DCN ARCHIVES

March 7, 2005

House designed by Wright up for auction

CHICAGO

If you think selling a house designed by the most famous architect in American history is easy, think again.

After several months on the market, a 1915 Frank Lloyd Wright house on Chicago’s North Side is going on the auction block, with bids starting at $750,000 (U.S.) — less than a third of the original $2.5 million asking price.

A few years ago, another Wright house sold at auction in Cincinnati for only about $400,000.

“There was always a relatively small market for them,’’ said Ronald Scherubel, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. “Even when he (Wright) was alive they weren’t for everybody.’’

But the hard sell on Wright houses runs deeper than their historical lack of appeal.

First, owners often can’t remodel or even paint the homes without permission from some government official.

Chicago designated the four-bedroom Emil Bach House a landmark in 1977, so both the city and the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois must now sign off an any substantial changes, Scherubel said.

“That house is really intended to stay that house,’’ said Frank Diliberto, senior vice president of Inland Real Estate Auction, which is handling the sale.

Then, there’s the way Wright laid out his Prairie-style homes and their size —usually on the small side.

Unlike modern houses, with their roomy kitchens and bedrooms, Wright built homes with spacious living rooms and dining areas. Kitchens were simply places to prepare food and bedrooms were just for sleeping, Scherubel said.

“His philosophy was different,’’ he said.

In the Emil Bach house, the kitchen is bigger than in most Wright homes, said Inland Real Estate spokesman Darryl Cater.

The Associated Press

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