After Potential Demolition, A Bright Future for the David Wright House

The David and Gladys Wright House in Arcadia, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for his son David in the early 1950s, has been purchased by a Delaware Limited Liability Company formed by a family with long standing ties to Phoenix. When previous owners threatened to demolish the house last year there was an international outcry. The new owners are deeply interested in Wright’s architecture and absolutely committed to preserving the house. Phoenix attorney Grady Gammage, Jr. has been hired to represent the new ownership. The family strongly prefers to remain anonymous.

Mr. Gammage and representatives of the ownership have begun meetings with members of the neighborhood to discuss plans. The intent is to fully restore the home, including the interior furnishings and the famous circular rug, and to plant the landscape as Wright had originally intended. Once it is restored, the house will be opened for tours by small groups of school children, architecture students and the public.

“We have discussed with the City of Phoenix using the Shemer Arts Center as staging for visitation. Visitors would park at that location and be taken to the home by mini bus. We will take all possible steps to limit traffic on residential streets in the area,” said Gammage. “We will need to add a visitor accommodation facility on site with handicap restrooms and conveniences for visitors, as well as space to accommodate an introductory lecture or video. While there are not yet plans for such a facility, we expect that it would be below grade so as to minimize any visual impact.”

The City process involves a text amendment to the zoning ordinance allowing designated landmark structures to be able to obtain a special permit to open to the public. Once that amendment is in place, the ownership of the David Wright House will apply for such a special permit. That process will take place later this year, and will include stipulations concerning the hours and manner of operation. Once the permit is approved, the house will be donated to a non profit corporation, landmark status will be approved, and a permanent preservation easement will be dedicated on the property.

“This house is one of Wright’s most significant structures,” said Gammage. “It was designed for his son, it is one of his last great works, and it was intended as a showcase of how to live in the desert. In many ways it is the link between two of his best known buildings, Fallingwater and The Guggenheim. It deserves worldwide recognition, and can serve to ignite interest in architecture for generations to come.”

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