Preservationists plan to open up the only fully-accessible house ever designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright to the public after securing the home at auction this week.
The Laurent House Foundation was the only bidder at a Chicago auction this week and will purchase the one-of-a-kind Rockford, Ill. home for $578,500, according to John Groh, president of the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and an advisor to the foundation.
The group plans to preserve the home — which features a fully-accessible layout and custom furnishings — as a museum.
Wright was commissioned to build the house in 1949 by Kenneth Laurent, a World War II veteran who lost the use of the lower half of his body after a spinal cord injury during the war.
In addition to an open floor plan and accessible switches, Wright included desks and other furniture to accommodate Laurent’s wheelchair. What’s more, Wright designed the home so that its beauty could be best appreciated from a seated position.
Laurent and his wife, Phyllis, have lived in the home since its completion in 1952, but are now moving to an assisted living facility.
“Some 40 years before the ADA was passed, Frank Lloyd Wright was working with the Laurents on this home,” Groh said. “We really do hope we can use it as a showpiece for what architecture can allow people with disabilities to focus on their abilities.”
The Laurent House Foundation is continuing to raise money to make some minor repairs to the house and to cover start-up costs for the museum, Groh said.
The purchase of the house is expected to be completed in February. Foundation officials say they don’t yet have a timetable for the museum opening.