Frank Lloyd Wright designed more than 1,000 structures, but only 532 were built, 430 during his lifetime. Ten Wright buildings, including LA’s Hollyhock House, have been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. About 120 of his designs were Usonian homes, simple structures for the middle class. By 1936, the depth of The Depression had passed and Wright was ready to create houses that less-than-wealthy folks could afford. One of his Usonians was the Bachman-Wilson House.
Four families lived in Bachman-Wilson in New Jersey before it was moved. The first, the Wilsons, really wanted a commission to build it and wrote to Wright. Marvin Bachman, Gloria Wilson’s brother, had been a Wright apprentice, so they included his name in their bid. It worked. Wright wanted $60,000 to build their Usonian. The Wilsons had $20,000. They settled for $30,000.
The 4th owners were architects Sharon and Lawrence Tarantino. They bought Bachman-Wilson in 1988 and completely restored it. However, it was adjacent to the appropriately named Millstone River and was prone to flooding. The house was under water 7 times. Some floods were hurricane related. The Tarantinos soon sought a buyer and contacted Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, who had recently opened Crystal Bridges, her new American Art museum in Arkansas. Alice bought Bachman-Wilson and moved it 1,235 miles to Bentonville.
Some changes were needed. The original home, for example, didn’t have a basement and wasn’t air-conditioned. The reconstruction, however, does retain the home’s Usonian character. The front door is still somewhat hidden. The New Jersey approach to the home has been recreated. Its windows face woods. It has a carport like many Usonian designs. Wright hated the clutter that garages encouraged and invented the word “carport” to name his new concept. The house is lean and low and looks embedded in the natural landscape just as Wright intended. Most Usonians don’t have a 2nd floor. The Bachman-Wilson does, but no tours are allowed upstairs.
If you want to see the recreation’s best space, its sensational living room, join a tour. Due to Wright’s open concept plan, all of the furniture in the living room is on one side and all seats, including 2 almost-comfortable-looking Origami chairs, face windows and crowd together. The windows are tall and fine. Cherokee red is, of course, among the many natural colors used. Call for tickets, which are free, well in advance because only 8 people are allowed on any tour since interior spaces tend to be small. Guided tours have been very popular. Ruth & I booked months in advance and there were exactly 8 people with us in a house where I had to sidle sideways in one hall and disliked the fact that I could not take interior photos.
This project was a challenge worth accepting and the result is an excellent. rescued Usonian.