Yesterday I went to Milwaukee where I toured two of Frank Lloyd Wright’s American System Built Homes. In the early 20th century, Wright wanted to design beautiful, affordable homes. He designed a number of components for houses and the idea was that the buyers could choose which parts they wanted in their house. The house above is 800 square feet and has two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room and small dining area.
A non-profit in Milwaukee bought this home and restored it. On this street there is a duplex by Wright and another Wright home, which is now a VRBO accommodation. There are pictures online and I’m not a fan of the white, modern kitchen. The house above has been completely restored and I could live there happily ever after, though I’d like a different stove.
When built, these homes were priced on par with comparable houses at $3,000 circa 1916.
On the tour we learned about how Wright partnered with Mr. Robinson, a builder. Wright left for Japan and allowed Robinson to start building. While Wright was away, Robinson changed which materials would be used in the homes, swapping Wright’s materials for cheaper ones. They weren’t shoddy, but weren’t up to Wright’s standards.
Down the street was a duplex that this non-profit has purchased. Now the first duplex is about to be restored. It’s bare bones now, but still interesting to see. I plan to go back in a few years when it’s finished.
There are more of these American System Built Homes throughout the Midwest. Our docent believes there are several that are covered up with siding and the owners may not know their significance.