In small-town Iowa, Frank Lloyd Wright designed two homes for two families who knew each other well—and wanted to live in close proximity.
One of those homes, the 2,300-square-foot, Usonian-style Carroll Alsop House in Oskaloosa, IA, is now set to be sold in a private auction in early August with a $450,000 minimum bid, according to Peter Maunu. Maunu is the owner of the nearby Jack Lamberson House (also designed by Wright) and is assisting with the sale.
The opening bid is a steep hike from Oskaloosa’s median list price of $152,400, but could be considered a relative bargain for a Wright-designed home. With a population of 11,500, Oskaloosa lies in south-central Iowa, an hour from Des Moines and a five-hour drive to Chicago.
Maunu tells us that the Alsop and Lamberson families worked hand in hand to retain Wright’s services.
“They went to Spring Green, [WI], and met with Wright in 1947, and he agreed to build both houses,” he says.
The Alsops owned the area’s largest department store, and the Lambersons owned a local Ford dealership.
With four bedrooms and a “huge,” glass-walled living room with a cantilevered fireplace, “the Alsop House is the grander of the two,” says Maunu.
Another highlight is a cozy fireplace in the primary bedroom.
Overseen by Wright’s apprentice—chief architect John “Johnny” deKoven Hill—the homes were completed in 1951.
The Alsop home is one of only eight Usonian-style homes in Iowa designed by Wright. It features Wright’s favorite wood (old-growth Tidewater Red Cypress) for board-and-batten walls and Cherokee-red tinted concrete floors.
Over the past seven decades, the Alsop House has had four owners. After the current owner bought it in the mid-1990s, he embarked on numerous restoration projects.
But the home will still require some TLC from the winning bidder.
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A new owner is likely to want to replace the windows, since “They are not the originals,” says Maunu, and were swapped out at some point in the home’s history.
The front porch and back staircase will also need some work.
“Almost everything in the house is original and in really fine condition,” says Maunu.
A video of the Alsop House displays all its attributes, in a detailed tour through the interior.
Wright’s original furnishings—which were designed for the home—are also included in the final sale. They include three modular dining tables, eight dining/side chairs, and four square tables.
“The furniture alone is worth well over $100,000, easily,” says Maunu. “Wright’s furniture is really part of the architecture. And it’s just like with cars: You want the original upholstery.”
In 2016, Maunu received the Wright Spirit Award—bestowed on those who work dilligently to preserve Wright’s legacy—for his restoration work at the Lamberson House, which, like the Alsop House, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Maunu says that a broad spectrum of potential buyers have expressed interest in the auction, including “retired people who want to move here full-time,” as well as people who, as he does, have homes both in Chicago and in rural Iowa.
“I’m hoping whoever gets this house will receive the award for their restoration,” says Maunu.
He’s hoping for a buyer “whose main objective is to preserve everything about the house that’s original and restore everything back to its original state everything that’s not.”
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