One might be forgiven for doubting the all-caps enthusiasm of the listing description for this Westchester County home and the claim that is a “Frank Lloyd Wright early period styled home.”
But, indeed the house at 116 Soundview Avenue in Mamaroneck, N.Y., is ripped almost directly from an early 20th century housing scheme that Wright produced for the magazine Ladies’ Home Journal. Between 1901 and 1907, Wright produced three plans for the publication, with elevations, floor plans and estimated construction costs.
At the time, Wright was working an independent architect: He left his job with Chicago architects Adler & Sullivan in 1893 and began to experiment with domestic architectural forms — work that led to the development of his signature Prairie Style of architecture.
His Ladies’ Home Journal houses showcased his emerging style, emphasizing horizontal lines, overhanging eaves and a connection with the outdoors. The very first plan he produced for the magazine, in 1901, was “A Home in a Prairie Town,” launching the name for the style that would become intrinsically linked with Wright.
The Mamaraneck house is based on a Wright design that appeared in the April 1907 issue of the magazine as “A Fireproof House for $5,000.” Calling for the house to be built of concrete meant, according to Wright, that “a structure of this type is more enduring than if carved intact from solid stone.” Construction costs for the house, if built in Chicago, were estimated at $5,300, including plumbing, wiring and painting. Full construction plans were available upon request for 10 percent of the cost of the house.
The Westchester County architect and builder who evidently noticed the Wright plans was C. C. Crossley. An advocate of concrete for residential use, Crossley’s experiments in concrete construction pop up in early 20th century building publications like Scientific American and Concrete Houses and Cottages. Concrete was being touted in the early 20th century as an economical, sanitary, energy-efficient and fireproof building material.
While the article “Reinforced Concrete Houses at a Reasonable Cost” in a 1908 issue of Concrete Engineering credits Crossley as the architect and builder of the Mamaroneck house, a comparison of the elevations and floorplans with those proposed by Wright clearly show the origins. The article goes into quite a bit of technical detail about the construction methods and notes that the cost of construction “is said to have run in the neighborhood of $5,000, which, considering the size and finish — both exteriorally and interiorally — is low.”
While the floor plans are virtually identical, Crossley made some tweaks to the design. On the exterior, the deep eaves of Wright’s roof line appear to be a bit truncated. There is also some deviation in the fenestration, but the windows do maintain the horizontal banding effect. Crossley included pergolas as per Wright’s plan, but the rather heavy decorative patio wall elements are a Crossley addition.
Crossley wasn’t the only one to take the plans and make slight changes. Wright scholars have tracked down houses based on the “Fireproof House” plan in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Utah. Wright himself also adapted his design in houses he built for clients, including the Jane and Andrew W. Porter House, located at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisc.
Crossley built the Mamaroneck house for his client, P.F. Travers, in a residential development where it was surrounded by more conventional wood-frame structures. While the construction material and methods might have been unusual, in layout the house would have been very familiar in the early 20th century — the boxy plan is typical of the American foursquare houses popular at the time.
While no contemporary floor plan is included in the listing, the description of it as a four-bedroom, one-bath home and the photos seem to indicate that it’s possible not much has been altered in the layout since it was constructed in 1908.
The first floor is centered, as Wright planned, around a fireplace. There is a stone fireplace with a decorative wood hood, built-in shelves and wood floors.
(Note the mantel and other decorative elements have a bit more in common with the early 20th century Colonial Revival movement than the streamlined, natural materials Wright was advocating by then.)
A Doric-columned divider topped with dentil molding separates the living and dining rooms.
From the photos it appears the owners have resisted the urge to open up the kitchen to the rest of the first floor, outfitting the kitchen with updated appliances and maintaining the fairly spacious floor plan.
Another original fireplace warms the largest of the four bedrooms, all located on the second floor, along with the bathroom.
The Wright-style house is on the market for $659,901, listed by Aaron M. Wittenstein of Keller Williams Ny Realty.
- Be One With Nature With Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian Vision in Westchester County
- Fulfill Your White Picket Fence Dreams, Starting at $399K
- A Pattern Book-Perfect Second Empire in Rhinebeck Asks $1.695 Million