This House in Oregon Has a Long, Strange History of Being Called a Frank Lloyd Wright

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By Brian Libby
Rumors have swirled for decades that a midcentury gem in Portland, Oregon, is an unrecognized work.

When Kelsey and Scott Bouska bought a postwar home in the West Hills area of Portland, Oregon, in 2016, they had no idea anyone had ever suggested that its architect was Frank Lloyd Wright. "We didn’t hear a word about that until after the transaction was done," Scott says.

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For more than 70 years, claims have persisted, without much evidence, that a home in Portland, Oregon, is a lost work by Frank Lloyd Wright. Regardless of authorship, the structure—a flat-roofed, cedar and glass ranch—endures as a sterling example of postwar American <br>architecture. Its recessed entryway features panes of translucent glass.&nbsp;

For more than 70 years, claims have persisted, without much evidence, that a home in Portland, Oregon, is a lost work by Frank Lloyd Wright. Regardless of authorship, the structure—a flat-roofed, cedar and glass ranch—endures as a sterling example of postwar American
architecture. Its recessed entryway features panes of translucent glass. 

The Bouskas, who both work at Nike’s world headquarters in nearby Beaverton, instead were attracted to the natural setting. "It’s so serene," Kelsey says. "You feel like you’re in the wilderness." The house, shaped like a boomerang, is designed to maximize that feeling, with floor-to-ceiling glass in the living room and a master bedroom framed by windows on three sides. "It's like you’re living in a snow globe," she adds. Mahogany cabinetry and marble countertops, part of a recent remodel by the previous owner, also give the home an understated elegance.

Windows offer wraparound views in the master bedroom. The nightstands and bed are from the Matera line by Sean Yoo for Design Within Reach; the Stem lamps are from Rejuvenation. The last owner painted the walls Gentleman’s Gray by Benjamin Moore.

Windows offer wraparound views in the master bedroom. The nightstands and bed are from the Matera line by Sean Yoo for Design Within Reach; the Stem lamps are from Rejuvenation. The last owner painted the walls Gentleman’s Gray by Benjamin Moore.

The Frank Lloyd Wright claim, investigated by local historian Tanya Lyn March, seems to be an urban legend. Actor Margaretta Ramsey and her naval officer husband, Walter, had the house built in 1947 after he was transferred from New York City, where she had recently starred in a Broadway production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Later, she would go on to act in film and television.

A Lollygagger lounge chair by Loll Designs sits on the back deck.

A Lollygagger lounge chair by Loll Designs sits on the back deck.

According to a 1947 article in The Oregonian, says March, the Ramseys told friends that Frank Lloyd Wright had written the design on a napkin and that they had then hired a young local architect, Derald K. Harbert, to complete the blueprint. By 1954, when the house was put up for sale, newspaper ads named Wright as the architect, although one classified coyly added a question mark after his name.

Current owners Scott and Kelsey Bouska worked with Landscape East &amp; West to replenish the half-acre property.

Current owners Scott and Kelsey Bouska worked with Landscape East & West to replenish the half-acre property.

The Ramseys told friends that Frank Lloyd Wright had written the design on a napkin and that they had then hired a young local architect to complete the blueprint.

The living room is furnished with an Eames lounge and ottoman and a Line credenza by Nathan Yong. The fireplace, also painted by the last owner, is Wrought Iron by Benjamin Moore.&nbsp;

The living room is furnished with an Eames lounge and ottoman and a Line credenza by Nathan Yong. The fireplace, also painted by the last owner, is Wrought Iron by Benjamin Moore. 

But there is no written record of Wright designing this house. "We probably get an inquiry about a house every other week," says John H. Waters, preservation programs manager for Chicago’s Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. "The things people suggest are Wright houses vary from plausible to completely implausible."

The 3,700-square-foot home has four bedrooms. The owners, who are expecting their first <br>child, just finished transforming one of them into a nursery. The dresser is from Room &amp; Board and the hanging planters are by Sandbox Ceramics.&nbsp;

The 3,700-square-foot home has four bedrooms. The owners, who are expecting their first
child, just finished transforming one of them into a nursery. The dresser is from Room & Board and the hanging planters are by Sandbox Ceramics. 

The West Hills home features some details that are uncharacteristic for Wright, like vertical siding, but Waters notes that, given the way the design addresses the garden with walls of glass, it looks more like the great architect’s work than many such claimants. "I can see how someone would link Wright’s name with it," he says, adding, "It is not absolutely impossible that there’s undocumented work out there. It’s pretty unlikely, though, at this point, given Wright’s fame."

The nursery features mahogany cabinets and the crib is from Crate and Barrel.

The nursery features mahogany cabinets and the crib is from Crate and Barrel.

Waters is intrigued by a theory March suggested: that Wright’s son, architect Lloyd Wright, might have produced the basic boomerang design for which Harbert then created blueprints. "Maybe Margaretta Ramsey was hanging out with this Wright," March offers.

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Eames
Eames
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The office area features a Tolomeo Mega floor lamp by Michele De Lucchi and Giancarlo Fassina for Artemide.

The office area features a Tolomeo Mega floor lamp by Michele De Lucchi and Giancarlo Fassina for Artemide.

The Bouskas, who moved into the house shortly before their wedding, aren’t concerned with proving the Wright provenance. Instead, they’ve focused on landscaping the half-acre property, which had become overgrown with thorns and invasive plants, filling the interior with artworks and midcentury furniture, and converting a bedroom into a nursery for their first child, due this month.

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"It’s part of the charm of the house," Kelsey says of the Wright legend. "It makes it interesting when there’s a story behind it." But the design itself is what drew them in. "We walked in," Scott recalls about first seeing the house, "and said to ourselves, ‘We have to have this.’"    

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Mystery Box

Tracing the known history of an enigmatic midcentury home. 

1947 The Ramseys’ house is completed; Wright designs the First Unitarian Society of Madison meeting house in Shorewood Hills‚ Wisconsin.

1949 Wright wins the Gold Medal from The American Institute of Architects.

1954 The Ramseys sell the house‚ with realtor A.C. Spencer using Wright’s name in a classified ad in The Oregonian.

1964 Five years after his death‚ Wright’s only known Oregon building‚ the Gordon House in Silverton‚ is finished; Margaretta Ramsey moves to Beverly Hills after her husband’s death‚ resuming her career in acting.

1967 Ramsey appears in the movie Riot on Sunset Strip‚ one of four films she acted in.

1972 The house is called a "Wright" design by realtor Peter Campbell in an Oregonian classified ad for an open house.

1975 Ramsey appears in the series finale of Mannix on CBS.

2016 The Bouskas buy the house just after the previous owner completes a restoration.

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Bouska Residence floor plan

Bouska Residence floor plan

Project Credits:

Landscaper: Landscape East & West