Winner of 2017 Giller Prize

Winner of 2017 Giller Prize
Michael Redhill for his novel Bellevue Square

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Frank Lloyd and Me


 A call from Dairy Hollow Writers’ Colony in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  Would I like a suite in the main building or would I like to be in the Frank Lloyd Wright House?

 This is a question?  Who could turn down an opportunity to live in a Frank Lloyd Wright house?

 Eureka Springs is built on a series of high limestone ridges.  The Writer’s Colony is a little way out of town on its own ridge and the house sits precariously on the edge of a deep treed valley, the back decks jutting over into air.  It’s a good thing I don’t walk in my sleep.

Here is the story behind this house: In the 1950’s, Edna Dieley arrived in Eureka Springs from Chicago bearing a set of house plans that she insisted the local builders follow to the letter. 

During the great depression, Frank Lloyd Wright created a new style of house which he said, ‘was affordable for the common people of the United States.” He dubbed the style Usonian a compilation word comprised of US and North America. Usonian houses were one story, low roofed dwellings with open living areas and a clerestory, a line of windows high up in the living area, designed to increase the light into the interior. It is not known if Ms  Dieley acquired the plans from Wright, who was alive at the time, or if they were a knock-off based on the Usonian concept.

Alas, after Ms Diely died, the house fell into disrepair.  In fact, the foundation became so weak, the house was sliding down the hill.  Inside, linoleum covered the wood floors and heavy floral wall paper decked the walls.  (Cue Frank, who loved natural materials, rolling in his grave). 

The Colony acquired the house and began to raise money.  At one point the house was tied to trees to stop the downward lean and the entire foundation was removed and replaced.  Inside, the original wooden floors, ceilings and walls were restored or replaced. It was an enormous task which is still ongoing.  The main room is just getting its furniture.

Living in the house is like living in changing light.  Large windows everywhere let in views of the hills. The maple and oak forest, now, in early November, is a mélange of brilliant red and gold.

 My suite consists of a bedroom, writing room and bathroom, with coffee pot and small personal fridge handy.  I have the use of the completely modern kitchen to make my breakfast and lunches, food supplied generously by the colony.  Dinner is a gathering in the main house.  At that time, all the writers and other participants meet, talk, and nosh on a delicious gourmet meal.  Tonight a wine tasting and next week a reading night.

Do I like it here?  This is a question?

 
Typical Frank Lloyd Wright, a plain exterior, partly hidden front door. Note the line of clerestory windows under the upper roof.  
 

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