Thursday, August 12, 2010

Retro Places to Visit: Frank Lloyd Wright's Zimmerman House

It isn't that often that I post about cool retro places to visit, so to remedy that I'm finally posting pictures of a house that I visited a little over a year but never got around to writing about. Last summer a friend and I visited the Zimmerman house in Manchester, NH. The Zimmerman house was built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1950 for a doctor and his wife, Isadore J. and Lucille Zimmerman. I've visited Wright's studio home in Oak Park, Chicago but have never been inside one of his client homes. I fell in love with this place immediately. Unfortunately as the house is owned by the Currier Museum of Art, you are not allowed to take photos of the interior, so the few inside photos I've included are courtesy of the Currier.

Copyright J. David Bohl for the Currier Museum
The house is Usonian style, a long, rather compact (for its time - it's around 1,700 square feet) swath of brick, stone, and wood set at a diagonal on 3/4 of an acre of land in a neighborhood surrounded by larger, more classical style homes. Rumor has it when the house was being constructed the Zimmerman's neighbors routinely made fun of it, viewing the home as more of a sore thumb than an architectural wonder.  

I loved the roof - the underside may be mahoghany - but it hung down a good 2 feet away from the perimeter of the house to allow water to drain off. The carport was large enough for two vehicles to fit comfortably underneath it, and upon pulling in the driver would immediately see a view of the backyard and garden.  


Most of the furniture inside the house was designed by Wright as well. Although I don't have a photograph, the tables in the living room were octagonal shaped, allowing the Zimmermans to put them together in several ways to accommodate a large number of guests. Even the custom built piano had eight sides. 


Much of the pottery and statues displayed throughout the home were carefully chosen by the Zimmermans to compliment the brick and wood interior: lots of warm tones in simple, organic shapes.


Copyright J. David Bohl for the Currier Museum
The basement-less house has radiant heating in the floors - said to be one of the warmest ways to keep cozy in the winter, but not very practical if something goes wrong (as repairing requires jackhammer work.) Wright often sacrificed practicality in place of style, and I've read that many of his earlier homes later required his expertise when they started to leak or sprout other problems. However, he may have perfected his technique by the time the Zimmerman house was built. 


There isn't a photo of the Zimmerman's bedroom online, but it had the most awesome closet I've ever seen (storage compartments galore) and looked out onto the lush backyard. Their bathroom had a skylight. 


One downfall to the house is that, other then bedroom closets, there really wasn't a lot of storage space available. The museum said Wright did that on purpose, as he felt anyone living in one of his houses should keep it clutter-free! Today's average American home would probably drive him nuts. (The Zimmermans also didn't have any children, which no doubt helped keep possessions in the house to a minimum.)


Here's a bunch of photos of the exterior of the home and the grounds. 




You can see the "window" behind the carport, allowing for a view of the yard.














Corny alert: I have to say I got the best vibes from the property, whether I was sitting on the floor of the living room, shoeless, while listening to the tour guide, or whether strolling across the backyard. I could just feel that it was a happy, warm place for the Zimmermans - who never missed an opportunity to write and tell Frank Lloyd Wright how much they appreciated and loved their home. The couple were philanthropists who helped send a poor Polish student to school in the U.S., and they donated their wonderful house to the Currier in the late 80s after Mrs. Zimmerman passed away. I definitely want to make another visit some day. 


If you want more information on visiting the home and booking a tour, you can do so at the Currier Museum's site.

7 comments:

cantueso said...

And as to Lady Gaga: did you say she was low class? I am Swiss and live in Spain so that my ideas of class are not so clear anymore. I do not think I could easily tell low class from high class in the US........


No insult intended.

Jay Amabile said...

thanks for posting. I LOVE FLW!

LaraAnn said...

This looks like a cool, interesting house. I don't know much FLW but now I want to look up some of his other stuff on the internet. I'm glad that you enjoyed your visit there.

Anonymous said...

Pam, the FLW homes are indeed beautiful; thanks - I have never explored Zimmerman. I am a huge fan of FLW's interior signature stained window patterns, particularly Martin and the Coonley playhouse; did you see any of these light screens or doors in Zimmerman? I was going to add a custom sidelight to my new home that added such a Craftsman touch to my already geometric, deco taste. And as you say, since his homes did have limitations for casual living. Even if I could afford one, I'd probably prefer to buy a look alike home - there appears to be quite a few available still.
stay-at-home-dad

Pam@GoRetro said...

@stay-at-home-dad, this particular house did not have the Martin or Coonley patterns on the windows. Most of the windows were on the rear of the house, which is where I took most of the outside pictures. I believe it's one of two FLW designed houses in all of New England, so it was a real treat to see.

@cantueso - when I speak of low class I do not mean how much money one has or their status/background. I mean the fact that Lady Gaga is usually half naked in public and gave the middle finger to the crowd recently at a baseball game. In my opinion, that's not a "lady."

Amanda By Night said...

I love this house, thanks for posting the pics. I just read about Fallingwater in my summer art history class and thought it was wonderful. In general, this is not my favorite kind of architecture but one that I've recently come to like more and of course totally appreciate!

nickm said...

What a pleasure to find your posting of the Zimmerman home. You are quite right, it is a wonderful place. I have visited here twice, the first time twenty years ago inspiring a life long interest in Wright's work. You will love a trip to Fallingwater in Pa, and see what you can in Buffalo. Tomorrow I am off to California to see those structures open to the public. I'd love to visit the Johnson Wax headquarters too - someday. Each building unique, and all related as they all connect back to this extraordinary man.

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