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In Bentonville, Arkansas, a house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for a New Jersey couple more than 60 years ago has been painstakingly reassembled, board by board and pane by pane, overlooking the clear waters of the Crystal Spring. When it opens to the public next month on the lushly wooded 120-acre campus of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, it will be the first Wright house in Arkansas—a delicately preserved later example of the so-called Usonian homes that the architect conceived as models for affordable middle-class living.
How the house came to be in the Ozarks of northwestern Arkansas, some 1,200 miles from where it was first built, is a story that touches on the unforgiving potency of Mother Nature, a couple’s untiring effort to restore and preserve an unsung architectural gem, and the ambitions of the Walmart heiress Alice Walton, who founded Crystal Bridges in 2011 with an eye toward establishing it as a destination for fans of American art and architecture.
In 1954, Abraham Wilson and Gloria Bachman called on Wright in his suite in New York’s Plaza Hotel, his home base while he was working on the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and asked him to design a house for a 125-by-650-foot lot that they had purchased by a tributary of the Raritan River in Millstone, New Jersey. The house would be a tribute of sorts to Bachman’s brother Marvin, who had studied under Wright at Taliesin West, the architect’s home and studio in Scottsdale, Arizona. Marvin was serving as an apprentice on Wright’s Seamour Shavin House in Chattanooga, Tennessee, when he was killed in a car accident in 1951. […]