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Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Walter Lowell House (Cedar Rock) by Frank Lloyd Wright

On a recent trip to ‘the north lands’ (Minnesota and Wisconsin) we traveled via Iowa. I always try to find something different and interesting to do on our trips up (more later on why we go up!)

I happened across a web site for a Frank Lloyd Wright home that is open for tours. I checked the “last tour” dates against our travel dates… and found we could –just- make it on the very last day.

‘Cedar Rock’ is located in Quasqueton, Iowa.  This is the information from the Frank Lloyd Wright -- “Quasqueton, Iowa is also home to Cedar Rock State Park, location of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Cedar Rock, a structure Wright designed and built for Agnes and Lowell Walter.   Lowell had amassed his fortune as owner of the Iowa Road Building company, where he had invented an asphalt topping for country roads in Iowa.  In a letter to Mr. Wright, Walter requested a modest home be designed and built on a limestone bluff overlooking the Wapsipinicon.  Perhaps one of Wright's most complete designs, Cedar Rock was begun in 1948 and completed in 1950.  It was another of Wright's Usonian homes -- originally intended to be an affordable yet stylish design for the working American family.  The roof is flat and made entirely of reinforced concrete, while the walls are brick and glass; the floors are concrete as well and utilize a gravity hot water heating system beneath them.  Outside the building is the signature red tile (the only Wright structure in Iowa to bear the coveted tile) used by Wright to indicate that everything was designed by him... and I mean everything, from the Cherokee red brick of the outside, right down to the cups and saucers on the table!  Supposedly, the only thing allowed on the property that was not designed by Wright was the Thompson TVT, a special boat built Lowell Walter by the Thompson Brothers Boat Manufacturing company…”

The living area was known as the ‘garden room’.  Look at all those windows!  I love it!!  It looks out over a small river and woodlands.  Almost all the windows are doors that open, the small transoms open and the sky lights can open. 

There was a Steinway grand piano in there and the guide asked if anyone could play.  I immediately pointed at Himself… who plays beautifully.  The guide asked him if he would mind playing it.  He was all over that! 

This area is the dining area.  There is a mixture of open and closed storage.  The doors to the upper cabinets are cut on a bevel so you can see no seam in the woodwork.

The kitchen was TINY.  Wright believed the woman of the house was the only one who should be in there… and that is about as many as this little kitchen could hold!  I really like the open shelving for the pots and canisters. 

Wright is known for his use of stained glass in his homes.  However, the Usonian homes were designed for the “everyman” and “everyman” cannot afford to have that luxury in their home!  So instead he designed a backlit display area where he set pieces of glass slag, giving the illusion of stain glass.  Also used in the house were clear glass bowls filled with slag or blown glass balls, set where the sun would shine thru them.

During the course of building the home, the Lowell further commissioned Wright to build a boat house… basically Mr. Lowell’s “man cave”. It is a wonderful little retreat down on the river!

It is definitely a trip worth making if you are a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright’s design.


  1. When I was a teen and contemplating architecture as a career, my mother decided I should have every Frank Lloyd Wright book that had ever been written. I probably have a greater FLW library than any library in the world. Problem is - even though I have immense respect for the man and his vision, I really don't care for his style. I'm more of a traditionalist. Having said that, though, I must admit I would have LOVED to have visited this house - or any Wright house for that matter - just for the historic value.

    Thanks for the trip!

  2. Beautiful. What a wonderful place to visit.

  3. Love all those windows in his design. That would be a dream to live in a home with floor to ceiling windows! ~Lili

  4. Just wanted to get the updated link for Cedar Rock the Walter House up here. You can find more info...fewer pictures of the house at the Iowa DNR website:


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