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American System-Built Home, architecture, history, house tour

VIRTUAL TOUR OF THE MEIER HOUSE: HISTORY OF AN AMERICAN SYSTEM-BUILT HOME

05/17/2021

Have you ever gazed at the walls of your home and wondered what lives they’ve beheld? We have. In nearly every home we’ve shared over our twenty-year relationship, we’ve pondered aloud about the lives that existed within the space. And then we bought an old house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, one of his American System-Built Homes, an early 20th century pre-fab project, and our curiosity got the best of us. As it turns out, these walls can talk. And we’ve been listening.

When we bought our American System Built-Home in 2013, we entered into a relationship not only with the house but its former inhabitants as well. At the time, there was scant information about Frank Lloyd Wright and Arthur Richards’ early-20th century ready-made housing plan. To learn about American System Built-Homes, we went to official sources – like the Avery Library, where all 900+ original ASB drawings are cataloged. But to learn about our house, a Model M202 known as the Delbert and Grace Meier House, we turned to local experts – the people who used to call it home. Collecting former homeowner stories and learning the history of Wright’s ready-built home scheme may have eventually led to our upcoming book, but we didn’t start out with such grand ambitions.

We initially set out to simply satisfy our own curiosity. How did this American System-Built Home end up being constructed in small town Iowa? Who were the people who made this house a home over its 100+ year history? How has the house changed over that period? We had questions and, as we often do, we went in search of answers. We didn’t have a book in mind when we started out. But we did assume that the more information we collected, the better we could represent our house to fans of Wright’s architecture who frequently contact us (or visit) for information.

The people we met and the information we gathered tell a wonderful story – not just about the house but its inhabitants. This video tour provides a brief overview of the history of the Delbert and Grace Meier House, its owners and the changes that have occurred over its long history. It includes photos of the house and its owners dating back to the 1920s along with the modern snapshots that reveal the progress we’ve been in our time as stewards.

To get the full story of this marvelous old house, order a copy of our book: This American House: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meier House and The American System-Built Homes.

American System-Built Home, architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, history

Coming Soon: The This American House Book!

02/14/2021

We’re thrilled to announce the forthcoming release of our book, This American House: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meier House and the American System-Built Homes! Beautifully published by Pomegranate and due out on July 15th, the book provides an historical overview of Wright’s overlooked American System-Built Homes project of the 1910s. Our home, the Meier House, is one of the few existing examples of this early effort of Wright’s to provide affordable but architecturally distinctive housing for the middle class. Our book, This American House, chronicles the storied history of the Meier House and our efforts to steward this early 20th century Prairie style gem into the 21st century.

We look forward to sharing the book with you soon! 

House vs. Home: New book revisits Frank Lloyd Wright’s work through the lives of its inhabitants

This American House follows authors Jason Loper and Michael Schreiber, owners of the Meier House, as they trace its history through previous owners.

PORTLAND, Ore., January 25, 2021 — Pomegranate has published dozens of architecture books throughout its over-50-year history, several featuring Frank Lloyd Wright and his work. Their upcoming release takes a different approach to how we view architecture: how buildings change with the people who live in them and the role homeowners take on in exchange. In This American House, Jason Loper and Michael Schreiber—husbands, authors and current owners of the Meier House—explore that interconnectedness with enthusiasm and empathy.

2020 saw people across the world spending more time in their homes than ever before as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Families held off going out to eat or on vacation, and many began working and schooling from home. As a result, the way we interacted with our homes on a daily basis changed.

“A living room is no longer just a living room; it’s an office, a classroom and a playground all-in-one,” says Cory Mimms, publisher at Pomegranate. “Many of us used to live parts of our lives at home: the intimate moments of getting ready for school or work, sharing meals, going to bed. Now, we are living every aspect of our identity in the same space, whether that’s spouse or parent, friend or coworker or even activist. Inevitably, that changes the feelings we have about where we live.”

When Loper and Schreiber set out to buy a home several years ago, they certainly didn’t envision one suited to a pandemic, nor did they picture buying one with a pedigree. In fact, they had imagined a cozy getaway cabin not far from their life in Chicago. What they got instead was a big house in a small town and one of the few American System-Built Homes constructed from Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs. In doing so, they took on not just a mortgage, but also a long history of stewardship, ushering the house into a new period of time while retaining its original meaning and charm.

Inspired by that history, the two began compiling a record of their experiences, those of the previous residents and the role of the American System-Built Homes within Wright’s oeuvre. Featuring over 120 photographs and architectural drawings, This American House: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meier House and the American System-Built Homes will be available this July.

Pre-order your copy on Amazon or contact your favorite local bookstore to order it!

