Tucked into Seattle’s quiet, leafy Normandy Park neighborhood is a rare and unique home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright himself. Since it was built in the early 1950’s it has been occupied by the same couple, Bill and Elizabeth Tracy. But now that 97-year-old Elizabeth has passed away, the home is on the market for the very first time.
“There are three Frank Lloyd Wright houses in the state of Washington and one in Oregon,” says the home’s executor, Larry Woodin. “When the Brandes house came on the market about five years ago that was the first time any of them had been on the market. This is now the second one.”
Larry is executor of the Tracy Estate and president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, a national group looking to save all of Wright’s remaining structures.
I met with Larry at the Tracy Estate for a tour, and was surprised to discover how modest it is. The home is 1,150 square feet, three small bedrooms and one bathroom, but has an amazing view of the Puget Sound and Olympic mountains.
“Wright was always concerned with the relationship of the building to the landscape and the relationship of the outlook of the building and the movement of the sun and privacy. The building is actually twisted quite a bit on the property, and that allowed privacy. You don’t see your neighbors. You just see Puget Sound and Vashon Island and the Olympic Mountains.”
When you enter the home, the ceilings are fairly low, just six feet, six inches, but when you step into the living room it’s a gaping space, with large windowed doors that look out to the Sound.
“He wanted you to have the contrast. So if you get up in the morning, and you come from a cozy small space into the large space, it makes the larger spaces feel larger.”
The tile that lines the living room floor continues out onto the back patio, making the room feel larger and provides a smooth aesthetic transition from inside to out. Wright called the style of this home Usonian Automatic, and it’s made up of 1,700 custom cast concrete units that the Tracy’s cast themselves to save money. Most walls are covered with redwood panels and, in typical Wright fashion, much of the furniture is built in. The living room comes with a built in couch and beds and desks are built into the bedrooms. Of course, if you live here, you must agree to keep the house as is.
“You can’t do anything to change the basic nature of the design. So you can’t come in and plop a second story on it. You can’t paint it pink. You can’t come in and put flocked wallpaper all over the beautiful redwood paneling. No one is going to buy this and then try and change the basic character of the Wright building.”
Ok, architecture nerds, here’s what it’s going to cost you to get into this place.
“The house is on the market for $950,000.”
Larry says he got hooked on Wright in 7th grade, and continued to favor his architecture through a masters degree in Architecture and
now he’s president of the Conservancy.
“Prior to our incorporation, one in five of his buildings had already been destroyed. Due to our work and the increasing awareness of the importance of his work, we’ve only lost two in the last 23 years. One to a fire and one to a hurricane.”
They’re currently fighting to save a building in Arizona purchased by developers.
Oh, so like I said, the house is going for $950,000, and someone has made an offer, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late for you.
“A deal is never closed until the check arrives.”