Frank Lloyd Wright’s “little gem”, his First and Only Residence Designed for Person with a Disability, up for Auction

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Rockford, Illinois Campaigns to Save Historic Frank Lloyd Wright Home

While it is a valuable asset for the Rockford community, the Foundation seeks to make this unique and prized piece of architectural history a national treasure as many other Wright designs have become, attracting millions of visitors each year.

A community is rallying for financial support to help save a treasured Frank Lloyd Wright home before it is put up for public auction on December 15. Called the Laurent House, this one-of-a-kind residence was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1949 and is the first and only home he ever created for a disabled person’s use and comfort.

After the meticulously caring for the home for 59 years, the original owners, Kenneth and Phyllis Laurent, have put the house on the market as they prepare to move into an assisted living facility. With the hope of turning the home into a museum to attract tourists and preserve its historic significance, the Laurent House Foundation in Rockford is working diligently to raise funds to buy the house at auction. The estimated sale price is $500,000 to $700,000.

Wright agreed to design the house after receiving a letter from Mr. Laurent in 1948. He requested a house that was wheelchair accessible, as he suffered a spinal cord injury during his service in World War II, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. He chose to contact Wright after concluding that his signature architectural designs of open floor plans, flowing space and minimal interior partitions would be a perfect solution for his special needs.

The home was also built with furnishings, lighting and coloration designed by Wright. These were all designed and built to accommodate Mr. Laurent’s mobility limitations. Switches and fixtures are at an accessible level and the built-in desks and tables are cantilevered so a wheelchair can fit beneath. Since its completion in 1952, the Laurents have carefully maintained the home’s authenticity and the original furnishings.

The Laurent’s relationship with Wright extended beyond the design and construction of their home; they developed a lasting friendship with Wright and he visited their home on a few occasions. The Laurents were also welcomed and frequent guests to Wright’s Wisconsin home, Taliesin, and participated in his birthday party celebrated there every year.

While the home is considered the most significant residence in Rockford according to a Wright expert appraiser, it also holds historical significance as Wright’s first and only home designed for a person with disabilities, which he executed some 40 years before the standards and guidelines were available from the Americans with Disabilities Act. The first of its kind in the world, Wright made the home accessible and comfortable for Mr. Laurent, but also made it esthetically pleasing from his lowered viewpoint in his wheelchair. From Ken’s eye level is when the home shows its true beauty.

The design was Wright’s experimentation with what he called the “hemicycle” house based upon intersecting arcs and circles. It’s the second of only eight hemicycles he designed and the only one located in Illinois. Wright counted the Laurent home among the top ten buildings of his career, affectionately referring to it as his “little gem” in Rockford.

The Laurent House Foundation’s mission is to preserve this gem and make it accessible for the public to appreciate. While it is a valuable asset for the Rockford community, the Foundation seeks to make this unique and prized piece of architectural history a national treasure as many other Wright designs have become, attracting millions of visitors each year.

Individuals or organizations interested in contributing to the cause should contact info(at)laurenthouse(dot)com or 815.489.1678.

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Kylie Crull
PR Etc.
(815) 282-9976
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