American System-Built Home, architecture, history, iowa, Prairie School

Prairie School in Iowa: Support Iowa Architectural Foundation

01/25/2021

We’re excited to be partnering with the Iowa Architectural Foundation as part of their Prairie School Architecture in Iowa class. This 3-part virtual class – held February 9, 16 23 – will include 3 home tours – our American System-Built Home and two Walter Burley Griffin-designed homes in Mason City! See all the details below and consider joining us! This is a fundraiser for Iowa Architectural Foundation and a great way to see three wonderful houses without leaving the comfort of your own home.

Early Bird Tickets @ $35 are available only until 7PM on Feb 1; after that, $45 at EVENTBRITE.

February 9, 7-8:30 PM: Virtual Class led by Paula Mohr, PhD and Ryan Ellsworth, AIA

In the first half of the twentieth century, Iowa was a significant player in the development of what later came to be known as the Prairie School of architecture. This 3-part course will explore some of Iowa’s internationally renowned Prairie School buildings, such as works designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Burley Griffin. We’ll look at examples located across the state, including the Woodbury County Courthouse and Mason City’s Rock Crest-Rock Glen as well as less famous examples located in small towns throughout the state.

February 16: Tour #1 – The Meier House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Monona, Iowa
Virtual tour of the Meier House, the only Iowa example of the American System-Built House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Join homeowners Jason Loper and Michael Schreiber as they explain their fascinating stories of finding and restoring this beautiful home. Motivated by Wright’s lifelong interest in affordable housing, he designed these homes between 1911 – 1917. The tour will be followed by a Q&A with the homeowners, our instructors and attendees.

February 23: Tour #2 & #3 – The Schneider House and The Page House, designed by Walter Burley Griffin, Mason City, Iowa – Virtual tours of both the Schneider House and the Page House in the Rock Crest-Rock Glen development in Mason City, the first planned Prairie School development in America. Homeowners Tim & Joan Platz and Gary & Anne Schmit will take you through their amazing homes and afterwards you can ask them questions and join in the discussion with other attendees and class instructors. Find out how you can dig deeper into the Prairie School architectural legacy of Mason City.

This is a fundraiser for Iowa Architectural Foundation to help us persevere through the Covid period with our mission: “To inspire an appreciation of architecture and design through educational programming for adults and students.”

Class Instructors
Paula Mohr, PhD
Paula is the Certified Local Government Coordinator and Architectural Historian for the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). She is an alumna of the University of Iowa, the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies and the University of Virginia, where she earned her Ph.D. in architectural history. She has held curatorial and preservation positions at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the White House and the National Park Service. In 2018 The National Alliance of Preservation Commissions awarded Paula with the Renaud Award, a lifetime achievement” award that recognizes trailblazers in the advancement of preservation at the local level.

Ryan Ellsworth, AIA Ryan is a licensed architect with Estes Construction. He has practiced in New York, Chicago and Des Moines. Ryan is on the Board of Trustees of the Iowa Architectural Foundation. He is one of IAF’s most active volunteers, serving as a guide for corporate and organizational tours and Architecture on the Move summer walking tours of downtown Des Moines. Ryan was the champion of IAF’s motor coach tour to Dubuque in 2019.

architecture, Famous Places, Prairie School

Alfred Bersbach House: Van Bergen’s Prairie Masterpiece

03/01/2020

Alfred Bersbach House - Wilmette, Illinois

We happened down a side street in Wilmette, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago, today and came across this house that could very easily be mistaken for one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs. In fact, as we learned from our old friend Wikipedia, back in the 1950s and ’70s, real estate listings mistakenly attributed the house to Mr. Wright. It’s actually one of John S. Van Bergen‘s designs. Built in 1915 for Alfred Bersbach, it doesn’t get any more Prairie School than this lakefront estate!

Sadly, it looks like this gorgeous example of Prairie School design, a house that is often called John S. Van Bergen’s masterpiece, is about to see some big (and perhaps fatal!) changes. This big old house, as gorgeous as it is in its early-20th-century glory, is dwarfed by the modern McMansions around it. Judging by the demolition notice, we fear that the Bersbach house will soon be replaced with something far less significant.

This, we’re reminded, is the importance of stewardship. We don’t actually know that the Alfred Bersbach House is going to meet the wrecking ball, but we do know that too many houses of architectural significance do meet that fate.

Every now and then we wonder why we bought the Delbert and Grace Meier House. What compelled us to invest our energies (and money!) in a 100+ year old house?

This, ladies and gentlemen, this is why we became the stewards of the Meier House. Because we need more stewards. We need more love for old houses. We need more appreciation for the past. We need these houses to remain standing as a reminder of how we’ve lived, of who we’ve been.

Interestingly, there is a brick column near the property line that marks the location as a “Wilmette Local Landmark.” Here’s hoping that you’re getting a little refresh, Alfred Bersbach House, and not a full teardown. If not, at least we got to spend a little time with you today.

American System-Built Home, architecture, dream house, Frank Lloyd Wright

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

12/03/2019

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: Continue Reading…