Category Archives: architecture

A House on the Move Makes a Stop at the Grocery Store

The John Irving Residence | This American House

Have you heard about the John Van Bergen-designed James Irving Residence? It’s a house on the move … literally! This architecturally significant house (Van Bergen worked in Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio) is being relocated from the Wilmette, Illinois site where it was built in 1928 to a new plot of land in nearby Evanston. They must’ve run out of milk on the way because the house is currently parked in the parking lot of a grocery store!

John Irving Residence on the Move | This American House

After a developer purchased the house and expressed intent to demolish it and build a new structure on the site, Christopher Enck purchased the Prairie Style structure and arranged its move. To make the move, which occurred over a three day period beginning last Friday, the house has been split into three sections.

Apparently the house’s new site isn’t quite ready and so in the meantime it’s hanging out in the parking lot of an empty grocery store. The three sections of the house, with the exposed ends covered in big plastic tarps, sit on massive trailers in the parking lot of the former Dominick’s store on Green Bay Road in Evanston.

Moving House: The John Irving Residence

Isn’t it amazing that you can uproot a house from its foundation and relocate it? I mean, we usually think of houses as these immovable structures (at least we HOPE they’re immovable) so it boggles the mind to see that one can be cut up, lifted and carried away.

Well of course The Mister just had to drive past the house and snap some photos. He was surprised to see that the house is really just sitting there in the parking lot, no fence surrounding it or guard protecting it.

Does this mean that we can pick up This American House and move it back to the city? Um, yeah, probably not.

More about the Irving House move: 

  • You can see a short video of the house being moved at the Chicago Tribune.
  • Evanston Now has a great recap on the move and the house.
  • Wright in Racine also has a nice recap and photos of the move.
  • For a little more history, check out Saving and Moving the Irving House on PrairieMod

Images: This American House

Prairie School: 508 South Beaumont, Prairie du Chien, WI

Prairie School: 508 S. Beaumont, Prairie du Chien, WI | This American House

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that driving around looking at houses is one of our favorite pastimes. Among the older homes on any given block, you’re sure to see variations on a few styles. Tudors and Victorians and Colonials are some of the most common designs we’ll encounter on our sightseeing jaunts. So when we come across a Prairie style house – especially one in great condition – it always gets our notice.

A detour on our way to Piggly Wiggly led us to this beautiful Prairie style house in, of all places, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. “Stop the car!” The Mister implored as I raced toward the Pig for nourishment. I pulled a u-turn in the middle of the street and doubled back to 508 South Beaumont, the site of this beautiful Prairie Style house. We snapped a few photos and then spent the rest of the afternoon wondering whether it could be one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes … or at least the design of one of his students.

508 S. Beaumont, Prairie du Chien, WI | This American House

When we got back home later that day I Googled around and found an old listing for the house. Here’s what I was able to learn:

  • The house dates to 1914. (That’s three years older than our house.)
  • The listing refers to the house as “Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired.”
  • At the time of the listing, the house still featured a number of built-ins, including a kitchen buffet and hutch.
  • The original hardwood floors are intact but the rest of the wood trim has all been painted.
  • The house is palatial with 2,976 square feet that contains four bedrooms and three and a half baths.

According to Realtor.com, the house was last listed for $199,500 in December 2013 and then delisted later that same month. The property history on Realtor.com also shows that the house has been listed and delisted multiple times over the past few years.

It’s always amazing to us to see how these big old houses are priced in small towns. Even in this difficult housing market if you could pick this house up and move it to Chicago, it would list for close to a million dollars. If not more. To see that the house has been listed for a fraction of that price is a testament to the shortage of high paying jobs in small town America. After all, we had to drive five hours out of Chicago before we could find a big old house we could afford! But of course we can only afford it because we have jobs back in the city.

But don’t let me get on a diatribe about the economy and the dearth of good jobs! This post is all about this gorgeous Prairie Style house and how we’re happy to have discovered it.

To see photos of the inside of the house, check out this old listing on Zillow.

