Buyer ends pursuit of embattled Frank Lloyd Wright house in Arizona

A house in Phoenix designed by Frank Lloyd Wright will go back on the market at the previously listed $2.4 million price.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

A house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for his son is back on the Phoenix market, part of the latest confrontation between preservationists and owners over how to deal with artistically important properties.

A prospective buyer of the house, known as the David and Gladys Wright House, has dropped his bid to buy the 2,500-square-foot building in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix, Robert Joffe, the agent for the current owner, said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times.

“While the prospective buyer strongly supports efforts to preserve the David and Gladys Wright House, he has concluded that for personal and business reasons, this is not an opportunity he will pursue at this time. He has every confidence that a preservation-minded buyer will be found, and that the house will be preserved,” a statement said.

The prospective buyer, who has remained anonymous, was represented by real estate agent Johnathon Randolph De Young and attorney Grady Gammage Jr.

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That decision means that the house is again for sale and that the current owner -- the development firm 8081 Meridian -- has until Dec. 4 to find a new purchaser. On that date, the city of Phoenix could act to give the building a historic preservation designation, Joffe said.

“This is back on the market,” Joffe said of the building. “We will contact those who expressed some interest before. We have a short window to make this happen.”

Disputes such the one in Arizona are not uncommon in municipalities across the nation. Homes designed by famous architects, including Wright, change hands, and it is not unusual for preservationists to seek to protect the original artistic vision.

Representatives of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation were not immediately available because of the Veterans Day holiday, but they have been circulating a petition online to protect the house. So far, the petition has garnered more than 27,800 signatures. In its petition, the Wright Foundation tells signers: “Your support is needed to urge the City of Phoenix to approve historic preservation designation for the house, thereby extending its temporary protection from demolition.”

Joffe said the sellers oppose any designation as a historical site because it would restrict what they could do with the property. “I think any time the government does so, it hinders the ability of what you can do with your property. That’s a problem,” he said.

Pictures of the house show a spiral structure, similar in some ways to its more famous and far larger elder brother, the coiled Guggenheim Museum on the east side of Manhattan. The house was built in 1952 for Wright’s son David and his wife, Gladys.

David died in 1997, at age 102, and Gladys in 2008, at 104, leaving the house to descendants. In June, 8081 Meridian bought it for $1.8 million. The prospective buyer’s price was about $2.3 million, Joffe said.

Joffe said he was aware of the significance of the property and its historicity.

“This difference here,” Joffe said, “is that this was built for his kids, and David lived there. I have taken people through the house and they literally shake they are so moved by the home. People have an appreciation for this type of architecture and really love it. It’s the most fulfilling transaction I have had,” in his 30 years as an agent.


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