This Frank Lloyd Wright House Will Be Preserved Forever Thanks to an Anonymous Donor
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This Frank Lloyd Wright House Will Be Preserved Forever Thanks to an Anonymous Donor

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By Duncan Nielsen
The Kalil House hit the market for the first time this past September—and the buyer has entrusted it to the Currier Museum of Art in the name of historical preservation.

The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire—which features works by the likes of Monet, Picasso, and O’Keefe—just added Frank Lloyd Wright’s Toufic H. Kalil House to its collection. The home is one of seven Usonian Automatic homes in existence, and now it will be preserved ad infinitum thanks to an anonymous donor. 

The Currier Museum also holds the Prairie-style Zimmerman House, which is located just down the street from the Kalil House. "This is an important piece of architecture," says the donor. "The work [the museum] has done with the Zimmerman House is outstanding, and there is no doubt that they are the ones to entrust with this important piece of American history."

An exterior view of the Kalil House at 117 Heather Street. The structure, retaining walls, and carport are primarily built from molded masonry blocks.

To the right of the main entry, the large living room features a striking rear wall composed of 350 embedded-glass window blocks that allow light to pour into the space. A dramatic sunken hearth surrounds the original wood-burning fireplace.

The Zimmerman House inspired the Kalil family to hire Wright—and now Museumgoers will be able to walk a short distance to compare and contrast the two characteristically different homes, which were built just five years apart.

Philippine mahogany paneling lines the walls in the living area. The space is complete with Wright-designed furniture and original Schumacher and Jack Lenor Larsen textiles.

In one of the two bedrooms, a Wright-designed bed, nightstands, upholstery, and built-in desk remain. All of the furniture was included with the sale of the home.

Wright designed the Usonian Automatic homes as affordable residences that could be easily constructed and replicated. Prospective homeowners interested in shaving down construction costs could assemble the concrete blocks themselves—hence the term "automatic." Only a handful of the homes were built, and the unaltered Kalil House remains a living example of a concept that would influence architecture for years to come.

A hallway inside the main entry divides the home’s L-shaped floor plan—a spatial arrangement common in Wright’s Usonian homes. Throughout the home, Philippine mahogany paneling contrasts with concrete block walls and stained concrete floors.

The kitchen is located within the double-height central core. Glass-inlaid blocks create a clerestory window near the ceiling. All of the cabinetry and appliances are original, with the exception of the modern refrigerator.

"Frank Lloyd Wright intended his Usonian designs to be affordable to the broader American public," says Currier Museum director Alan Chong, "but each is a distinctive work of art." The museum now plans to launch an endowment to support new programs centered around the historic house.

A small breakfast area sits beside the kitchen. The glass-block wall extends seamlessly from the living room, meeting a glass door that provides access to the rear yard.

Philippine mahogany paneling continues into the master bathroom, which is one of two full baths in the home. Embedded-glass blocks brighten both sides of the space.

At night the home glows through the glass blocks that comprise the facade. 

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