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Frank Lloyd Wright Building Saved

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

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Frank Lloyd Wright lovers: 1. Developer: 0.

That was the outcome of a recent showdown in Whitefish, MT.

There, California developer Mick Ruis recently filed plans to demolish a historic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building in order to construct a new mixed-use development with retail, office and residential space, according to numerous reports.

Whitefish Building
Jaydec / Wikimedia Commons / CCA 3.0

The Whitefish, MT, building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the three remaining Wright buildings in the state and was one of his last known designs.

However, his plans were met with sharp criticism from Wright fans locally and around the nation.

“This is the most iconic building in Whitefish and to rip it down and ignore its history is a shame,” Montana Historical Society Executive Director Gil Jordan told The Beacon.

About the Building

The building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the three remaining Wright buildings in Montana and was one of his last known designs.

Reports say it was originally designed by Wright in 1958 as a medical clinic. The 5,000-square-foot building was finished after Wright died in 1959. The building was home to the Lockridge Medical Clinic until 1964 and the First State Bank until 1980.

Most recently, it housed professional offices. Ruis had reportedly recently purchased the building for $1.6 million from a law firm.

Plan Pulled

The plan to demolish the Wright building went so far as the pre-application process, which was approved earlier this month. However, following the response, Ruis reportedly withdrew his plans to raze, opting instead to sell the building.

The Chicago-based Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy had even interjected itself into the issue, hoping to find a way to save the building from the wrecking ball. The non-profit seeks to preserve the work and legacy of the late architect.

Who is Wright?

Ruis told the Daily Inter Lake that he was not familiar with the world-renowned architect when he purchased the building.

“I didn’t know anything about him or that he was so popular,” he said. “I didn’t think there would be hard feelings about this—that was the last thing on my mind.”

Frank Lloyd Wright
Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) designed more than 1,000 buildings throughout his 70-year career in architecture.

Ruis has developed a lodge and convention center in nearby Columbia Falls and has several other projects in the works.

He said that he was trying to help revive a spot downtown with his plans for the Wright building, noting that the last thing he wanted was a “negative reputation.”

“I’m not this evil developer,” he said.

Ruis hopes that his decision to sell the building will prompt someone to preserve it or turn it into a museum. The listing is $1.6 million.

70 Years, 1,000 Designs

Wright has been called “the greatest of the architectural pioneers of the twentieth century, blazing trails and challenging men and technology to ever higher achievement,” according to a biography by Margo Stripe.

“During the seventy years he devoted his life to architecture, he created over 1,100 designs, nearly half of which were realized,” Stripe wrote.

His work included government and commercial buildings, hotels, apartment buildings, recreational houses, museums, residences, furniture and more.


Tagged categories: Architectural history; Architecture; Design; Developers; Frank Lloyd Wright; Maintenance + Renovation

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