In a career spanning over 70 years, he worked during a time of innovative and improved building materials that no longer required homes to have tiny windows and low ceilings to preserve heat in the winter and screened sleeping porches to catch a slight breeze in the heavy night air of deep summer.
Wright understood human nature and its love of space, freedom and connection to the natural environment. As children dreamed of living in treehouses, Wright modified the concept for adults that would touch their inner child's sense of wonder. Some of his clients had land with special features they wanted to highlight — such as his most famous residential project, Fallingwater, he designed over a waterfall for the Pittsburgh Kaufmann Department Store family — so he studied the land at length and built with it being the focal point.
After World War II, he knew returning soldiers would need affordable homes so in the 1940s he developed a new concept that people could build mostly by themselves with a minimum of help and expense. He named them Usonian and started a development north of New York City in Pleasantville in the hope of meeting the demand for homes for the returning GIs. He called the community Usonia — an acronym for United States of North America.
A total of 47 homes were built by various builders and Wright proteges on the 100-acre Usonia site at prices ranging from $10,000 to $85,000 (many of the homes have been expanded over the years and sell for well over $1 million). Wright designed three homes in Usonia; the first one he built was Toyhill — better known as the Sol Friedman House. Friedman was a book and record merchant who also sold toys in some of his stores. Wright picked up on that point of interest and decided upon the name Toyhill for the home. It was a combination of a large treehouse and a small Guggenheim Museum with two circular interconnecting levels topped by a mushroom-shaped roof. Wright also coined the term “carport” and created one for the Friedman house, also with a mushroom roof. The exterior of the house is sloped and covered in finely worked ashlar masonry, giving the aura of having just grown out of the ground.
At 2,164 square feet of living space, the interior includes cathedral ceilings, skylight, walls of glass to capture the bucolic surrounds, three bedrooms, three baths and Wright’s signature large stone fireplace which he believed critical for families to gather around for conversation at the end of the day. Listing agents are Amy Via and Todd Goddard of Houlihan Lawrence in White Plains, N.Y.
Now for sale priced at $1.5 million is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most important Usonian homes, the Sol Friedman House, in the Usonian Historic District in Pleasantville, N.Y. — 30 miles north of Manhattan. Community amenities include community pool and tennis courts.
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