Plan drawings © William Allin Storrer
One of the most frequent questions people ask is "How or why did Frank Lloyd Wright come to build in Mason City, IA which is over 350 miles from Oak Park, IL?"
This is the story:
James E.E. Markley had two daughters who attended the Hillside Home School in Spring Green, WI that was run by two of Frank Lloyd Wright's aunts. Markley became acquainted with Mr. Wright after Wright completed his second building for his aunts’ school in 1902. Markley and Wright became friends.
Markley and James E. Blythe were prominent attorneys in Mason City and were also on the Board of Directors of the City National Bank so when the City National Bank wanted to build a new building Markley suggested Mr. Wright.
Wright visited Mason City several times during 1907 and 1908 (at the time there was a train that connected Mason City to Chicago). He came to discuss with Markley and Blythe a possible commission concerning their proposed new bank building, which now included a hotel and offices for the Blythe, Markley, Rule and Smith law firm.
One of Markley's neighbors was Dr. George C. Stockman who met with Wright and engaged him to design a home for himself and his wife Eleanor in Mason City. The house was the ninth project that Wright designed in 1908.
The house is an iteration of Wright’s Fireproof House for $5,000, which was published in the April 1907 issue of the Ladies' Home Journal. Both Griffin and Wright designed dozens of homes with this floor plan. Other Prairie School architects, including William Drummond and John Van Bergen, designed numerous variations of this popular plan, which was a more creative alternative to the classic American Foursquare House, which was popular from 1890-1930.
The Fireproof House was so named because it was designed to be constructed of reinforced concrete. It was a compact Foursquare design with appendages on opposite sides for an entrance foyer and a sun porch. Of the several iterations of this plan Wright built over the years only one was actually built of concrete. The Stockman House was stucco over frame construction.
In 1989 the Methodist Church wanted to expand its parking lot so eventually the house was sold and moved from its original location at 311 1st Street SE to 530 1st Street NE, just north of the Rock Glen Historic District. The River City Society for Historic Preservation purchased the home and beautifully restored it under the direction of Mason City architects Bergland and Cram. Upon its relocation, the home was rotated so that its former north elevation now faces west.
To read the article from the NY Times regarding the move: CLICK HERE
The Stockman House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and is now open to the public.
A DVD titled The Moving and Restoration of the Stockman House has been produced and is available in our gift shop.
[This summary was adapted from an article on iagenweb.org.]