‘Wright-inspired’ home lives up to the legend, owner says
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Home lives up to Frank Lloyd Wright legend, owner says

‘Wright-inspired’ home lives up to the legend, owner says
Three years ago, Times staff writer Diane Haithman traveled to Lake Mahopac, N.Y., to report on a retired contractor’s attempt at a rare feat: to take one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s unbuilt designs and construct it exactly as Wright intended. Haithman recently went back to see the finished house and spoke with its owner. What follows is a photo tour of the home believed to be the first, since the architect’s death, to rise on its intended site.

To settle a lawsuit filed by the notoriously picky Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Joe Massaro agreed to designate his home on a private island in Lake Mahopac as “inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright” rather than “designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.”

But Massaro, who had the home constructed from preliminary drawings of a house Wright designed for the rocky island, believes that, if Wright were still living, he would have made the same sort of structural changes Massaro did to take advantage of advancing technology and to meet current construction codes.

“You hear these purists that talk about how no unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright house should ever be built because Frank Lloyd Wright isn’t here anymore,” Massaro told The Times. “And then you take a look at this masterpiece of his – I’m sure Frank would rather have it built than not built at all.”

Added Massaro, “Now that I stay on the island, I see the genius of this guy. Every view is different; it’s an amazing place to live.” (Photo credit: Thomas Williams)
Massaro Gallery
A view of the cantilevered great hall in the Massaro Home at the shore of Lake Mahopac, in Mahopac, N.Y. The home’s most dramatic feature is a 28-foot cantilevered section that juts out over the lake. It’s believed to be the largest that Wright ever designed, almost doubling the size of the 15-foot cantilevers of his most famous home design, Fallingwater, near Mill Run, Pa.

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Massaro Gallery
A view from the end of the cantilevered area toward the dock. The outdoor fireplace is visible at right.

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Massaro Gallery
The so-called “whale rock” walls, made of natural rock and concrete, have drawn the ire of Wright purists because the rocks, native to the island, jut out from the walls, rather than exhibiting only the flat surfaces of the stones – a look incorporated in some of Wright’s Prairie-style homes in the Midwest.

“This is in New York – there are no prairie rocks; prairie rocks are flat,” Massaro says. “Frank Lloyd Wright was more of a naturalist; he used what fit naturally, and what fits naturally on the island are this type of rocks.”

He added that the rocks could not be pushed deeper into the concrete because of the space necessary for the required insulation.

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At center is a view of the “head” of the whale rock that inspired Wright. The exposed ledge near the stairway at right will become a reflecting pool.

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Massaro Gallery
The narrow entry to the home features a skylight. The entrance is fashioned around a massive boulder, dubbed the “whale rock,” that naturally occurs on the island.

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Massaro Gallery
Joe Massaro confers with lighting designer Naomi J. Miller in the dramatic entry hall that features a large skylight and the main body of the whale rock. Glass, concrete and mahogany wood are featured throughout the home.

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Massaro Gallery
Light drenches the master bedroom, which is suffused in natural elements.

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Massaro Gallery
Rocks creep out from the shower in a guest bathroom, making for handy ledges.

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Massaro Gallery
The view from inside the cantilevered section, which juts out 28 feet over the lake.

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Massaro Gallery
Living and working areas in the home.

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