Category Archives: Frank Lloyd Wright

Giving Thanks: 7 Wonderful Things About Living in an American System-Built Home

7 Wonderful Things About Living in Our American System-Built Home

This weekend marked our SEVENTH Thanksgiving in our American System-Built Home. As part-time residents dividing our time between the Delbert and Grace Meier House in Iowa and our apartment in the city, we always look forward to this long holiday weekend. It’s one of the few times that we’re able to carve out additional room in our work schedules to allow for a long stay at the house together. One of us has to rush back to the city while the other stays behind to work on house projects, but over the holidays we typically get a few extra days together in the house. And over this particular Thanksgiving holiday, we took some time to reflect on the things about our little piece of Frank Lloyd Wright’s American architectural heritage that give us joy. And so without further ado:

The 7 Things About Living in an American System-Built Home for Which We’re Thankful

1 – We’re living in history
Well, of course, there’s the obvious – we’re living in a piece of architectural history. Throughout our marriage, The Mister and I have dreamed about living in a home with architectural significance. It may have taken us 15 years of talking about it, but we finally achieved our goal when we purchased the Meier House. And we’re loving every minute of it!

2 – You’re one of us now
Joining a community of American System-Built Home owners has been another highlight of this experience. We’ve had the privilege of not only meeting other ASBH owners but also visiting their homes, forging friendships and sharing the excitement (and occasional commiseration) of owning one of these beautiful structures.

3 – A stranger is a friend you haven’t met
Giving tours of our home to Frank Lloyd Wright fans has been a unique experience that we have wholeheartedly embraced. We’ve welcomed visitors – both planned and impromptu – from around the world and will gladly stop what we’re doing to give a guided tour and share the history of our home and its owners.

4 – Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision is alive in the 21st century
When Mr. Wright launched the American System-Built Home project with Arthur Richards in the 1910s, he envisioned a nationwide housing system that would bring his Prairie-school designs to the masses at an affordable price. Wright and Richards had a falling out, America entered World War I and only a couple dozen ASB homes were built before the plan was scrapped all together. But here we are, more than 100 years later, calling this house our home. We think Mr. Wright would approve.

 

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5 – You light up our lives
The windows in this house are so, so gorgeous! Just look at the way the sunshine streams through the bank of zinc-glass windows in the living room! And even in the dark days of winter, the corner windows in the bedrooms on the second floor allow an abundance of daylight into the house. On those nights when the moon is full, the glow filters through the 100-year-old glass and brightens the space so much that it feels more like twilight than midnight.

6 – Picture it: Iowa, 1917
Having this house is the best dinner party conversation we could have ever purchased. It’s also the most expensive dinner party conversation we could have ever purchased. But, hey, it happens to also be an effective ice breaker AND a really lovely house so it really does seem like a bargain.

7 – Paying it forward.
Quite possibly the most rewarding part of owning this house is that we’re doing our part to preserve it for the future. There are fewer than 20 American System-Built Home standing today. We’re doing our best to make sure that the Delbert and Grace Meier House remains a viable family home for the next 100 years.

A Visit to the Elizabeth Murphy House

The Owners of the Elizabeth Murphy House in Milwaukee, WI

As we’ve written about in the past, one of the wonderful advantages of owning one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s American System-Built Homes is becoming part of a network of stewards who are interested not only in their own home but in the ASBH project as a whole. Over the past five years of ownership of the Meier house, we’ve had the privilege of spending time with many ASBH stewards in their homes. We meet to share stories and compare notes, to break bread and break down history and, of course, to give tours of our homes.

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Welcoming Visitors to the Delbert Meier House

Copies of photos from the 1920s are taped to the garage wall to show visitors how the house would have looked before additions.

We knew when we bought the Delbert Meier House that we would receive visits from people interested in Frank Lloyd Wright and the American System-Built Homes. The couple we bought the house from – who had only owned it for about three years – attested to this at the closing by sharing stories of drop-ins. And they were correct – we started getting visits from those interested in the house and its history almost immediately.

