Here’s your charming, feel-good story for the night. Linda McQuillen, a 69-year-old retired teacher in Madison, Wisconsin discovered that her house was designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
McQuillen purchased the house in 1989 for $100,000, but the home was far from an architectural gem at the time. She told the Associated Press that the house was in such poor shape that a tree was growing through the roof the garage. “Over time we have completely redone the house without any indication it was a significant house,” McQuillen said. “I didn’t know it was a Frank Lloyd Wright home and had no imagination it would be.”
The first hint that McQuillen’s home might be significant came in 2009 when she was contacted by architectural historian, Mary Jane Hamilton.
Via the AP:
“There was no reference to it in any of the catalogs of known Wright homes, and it had some distinctly uncharacteristic elements, like a band of dark red brick around the stucco exterior. There were no known drawings of the home linking it to the first owner, and no photos had been found showing the house as it looked when it was first built.
Hamilton said her ‘eureka’ moment came when she found a 1917 Wisconsin State Journal newspaper advertisement by a Madison building company...The same company was named on the 1917 building permit for McQuillen’s home, which indicated it was building a spec house.”
McQuillen’s house, it turns out, was one of 16 experimental homes that Wright designed. The houses—called American System-Built Homes—were aimed at middle-class buyers who were attracted to the architect’s distinct Prarie style, yet didn’t have the capital to commission a home. Though the experiment was a bit of a failure, 14 of the homes are still standing. Many of the houses are in Milwaukee, but there are others in Illinois and Indiana.
Now I’m crossing my fingers, hoping that a Mies van der Rohe scholar shows up at my house with some epically good news. I have student loans to pay.