and Quasqueton, this area has been home to Native American settlements since 1842. Much lore surrounds the river and lands, it seems fitting that a semicircular council fire was built upon this land to model a Native American meeting place. From the tour, I do not recall how the home came to be called “Cedar Rock.”
After completion of the home in 1950, Mr. and Mrs. Wright along with some of the students feasted on a leg of lamb at the fire council.
The style of this home is “Usonian.” Last week, I wrote about my visit to the Rosenbaum House in Florence Alabama, another example of FLW Organic Architecture in the Usonian style/concept. This description is an excerpt from that blog: “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. Practical, Functional, Beautiful, Life-enhancing.” Rosenbaum House Visit
My tour paused at the door to the home, I learned that this home is a Frank Lloyd Wright signature home. I no longer have a photo of this tile and as you can see by this entrance photo, I also have photographic challenges. This example is one that I took while at Taliesin West.
The significance of the tile is sort of a big deal. There are only 12 signature tile buildings still in existence today. The tile is signed by FLW and some say that this status was given to FLW favorite clients, others link it to the fact that every aspect of the home is his design furniture, furniture placement, accessories, rugs, drapes, and artwork. I bet that both of these reasons are true.
Entering the home through a narrow hallway, I stepped into this amazing light-filled and alive space. This is an example of compression-expansion. I have heard the phenomena described with different language. The term for this: “compression-expansion” or “compression-release” or “tension and resolution” and “embrace and release. Whatever it is called, I LOVE when I step into the light! I learned that most of the houseplants in the living room are original ascendants from the Walter’s plants.
With the photo below, I am able to portray the sense of coming into a brighter room. True to FLW design, ambient lighting is from skylights and windows located near the ceiling. I love how electrical lighting was tucked in the skylight for evenings.
The flat concrete roof exterior has alarge sloped overhang that shade the room. Plus, I love how it looks. Concrete, brick and cypress are examples of Organic Architecture. “Buildings too are children of the Earth and Sun.”-FLW
The view in the photo below shows the clerestory windows which are used throughout this home and placed to bring air through the home and release the hot air of Iowa summers.
I think this room and the view is the reason that this is my absolute favorite FLW home. Set on a 30-degree angle, the three floor to ceiling glass walls gave me a panoramic view, simply breathtaking!
This home had been well cared for by the owners and upon donation, many of the original pieces have remained in the home. This “garden room” was designed to be the heartbeat of the home. I learned that the Walter’s were short in stature and that this grand piano was custom-designed by Steinway & Sons, Frank Lloyd Wright loved music and felt it important to life itself. “Music and architecture blossom on the same stem…” – FLW
Touring a Frank Lloyd kitchen is thus far boring and mind boggling in comparison to the kitchen of today. FLW called them “work rooms or work space” and time was to be minimized in that space. Eating is done in the common space with many ways to configure furniture and tables. Seriously, this makes good sense to me.
Throughout the home, there are touches of FLW design and playfulness. FLW homes feature the design as art. I have had to re-think this concept myself.
Bedrooms were also quite small in comparison to today’s standards. Closets were small and built in areas are found.
Throughout the home, FLW utilizes his signature “Cherokee-red” concrete flooring with his pioneering in-floor heating.
Also decorated in minimalistic manner, the nature was meant to be the art. Because who wouldn’t want this artwork?
Moving the outdoors, I caught a view of the proximity to The River Pavillion at Cedar Rock and the boathouse.
Unfortunately, on the day of my visit, the Wapsipinicon river had flooded in an epic way-this photo shows the state of Quasqueton.
The boathouse was unsafe to tour. I REALLY wanted to see it but this was close as I could wander. I learned that the boathouse was an example of a “mancave.” According to a December 26,2015 article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “The boathouse, with its overhanging roof, cantilevered construction and Wright-designed furniture, echoes key features of the main house, which sits at the opposite end of the limestone spine known as Cedar Rock.
While the house remains in good condition, deferred maintenance and prolonged exposure to the elements have degraded the elegant brick pavilion, which features a fireplace, sleeping and lounging quarters, boat storage and launching facilities, and a deck overlooking the scenic Wapsipinicon River.” Orlan Love – The Gazette.
As with all FLW homes remaining, a lot of hard cash is needed to keep the places maintained/preserved/restored. An organization called “Friends of Cedar Rock” have been instrumental in making sure this home remains a treasure. (Thank you!) Currently $200,000 restoration is to take place beginning this May. I hope to get back to see the restoration. I have included a link with photo of the boathouse. The Pavilion and Boathouse at Cedar Rock, designed by FLW
As I continue to visit Frank Lloyd Wrigh sites, I gain new perspective on this greatest of American Architects. I fall more in love with this design style and long to live and die in this type of space.
I found this quote fitting on this Earth Day. “Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day’s work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain.” -FLW
MEGastars-5 ***** for a fantastic FLW tour.
- This is a must see for any FLW fan. I find it to be the best Usonian example and it is my personal favorite thus far. The fact that it is a signature home with so many original pieces in place makes it a “must see.”
- Open from May-October, book your tour ahead of time. This link will provide you with all of the necessary details. Cedar Rock State Park Tour information Phone:319-934-3572
- DO make note ** that the tours are from Wednesday-Sunday. ** 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. You will want to plan accordingly. Walk-ins are accepted only as space allows.
- Amazingly, this tour is free of charge. Of course a tax deductible gift is appreciated and critical to preserving this treasure, please give genreously.
- Iowa is truly awesome and I do miss living there. This part of Iowa has many outdoor activities, a fantastic state to bike in and play!
- I suggest driving 119 miles to Mason City where you are able to stay as a guest in the last FLW hotel in existence. the rrestoration was completed and the hotel opened after I moved from Iowa. With many awards and accolades, this is a site to visit. A huge bucket list visit for me and I can’t wait to visit Mason City. Historic Park Inn
- Friends of Cedar Rock webpage with article and link to The Gazette. The Gazette