Frank Lloyd Wright might be the most famous American architect, but outside of Falling Water his landmarks aren’t widely visited. Turns out, you can choose one of his houses as your next vacation destination. Alex Thurnher highlights Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes that are now having a second act as vacation-rental properties and bed and breakfasts.
Everyone has wandered through a museum and seen a velvet rope and the signs that say “Do Not Touch.” The same goes for any visit to the most popular architectural wonders of the world. However, there is a way to get close-up access to the iconic creations from architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He made designs that invite the outdoors inside, and now the caretakers of these homes are inviting you.
S.P. Elam House – Austin, Minnesota
“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished, but if you invest your life in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.” -Frank Lloyd Wright
The Plunkett family strives to keep the Usonian heart of Frank Lloyd Wright alive by bringing enthusiasts and novices alike to the town of Austin, Minnesota. The S.P. Elam House was completed in 1951. Pearl Elam and his wife met Frank Lloyd Wright some years earlier at Taliesin East. The twenty room home initially housed five Elam children. Warren Plunkett purchased the home in 1959 and his son, Peter, returned to the home in 2006 and now lives there with his son. Growing up, the adventurous Plunkett children climbed the home’s limestone wall outcroppings reminiscent of the Minnesota/ Mississippi River Valleys. Later Dianne and Lynda filled the home with music for numerous civic engagements, which included the Ladies of the Austin Symphony Orchestra, the Art and Travel Club, and The Daughters of the American Revolution. Since all the Plunkett boys played hockey, there is a rink in the back yard during the winter time.
The property will be opening as a rental in May. The home features original light fixtures set into the rare white cypress ceiling and three floor to ceiling stone fireplaces located in the main living room, the guest living room, and the master bedroom. A nearly 150-foot gallery contains family photos and Frank Lloyd Wright memorabilia. The terrazzo and slate flooring are also a nice Wright cue, as is the extensive limestone work reminiscent of Taliesin East. Warren’s wife Eleanor Plunkett named the home “Chez Mille Glace” house of a thousand windows. To this day the serenity created by the soaring ceilings and ever changing natural sunlight make this treasure a true center in which to unwind.
Now guests help to make this architectural gem self-sustaining. The 820 square foot guest quarters come with a private guest patio next to a private entrance. Internet, TV, and phone are included and the room comes with its own kitchenette and private bath. If you’re looking to get out and see this wonderful small town, there you will find golf courses, orchestras, cross country skiing, bike trails, the historic paramount theatre, and if your stomach is ready for it, the SPAM museum. A list of restaurants is available to guests upon arrival. The cost to rent is $250 per night and is meant for two guests, but three guests are permitted. No children under 12or pets are allowed and there is a no smoking policy on the premises.
To book a room, call 507-437-8125 (guest house) or 507-437-2845 (office).
Find the home on Facebook.