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The American System-Built Home Revival in Atlantic City

This Zillow image shows the house at 212 N. Tennessee

When Frank Lloyd Wright and Arthur Richards partnered on the American System-Built Home project in the 1910’s, they surely envisioned a large scale endeavor that would see their houses popping up all across America. After all, Wright prepared hundreds of designs and was known to think big. Unfortunately, he was also known to be difficult to work with. By 1917, the relationship between Wright and Richards had soured and, with America entering World War, the ASBH project had all but fizzled. Continue reading

So Long Frank Lloyd Wright … and Delbert Meier

Last Monday marked the 59th anniversary of the death of Frank Lloyd Wright. Just three months before Wright’s passing in 1959, another visionary departed this world: Delbert W. Meier, the man who, with his wife Grace, boldly decided to build a Wright-designed American System-Built Home in a small town in northeastern Iowa in 1917, and lived happily thereafter and, indeed, passed on in that house – this “American house.”

Del Meier was the beneficiary of a very colorful obituary in the local newspaper, The Monona Leader, which we post here in tribute. We’ll leave it to Simon and Garfunkel to properly fete Frank on this anniversary.

D.W. Meier Funeral Held

Funeral services for Delbert William Meier, 78, were held Saturday afternoon, Jan. 10, at 2 o’clock at the Schultz Funeral home with Rev. E. Wayne Hilmer officiating.

Burial was in the City cemetery.

Mr. Meier died at his home Thursday morning, Jan. 8, at 3:30 o’clock from a heart attack. He had been suffering from a heart ailment for some time.

Music at the services was provided by Mrs. George Martin, soloist. She was accompanied by Mrs. Ivon J. Schultz at the piano.

Honorary pallbearers were: H.T. Orr, G.F. Fox, K.W. Rash, Edward Wirkler, Reuben Bernhard, Clayton County Bankers association, and Clayton County bar association.

Active pallbearers were: F.J. Peglow, Elmer Kurth, George Martin, W.C. Kruse, Ivon J. Schultz, George Wiethorn, Raymond Mielke, and William Hubacher.

Mr. Meier was born on a farm north of Postville, May 6, 1880, the son of John H. and Louisa (Splies) Meier. He was one of five children. Milo S. Meier of Minneapolis, Minn., is the only one who remains.

In that early day, life was rigorous, but he and an older brother spent many happy hours wandering over the wooded hills and fertile fields.

Then there was the country school to which they traveled with their swinging dinner pails for their early education. The family moved to Postville, later, so the children could have a better education.

He graduated from high school, then entered Upper Iowa university at Fayette. He was a good student and became a member of the debating team which won high honors for the school. His liking for forensics helped him decide to study law.

In the fall of 1903 he entered the University of Chicago, graduating there in 1905, taking two degrees, bachelor of philosophy and doctor of jurisprudence.

Then the question arose where to “hang out the shingle.” Being of a venturesome spirit, Indian territory seemed a likely place, so accordingly, Tulsa, Okla., was the town of his choice.

While in college he had met Miss Grace Estelle Burgess. They were married in 1903.

Not liking the climate in the southern territory, the couple returned to Iowa and Mr. Meier took over the law office of Ed Otis.

Two children were born to the couple, Esther, now Mrs. John Roberts of Darlington, England; and Martha, now Mrs. Walter Renk of Sun Prairie, Wis. These, with two grandchildren, John and Richard Renk, and a new great-grandchild, Wyatt Farley Renk, survive him.

Mr. and Mrs. Meier have resided in Monona for more than fifty years. On Dec. 28, recently, they celebrated their fifty-fifth wedding anniversary.

Mr. Meier served in official capacity in the town as mayor, and on the town council. As a school board member, he was instrumental in building the new addition to the “old building,” and the construction of the present one, serving again as a member of the board. At the time of his death, Mr. Meier was serving as president and director of the Union State Bank, in which capacity he faithfully served for many years. He was a life-long member of the Iowa State Bar association.

During World war I, he was a member of the Clayton County Draft board, and during World war II he served for a time as government appeal agent. For this effort he was given citations from two presidents, a selective service medal in the name of congress of the United States, signed by Harry S. Truman, and a certificate of appreciation signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

So passes another of the older residents of Monona. Few are left who took part in the social and business life of the town when he opened his office here in 1907.