New Home for a Flood Survivor

The Bachman Wilson House (Wright 1954) in Millstone, New Jersey, has a new owner. Soon it will also have a new home… in the Ozarks.

Battered by previous floods and threatened with increased frequency and intensity of flooding from the nearby Millstone River, the Bachman Wilson House was offered for sale in 2012 by the longtime owners, architect Lawrence Tarantino AIA and Sharon Tarantino, with the stipulation that the house be relocated to a new site. Instead of possibly moving the house to Fiesole, Italy, as once reported in the New York Times, the building will instead be disassembled, packed into containers and travel down half a dozen interstates before reaching its final destination of Bentonville, Arkansas, and the campus of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

The Conservancy supports all appropriate efforts to preserve Wright’s remaining work but has also taken the consistent position that a Wright building should remain on its original site; the only reason to move it would be to save it from destruction and such a step should be taken only as a last resort. The Tarantinos were recipients of the Conservancy’s Wright Spirit Award in 2008, recognizing their exceptional stewardship. Facing a difficult dilemma after upstream construction and water “management” projects contributed to a repeated untenable flood hazard for their property and for several others in the neighborhood, the Tarantinos reluctantly concluded that the house required relocation and consulted the Conservancy. After intensive study and discussion, the board acted to support, in this specific instance, the concept of moving the Bachman-Wilson House in order to save it. The Conservancy also pointed out that appropriate site selection, solar orientation and other factors would be important factors in relocating the house.

The Crystal Bridges Museum in their communication with the Conservancy noted they plan to take special care in the siting and are involving the Tarantinos in the entire project. The sale of the house and subsequent move resolve the question of survival and provide for future maintenance support, plus the museum connection offers exciting possibilities for the transplanted house. The museum campus includes more than three miles of wooded trails. Crystal Bridges plans to make the house “available for study as well as for certain limited programming and tours” and anticipates developing programs in collaboration with the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas. Crystal Bridges Executive Director Rod Bigelow commented “We’re honored to be able to preserve and share this significant example of American architecture, as Frank Lloyd Wright’s work embodies our own mission of celebrating art and nature.”

The site preparation will begin this spring, followed by reconstruction and a goal of completion in early 2015.

>> close window