The modest house surrounded by hilly woods was an architectural gem, with its cantilevered eaves and horizontal row of windows.
Designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and built in Cloquet, it stood for more than 50 years, passed down in one family, before its owners tried to sell it. By then, development had encroached, with big- and small-box retail stores surrounding the increasingly busy road not far away.
When no potential homeowners made a move to buy the house, the family agreed to move it.
Piece by small piece, the 2,300-square-foot structure was carefully dismantled this spring. Workers numbered every board, cataloged every piece and wrapped them all in foam and plastic. The house filled three semitrailer trucks bound for Acme, Pa., where it is being donated to a private architectural park perfectly suited for its arrival, said Tim Quigley, a Minneapolis architect who is overseeing the move.
Polymath Park, a mostly wooded 130 acres, already contains another relocated Wright house and two others designed by one of Wright's apprentices. All of the houses are rented out for overnight stays, giving fans of Wright's style of architecture the ability to experience it.
"Guests can get a true sense of what Mr. Wright intended for his clients by staying overnight," said Tom Papinchak, a professional design builder and president of Polymath.
House was commissioned
The house in Cloquet was finished in 1955 for Ray and Emma Lindholm — the same couple who later had Wright design the gas station they owned in town. That gas station has now become a landmark.
The Lindholms' daughter had studied at the University of Minnesota and became a fan of Wright's work. She suggested her parents try to commission a design from the architect, explained Quigley, a member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in Chicago.
They wrote a shy letter to Wright, and the answer came back "of course," Quigley said, adding that "from 1935 on, Wright was building for the middle class."
The finished structure, tucked into a hill, had a perimeter made of concrete block. That was torn down recently, Quigley said. It will be rebuilt new, and the original interior will be pieced together inside it, cabinets and all.
The house was donated by the owners — descendants of the Lindholms — in a deal brokered by the conservancy, Quigley said. The conditions included that it had to be put back together the right way.
Quigley and Papinchak said it was an emotional decision for the owners to move the house, but the move is a good choice for the house's legacy.
Polymath is about a 20-minute drive from Fallingwater, a well-known Wright house built over a waterfall in southwestern Pennsylvania.
In its new location, the house from Cloquet "will have full exposure to the public," Papinchak said. "It'll keep his spirit alive for generations to come."
Papinchak said he hopes to have the house put back together by spring of 2017.