Herman T. Mossberg Residence: South Bend, Indiana

New Photos 01/29/2004

Interior Photos 03/07/2004

I had the distinct honor of having an extended conversation with the owner of the Herman T. Mossberg house.  She and her husband purchased the home from the estate of the Mossbergs (his grandparents) in 1999 and have enjoyed living in the home ever since. 

 Mrs. Mossberg had died in 1998 at the age of 100 in her bed, facing the open garden… the view that she loved so much.  The home was a great source of peace and happiness for her.

 Mr. Mossberg grew up on 60th street in Chicago.  He used to talk of how he walked past the Robie house every day on his way to work.  According to the current owners, he must have known of the Midway Gardens, but never mentioned it, possibly because his family were devout Baptists.  His early exposure to Wright’s work came back to him when it was time for him to build a home in South Bend, Indiana.  The Mossbergs never considered hiring an architect other than Wright.  Thus the Mossberg House was built in 1948. 

Mossberg Residence from the street.  May, 2003

The home is a large Usonian built on an L shaped floor plan.  The neighborhood zoning laws required that all homes built in this area be 2 stories.  As a result, the Mossberg House is one of the few 2 story Usonian homes that Wright built.  There is a small bedroom and bath (originally built for the Mossberg’s daughter) as well as a small balcony area that overlooks the living room.  That space is currently being used as an office.  Further evidence of the home being 2 stories is the balcony on the street side of the house. 

 As is true with many of Wright’s designs of this time, the side of the home that faces the street is quite dramatic, with beautiful brickwork, the balcony named above and rows of windows under the eaves.  This northern side of the house, however, provides a lot of privacy to the family. 

 The garden side of the house is all glass.    The landscaping has evolved beautifully over the last 50 years from scrub brush and sumac to large shade trees and flower gardens surrounding a well-kept lawn (by the family’s 3 boys).  The current lot is about 4 acres in size, though when the home was built, the Mossbergs owned much more of the surrounding land. 

 According to the current owners, Mrs. Mossberg had seen a lot of details and colors that she liked in other Wright homes.  She asked Mr. Wright for some of these details to be included in their home, such as the wood ceiling banding that appeared at Taliesin and some of the earlier Prairie homes.   He would send back brief responses like, “Banding Approved”.  The color of the carpeting and upholstery on the built-ins were quite different from other things Wright was designing at the time, yet Wright approved all these colors when Mrs. Mossberg had requested them. 

North Side of the Mossberg House: May, 2003

The immediate neighborhood has not changed significantly over the years since the home was built.  The area they are in is part of the up-scale side of town.  To the east, some single story homes have since been built, yet the neighborhood has maintained its quiet, peaceful nature. 

 The current owners really love the serenity and quiet of the house.  They feel that there is a definite oriental feel to the living space and that appeals to them greatly.  Much of this they attribute to having Wright apprentice John Howe overseeing the building of the home.  He was very in-tune with what the Mossberg’s wanted and did a wonderful job of interpreting Wright’s design and making it come to reality in the Mossberg House. 

 The owners have enjoyed being a part of the Frank Lloyd Wright community.  They’ve been to many conventions and home tours and really like the contact with others who share their interest in Wright.  They’ve wanted to maintain the home in a way that adds to its livability while remaining true to the historic nature of the house.  When it was time to update the kitchen and the bathrooms, they employed noted Wright restoration architect John Thorpe to complete the project.  When they moved into the home, the roof was re-done in copper as the original plans specified. 

Mossberg House Hiding in the Trees: May, 2003

Over the years the home has needed some work.  In addition to updating the bathrooms and kitchen, and replacing the roof, they’ve had to be very careful to make sure the house doesn’t have problems with water damage.  The drainage on the balcony was not designed particularly well.  One of the drains drops right down over the front door and the other is not particularly efficient at getting rid of the water.  They must be careful to keep the drains clear or they get water through the doors. 

 Water has also affected a lot of the plasterwork around the house.  They’ve had to patch in places and need some work done to maintain that part of the house.  The next project in line is to have the exterior wood completely re-finished, caulked and sealed.  This will be a very demanding project. 

Mossberg Balcony: May, 2003

The yard has settled a bit.  At some point in the near future, the current owners said that they are going to have to have the back patio removed and have the yard completely re-graded in order to keep water from leaking into the basement. 

 All these things aside, the home really fits the way the family lives.  The Mossberg house was originally designed for Mr. and Mrs. Mossberg, their daughter and his mother.  The space was perfect for a family of that size.  The current owners have 3 young boys and the house has met their needs quite well.  Each of the kids has their own bedroom and though there isn’t a lot of extra space, the home gives them space for the kids to play and relax.  From talking with them, I think they all might like a little more space for a playroom and a bit more closet space. J

Close-up of the Mossberg House: May, 2003

The Mossberg House has been a great home for these people.  It is amazing that a home designed and built in the late 40s meets the needs of a family of the 21st century.  They’d definitely like to keep it in the family if possible or eventually have it become a museum that is open to the public when they’re no longer able to live there. 

 I have to admit that this has quickly become one of my favorite Wright homes.  I always have liked the homes that were designed for people to really live in.  Fallingwater is beautiful, but it as designed as a summer get-away to live in and be attended to by servants.  The Usonian homes were built to be lived in by real people with real lives.  That is the true beauty of this home. 

This gives an idea of the privacy afforded by the landscaping.  May, 2003

Here are two new photos that I got from the owner of the Mossberg house.  The family got a digital camera for the holidays this year and they're putting it to good use. :)

Snow covered balcony

Looking out into the garden

In early March of 2004, My wife and I had the wonderful opportunity to meet the owners of the Mossberg house. I've been corresponding with them for most of a year and we were finally travelling in the area and were invited to stop by, chat and photograph the home. Below you'll see the results....

 

Living room below cathedral windows

Hallway windows looking into garden

Living room looking back from cathedral windows

Front door from living room hall

 

The living room

 

Living room cathedral windows

Light sconce on book cases

Two prints given to the owners by Mr. Wright

Hallway from entry to master bedroom

Master bedroom

Master Bedroom

 

Master Bedroom Fireplace

Master bath

I love these fixtures, counters and sinks

Dining room wtih windows out to garden

Stairway to second floor

View back from the hall towards the stairway (Sorry Jill. This photo was just too good to leave out) :)

Downstairs Hallway to other bedrooms

Dining room from stairs

Stairway looking down

Upstairs reading room and the balcony overlooking the living room

Mirror in the small bedroom upstairs

 

Upstairs Bathroom

Living room from the balcony

Balcony overlooking living room

 

Lighting sconce in reading room

Kitchen looking towards garden

Kitchen from garden windows

Dining room from kitchen

Window and light sconce in Kitchen

Patio furniture that Wright suggested

Outside of Cathedral windows. Its winter so the plantings arent' doing much but fertilizing. ;)

Another view of the end of the house This tree provides a lot of privacy in the spring, summer and early fall

View of the cathedral windows and a look through to the front door

The private side of the house

 

Looking from car port up towards the rest of the house

Public side of the house. This low wall was added to hide some of the utilities like the AC Compressor

Public side of the house... outside master bedroom and upstairs bedroom

Public side of the house

Public side of the house. The small windows definitely give a lot of privacy

Looking towrads the carport and garden shed

Carport and garden shed

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