the mid-1930’s, Frank Lloyd Wright began designing more modest homes for the
common man. He called this design
of home Usonian after one of the proposed names for the United States of
America. These homes were to be
simple, functional homes that met the needs of small families and could be built
for about $5000.
This photo is a little distorted since I stitched two photos together. It gives you the idea of what the back of the home looks like.
the time he started designing and building these homes, he was also working on
homes for the Kaufmans and the Johnsons that were priced in the $60,000 -
$120,000 range. Building modest
homes for small families seemed like a great departure from Wright’s normal
business. But it was actually an
idea that he’d been nurturing for many years before.
Pope was a writer for the Washington Star newspaper. His modest salary certainly wasn’t sufficient to allow him
to afford one of Wright’s traditional homes.
Pope had read about Wright’s Usonian designs and wrote to Wright to see
if he’d be willing to build one in Virginia.
Wright agreed and the rest was history.
home that was built for Mr. Pope was built in Falls Church, Virginia.
In the late 1960’s the home was threatened by the construction of
Highway 66. The current owner, Mrs.
Leighey, arranged to move the home 16 miles to the grounds of Woodlawn
Plantation south of Alexandria, Virginia. The home is now cared for by the Trust for Historic
Preservation and is open daily for tours from March through December.
of Wrights later homes are designed on a particular grid pattern.
The Pope-Leighey home is set up on a 2’ by 4’ rectangular grid.
The floor is poured concrete with hot water pipes inside so Wright’s
unique radiant heating system could be used.
In the winter the whole floor is heated with these pipes in a way that
makes the home very comfortable. I
was in the home early this year when the heating system was on and I was amazed
at how well the system worked. My
feet were toasty warm and the whole house felt very comfortable.
home is designed so that the roof is held up by masonry pillars around the
fireplace and at the end of each wing of the home.
The benefit of this design is that the walls are not required to be
structural members of the home. As
a result, the walls of the Pope-Leighey home are made from two planks of cedar
sandwiched around an inner core of plywood.
The walls are 3” thick and seem to be quite good at keeping the cold
interior of the house is set up to be an efficient living space. There is not a lot of storage space for things.
Wright believed that you should only keep things that you used often.
As a result, the closets are small and there is not a lot of room for
Trust for Historic Preservation gives great tours of the home. They blend a lot of the history of the home with that of
Wright. They talk about a lot of
the design features of the house and how they fit into the daily life of the
occupants. They have done a great
job of preserving the house under adverse conditions.
The people showing the house really seem to know their subject and enjoy
sharing it with others. I’ve
toured the home 6 or 7 times now and have learned something new every time I go.
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