Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1955, the Louis Penfield House is located in Willoughby, Ohio, and is nestled on 18.5 acres of heavily wooded property. It features three bedrooms, one-and-a-half baths, and a 12-foot floor-to-ceiling, glass-walled living room that offers a panoramic view of the bluffs on the Chagrin River.

The house cost $25,000. But the Penfields ran out of money, so the built-in benches and shelves Wright designed were never installed. Paul Penfield, who inherited the house from his parents, finally had these built in 1998.

Penfield House is built with concrete block, wood trim, and wood-fiber (e.g. plywood) panels. The house features the interlocking vertical and horizontal forms that are typical of a Wright-designed home. The 1,800-square-foot home has a carport instead of a garage, and an "open plan" interior. The center of the house is its fireplace and hearth, with a series of flowing, undivided spaces that link the entry hall, kitchen, dining, and living areas.

Unlike most Wright homes, Penfield House has high ceilings. Wright was just 5'8" tall, and designed homes to fit his own personal size (disregarding the wishes of his clients). But Louis Penfield was 6'8", and Wright could not ignore his needs. So Penfield House has 12-foot ceilings.

The Penfield House property also includes the historic 19th-century Ward Farmhouse (a five-bedroom duplex) and an 850-square-foot cottage (which features a kitchenette and a loft bedroom).

In 1955, the Penfields learned that the state of Ohio was going to build I-90 right next to their home. Dismayed, they asked Wright to design a second home for them on the south edge of their property. The designs for this commission, dubbed Riverrock, were submitted to the Penfields just three days before Wright's death. Riverrock was never built, as Wright's business was millions of dollars in debt and in arrears on its taxes.

Penfield House has operated as a vacation rental for the last 12 years and can continue to be used as a tourist destination or as a residential home. It's booked 300 days out of the year, at about $450 a night.

Paul Penfield put Penfield House and its 18.5 acres up for sale for $1.7 million in 2014. He's in no rush to sell, and the asking price has remained right where it is.

Penfield says he will sell the site's other 10.7 acres and the Riverrock blueprints for another $700,000.

Here is the model of Riverrock, which was never built.

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