Building 51 | Building 51 | c. 1913 original and intact frank lloyd wright-designed francis w. little house leaded art glass window with copper-coated zinc caning
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c. 1913 original and intact frank lloyd wright-designed francis w. little house leaded art glass window with copper-coated zinc caning



Frank Lloyd Wright

About This Item

remarkably intact early 20th century frank lloyd wright-designed art glass window removed from the c. 1913 francis w. little residence shortly before the dismantlement and subsequent demolition of the house in the early 1970’s. the largely colorless prairie school style window features a distinctively abstract and strongly geometric composition consisting primarily of clear glass accentuated with small white opalescent and frosted panes of triangles and squares. the nicely patinated copper-coated zinc caming remains structurally sound and overall great condition, considering age. the polychromed painted pine wood sash frame is largely intact with surface wear evident. the frank lloyd wright-designed window was fabricated by the temple art glass company, chicago, il. around 1900 francis and mary little of peoria, il commissioned frank lloyd wright to design what was to be the first of two houses he designed for them. the littles were active founding members of the art institute of chicago, and it may have been there, where wright frequently lectured, that they and wright first came into contact. mr. little, a lawyer and owner of a utilities company, provided wright with financial assistance on more than one occasion. along with two other clients, mr. little paid for wright’s trip to europe in 1909-1911 and helped finance the 1910 berlin publication commonly known as the wasmuth portfolio – a catalogue of one hundred of wright’s drawings published by ernst wasmuth. the publication subsequently brought wright international attention. in the acknowledgments wright credited mr. little as one to whom he owed a great deal for support and faith in his work. around 1908 the littles commissioned wright to design a summer residence for them on lake minnetonka, with initial plans drawn that same year. the actual construction of the house, however, was not completed until around 1914, as wright left for europe in 1909, returned in 1911, and then spent part of 1913 in japan. although several letters from mr. little to wright indicate his frustration with the delay, the littles had a close relationship with wright and were willing to wait for him, rather than choosing another architect. during this time the littles spent their summers on the lake shore property in a small cottage that mr. little had designed in the style of wright’s work. the home that wright designed for the littles was one of his last great prairie school-style residences. the characteristic long, low, hipped-roof building “hugged” two gentle hills that rose above the lake. the house plan consisted of two offset rectangles joined at the corner which formed a single 250-foot axis parallel to the lake shore. one rectangular section played a more private role, including the bedrooms and library above and the dining room, kitchen, and additional bedrooms below which was set into the lower hill. the other rectangular section included more public spaces, such as the large living/music room, billiard room, and screened pavilion and was set atop the higher hill. wright designed nearly 300 windows for the house, which spanning the entire elevations, allowed the littles full advantage of the scenic view. mr. little died in 1923 and mrs. little subsequently moved into her husband’s cottage and gave the summer home to eleanor and her husband raymond stevenson. like mr. and mrs. little, eleanor and their four daughters also spent part of the year at a residence in minneapolis and the other at the summer home on the lake. around 1951 the stevensons sold their minneapolis home, “winterized” the summer house, and moved in full time. however, by the late 1960’s the stevensons had grown weary of the challenges of living in a wright-designed house. the large size of the house, rising property taxes, built-in furnishings that could not easily be changed, and many uninvited visitors became too much for them. not wanting to move or tear down their house, and yet wanting a smaller house, put the stevensons in a difficult position because of city zoning ordinances which would not allow two houses on the same lot. the stevensons made every effort to find a buyer, contacting architects, societies and national groups. many were interested in preserving the house, but were unable to raise the money to buy it. moreover, the only way the stevensons could begin construction on a new house was to put the wright house on the market with the stipulation that if the house wasn’t sold within two years it would be demolished. since no local buyer or institutions could be found to save the house, concerned individuals finally contacted officials at the metropolitan museum of art in new york which had a large collection of fine period rooms, to see if they might be able to purchase it for installation. director thomas hoving came to look at the house and immediately offered to purchase it for the sale price of $150,000. relieved, the stevensons sold the house to the metropolitan in the spring of 1972, while they retained the property. under the direction of metropolitan curator morrison heckscher, portions of the interior were carefully dismantled piece by piece for future installation in the metropolitan and to sell to other institutions. that same year the metropolitan sold the library to the allentown art museum in allentown, pennsylvania, a hallway to the minneapolis institute of arts, and eventually installed the large living/music room in their own museum in 1982.