David & Gladys Wright House

Built in 1951 in Arcadia and designed apparently as part of a Frank Lloyd Wright magazine story circa 1948 on how to live in the desert southwest, the 2,200 square foot home (there is also a guest house built toward the rear of the property) sitting on two acres of land is of a circular style, with the living quarters and entrance -- arrived at by following a winding ramp -- elevated to the second level. (Wright's idea here was that by elevating the living space, one could take advantage of the desert breezes...) There is another spiral ramp leading to a rooftop deck above the kitchen where one can avail oneself the great views of Camelback Mountain. Both the circular design and the spiral ramps are features Wright also used in his design of the Guggenheim Museum, completed in 1959; Wright died before the museum was finished. (Photo below Courtesy David & Gladys Wright Foundation.)

David Wright House

Designed for the Wright Family

Interestingly, David Wright was a sales rep for a concrete block company; the house his father designed for him is built with curved concrete block, as opposed to the wood that father Frank had envisioned. It does have wooden soffits and window frames and the roof is metal. Philippine mahogany was used for the ceilings, woodwork, cabinets and furniture. The floor is concrete, but the master designed a beautiful rug to cover it. 

Some have said that the home is "ugly", although we all know that beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder. Beauty for Frank Lloyd Wright was in his philosophy of organic architecture and how a structure needed to be in harmony with nature. The home that is tucked away amongst the aging citrus groves seems to not fit with the surrounding modern homes that have been constructed since 1951; any lack of harmony has obviously occurred since that time, as square homes have been built around the circle.

Son David and his wife lived in the home until his death in 1997 at 102 years of age and his widow, Gladys, passed away in 2008 at 104, outliving their only son, who died at 49 years of age. David and Gladys were the only owners of the home and lived in it their entire lives. Not long thereafter, Wright heirs offered the home for sale for $3.9 million (in August of 2008); it was apparently sold for cash in June of 2009 for $2.8 million by a Limited Partnership with plans to restore the nearly 60-year old home to its original condition -- likely at great cost. When we viewed the home, it was from the street. An 8-foot high chain-link fence surrounded the property keeping cameras, the curious and inquisitive away, and it appeared as if no one occupied it.

David Wright House before restoration

It seemed almost an ignominious end to the son of a legend, the house that stands almost freakishly, alone against a neighborhood of encroaching modern misfits. Quoting from a March 2009 article by Jaimee Rose (AZCentral.com):

"This is the home of a family - a normal family with memories both happy and hard that lived in a famous house with a famous name on the mailbox and a famous patriarch that made the world more lovely but family life tough."

We got back into our car and drove silently away. It was a long ways down the road before either of us wished to discuss the home and its ultimate future.

An Update

Since we visited the Phoenix area in 2011, The David Wright House received much attention in the media. A developer had purchased the property in 2012 and wanted to tear it down.  A campaign was formed to save the house and grounds and later in 2012 another buyer purchased the home with the intent of restoring the property and gifting the property to the David and Gladys Wright House Foundation. 

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More Information

David Wright House

Location

5212 E Exeter Blvd

Phoeniz, Arizona

View Map

(Home is best viewed from Rubicon Ave.)

Tours

The David Wright House is now open to the public for tours.  Visit the Wright House website to schedule a tour online.

Quick Links 

David Wright House, Phoenix, AZ by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1950. Framed Art Print  

  

Frank Lloyd Wright Cactus Flowers Stained Glass

Frank Lloyd Wright Desert Triangle Cuff Bracelet