House: Frank Lloyd Wright's Oregon Legacy by Pat Snider|
Snatched from the jaws of destruction at the very last minute, the
Gordon House now sits safely in the sanctuary of an ancient oak grove at the Oregon
Garden in Silverton. The state's only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house originally
occupied a scenic setting on the south side of the Willamette River, near the
Charbonneau development in Wilsonville.
in 1964 for Conrad and Evelyn Gordon, the house was an example of Wright's efforts
to design affordable
housing for families earning modest incomes. He called the style Usonian, an acronym
for United States of North America, and it was characterized by use of inexpensive,
mass-produced, local materials and an open floor plan that encouraged social gatherings.
Only 60 of them were ever built.
Gordons occupied the house for over 30 years, and upon their death, heirs listed
the house and 22 acres of adjacent farmland for $2.2 million, well beyond the
reach of any non-profit, preservation organization interested in buying the landmark
the property was outside the Urban Growth Boundary, and could not be subdivided
into smaller, buildable lots. It eventually sold for considerably less to a young
couple interested in constructing a new, much larger home on the site. When they
applied to the county for a demolition permit, the local architecture and preservation
communities rallied to save the house. The new owners agreed to sell it for $1
to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy based in Chicago with the understanding
that it had to be removed from the property within 105 days.
879 West Main Street
Silverton, OR 97381
May October 10 a.m. 5 p.m. November
- April noon 4 p.m.
Admission: The cost is $5
West Main Street
Silverton, OR 97381
April October 10 a.m. 4 p.m. November
- March 10 a.m. 4 p.m. May - September 10 a.m. 6 p.m. (Mon, Tues, Thurs,
Fri, Sun) 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. (Wed & Sat)
Admission: Varies. See
web site for more details.
Oregon Garden, located in Silverton, was chosen from several different bids for
the house, largely because of its attractive, oak grove setting. At the cost of
over $300,000 with only four days to go before the removal deadline, the house
was carefully dismantled and slowly driven on a flatbed truck down the back roads
of Marion County to its new home. It took almost another $700,000 to pay for restoration,
easements, and other expenses.
not one of Wright's famous, flashy buildings for wealthy clients, it clearly reflects
many of his design elements and architectural philosophy. The cinder block, Western
red cedar, 2100-square foot building, sits low to the ground, with a definite
horizontal feeling so typical in Wright designs. It features an open floor plan,
overhanging eaves, carport, and flat roof. Upon entering the house, the low foyer
opens up into a twelve-foot high great room lined with floor to ceiling windows
and doors creating continuity between indoors and out. A large fireplace dominates
one wall reflecting Wright's belief that the hearth should be the heart of the
home, architecturally and spiritually. The room includes many built-in pieces
of furniture and all cabinets, drawers, and hardware are consistent throughout
the house. Wright often designed the furniture and storage in his houses in order
to provide an uncluttered look. The cement floor, painted Cherokee red, encases
a system of pipes supplying hot water and radiant heat to the house. Wooden fretwork
covering the upper windows defines the library and dining alcoves and provides
a measure of privacy without the use of drapes or curtains. A tiny kitchen with
bright orange Formica countertops and original appliances is made to seem larger
by a two-story skylight.
are a pink-tiled bath and two small bedrooms. Tall, glass doors opening out onto
deck areas, add a feeling of spaciousness.
2002, the house has been an integral part of the Oregon Garden. It is open to
the public for tours daily, May through October, and on a more limited schedule
during the winter months. Call 503-874-6006 to make reservations. The cost is
Wright, considered by many to be America's most influential and prominent architect,
left behind a rich legacy of homes and buildings throughout the United States,
only about 60 are open to the public. Oregonians are lucky to have one in their
images on this page pertaining to The Oregon Garden are property of The Garden.