Images: This American House

House Research: What We Learned About Our American System Built-Home on A Trip to Avery Library

American System Built Home model M202 plans | This American House

On our trip out East last month, The Mister and I made a pit stop at The Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University. We had learned that the Frank Lloyd Wright archives were moved from Taliesen West, where they had been gathered and preserved by Mrs. Wright upon her husband’s death in 1959, to the Avery Library. More importantly, we learned that there was a big file on Wright’s American System-Built homes. We made an appointment to peruse the stacks and crossed our fingers that we would unearth some new details about our house.

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The Kitchen Then and Now: 1917 vs 2014

American System Built house kitchen floor plan

Finding some of the original cabinetry in the garage felt like quite an accomplishment but it’s only half the battle. Maybe even less than half. It’s probably only a quarter of the battle. In order to re-install the original cabinetry in the kitchen, we’ll need to change the floor plan back to the original layout … except, of course, we’ll want to keep the mod cons that were added when the kitchen was rehabbed back in the 1970’s. And therein lies the problem.

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Mr. and Mr. Blandings is Now This American House

mrblandings-header-erased

When we first launched this blog back in October of 2013, we were still in the process of buying our dream house. Knowing that we wanted to create a blog devoted to our adventures in making the house our own, we started brainstorming titles. After bandying about ideas for a few days, we settled on Mr. and Mr. Blandings – a title inspired by our love of the old Cary Grant/Myrna Loy film. It also seemed like a fitting title for a blog about the new lives we hope to create in our “country home.”

Now that we’ve actually been in the house for a few months, and as we’ve continued researching it and all the other American System-Built homes, we’ve started thinking about the blog differently. We always knew we wanted to write about our house projects, but we had no idea how much the house would be the star of the blog. When we thought the blog would be as much about us as about the house, Mr. and Mr. Blandings seemed like an appropriate title. Now that we’re merely the supporting players in the story of the house, it’s time to change the name of the blog completely. And so, Mr. and Mr. Blandings is now …

This American House

THIS AMERICAN HOUSE. In addition to better representing the subject of the blog, our American System-Built home, the new title also describes our passion for American design and architecture. From the very beginning, we knew we wanted to furnish the house with almost exclusively American made pieces. Then, as we started researching American System-Built homes, we began to understand that Frank Lloyd Wright and Arthur Richards were trying to create a truly American design with these houses. It’s not by coincidence that they were called the American System homes. The original marketing copy for the housing project says,

Today, there is an American Architecture. An architecture as brave and direct as the country. It is pioneer work. Frank Lloyd Wright has cut fresh trails as did the early American. He has forgotten the time-trodden roads of the older orders.

America deserves an architecture. The English, German or French home is a part of the actual country; it belongs where it is built; it fits their respective styles of living. The Italian home built on the hill side becomes part of that hill. It grows out of it. The buildings express the life of their occupants, and are national in character …

No longer do Americans have to satisfy themselves with homes that ape old world forms, that were never intended for the new America. The American System house voices American feeling. It is the expression of a national spirit. It is fresh, buoyant, vital.

American Architecture has come naturally. It has sprung up from among us. It is big with power. There is nothing artificial about it. There is no straining for effect. An American House speaks to you. It says: I am the beauty of perfect utility. The inner rightness of design and materials finds utterance in my outward lines.

Only a man who has a world-character in his knowledge and an American in feeling could have done this.

In Frank Lloyd Wright the nation has found its interpreter. Through him America is no longer the copier. America is the originator. The American House is the creation.

It’s a bit grandiose perhaps (it is marketing copy after all) but we really appreciate what Wright and Richards were trying to do. They wanted to create an American design. They wanted to build the American house. And now we own one of those American houses.

And so This American House seems like a far more fitting name for our blog. For it is the story of this house, this American house, sprinkled with tales of our trials and triumphs in restoring it.

So what does this mean for you, dear reader? Not much, really. We’ll still be writing the same posts – before and afters, product roundups and the like. You can still access the blog from mrandmrblandings.com – although you might want to change any of your bookmarks to our new URL – www.thisamericanhouse.com. While you’re at it, you might want to Subscribe to This American House by Email to get our blog posts directly in your inbox.

Thanks for reading!