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Stanford Shopping Center
From the moment I first turned the corner and saw the
sprawling, reddish house up on the hillside, there was no doubt it could
only have been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Initial impressions led
me to believe that it was a Prairie Style... but closer inspection -- and a
tour -- showed that was definitely a ranch; it was instantly my favorite of
all the Wright homes that I have thus far been able to tour and likely
because it felt almost as if it had been designed for me. The
attention to detail, as in all of Wright's structures, is phenomenal.
The Hanna house on Stanford's campus is also known as
the "Honeycomb House" -- this because its design was based on the hexagonal
geometric figure (the honeycomb) produced by bees. It was Wright's
first non-rectangular design and... it drove the construction crews
absolutely nuts. Ninety-degree angles were one thing, but in 1937 --
the year the house was begun -- no one seemed to be able to wrap their heads
around the one hundred twenty-degree angles upon which the whole structure
(and everything inside -- including the furniture) is based. There
isn't a ninety-degree anywhere in the house. But the beauty of the
hexagonal geometry in a seemingly un-geometric structure is simple
and breathtaking. The only real problem was in the roof.
Apparently not originally installed correctly, it -- like many of Wright's
roofs -- leaked profusely.
The house was designed for Paul R. Hanna and his wife
Jean. Although born in Iowa, Hanna grew up in Minnesota, where he
attended Hamline University; Hamline was also the place where he met and
later proposed to and married Jean Shuman, the woman who shared his passions
and his dreams. In 1935, after teaching a summer course in 1934, Paul
would become an associate professor at Stanford University. Paul and
Jean packed the three children and family dog into the car and headed west.
Traveling to California, they had stopped at
Taliesin (in Spring Green, WI)
and fell in love with "the house on the hill" that Frank Lloyd Wright had
designed and built there. Paul and Jean Hanna decided that they wanted
Wright to build a similar house for them.
Designed to be built at an original price of $15,000,
the Hanna house soon fell victim to Wright's typical cost overruns and the
cost ballooned to first $24,000 and then to $37,000 (equivalent to an
inflation-adjusted price of more than a half-million dollars). Unaware
of the future success of their literature and way beyond their means, the
Hannas decided to take out a loan (arranged through Paul Hanna's Publisher,
Scott Foresman and company); they also delayed some of the original design
features and incorporated them over the next twenty-five years, and after
finances were less stretched.
Paul and Jean Hanna had their focus squarely on family
and on their children; Wright designed the house to change according to the
growth of the Hanna children. As one of many examples, a room that was
originally designed as a children's playroom was later converted to a formal
dining room once the family's needs changed.
Although the plans for the Honeycomb House called for
it to be built on a flat piece of land, the plot leased by the Hannas in the
far southwestern corner of Stanford was on a fairly substantial hill.
The house, naturally, became one with it. Unfortunately, part of the
property also contained a portion of the San Andreas Fault... Not a
problem -- apparently -- as Wright boasted that his Imperial Hotel had
survived an earthquake. Unfortunately, the Loma Prieta earthquake in
1989 wreaked havoc on the Hanna House; it was not as "earthquake-proof" as
Wright had thought. At great cost, it has been restored and reopened
to the public, although additional restoration -- complicated by the
honeycomb design -- continues.
This is a definitely a true gem in the collection of
preserved Wright homes. If you are planning a trip to the area, note that
tours of the Hanna House are open to the public only four times a month with
3 tours per day. However, please keep in mind that the house is
located in a very quiet residential neighborhood and located on private
property. For more information, please visit
Mission Chair - Faux Leather
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