Rosenbaum House

117 Riverview Dr., Florence, Alabama

The only Wright building in Alabama, and is one of only 26 pre-World War II Usonian houses.

Map 

Description 

The Rosenbaum House is a single-family house, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and built for Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum in Florence, Alabama. A noted example of his Usonian house concept, it is the only Wright building in Alabama, and is one of only 26 pre-World War II Usonian houses. Wright scholar John Sergeant called it "the purest example of the Usonian."

In 1938 newlyweds Stanley Rosenbaum (a professor at the University of North Alabama) and his wife Mildred were given a building lot and funds to build a house in Florence, Alabama. Both had read Frank Lloyd Wright's autobiography and a cover story on Wright in Time magazine. The Rosenbaum House was the first of dozens of Wright's Usonian houses based on the 1936 Usonian prototype Jacobs House in Madison, Wisconsin. The house was built on a 2-acre (8,100 m2) plot at 117 Riverview Drive (now 601 Riverview, after renumbering), on the north bank of the Tennessee River. Built in an L-shape, the house is made from natural materials, largely cypress wood, brick, and glass, and features multilevel low-rising steel-cantilevered roofs covering both the living spaces and an adjoining carport. Most of the rooms have their own door to the outside. The center of the house is the "service core", built around a large stone hearth and adjacent to a 100 square foot (9.3 m2) study.

The Rosenbaums took up residence in September 1940 and the first photographs of the house were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City the following month.

The original Usonian floorplan provided 1,540 square feet (143 m2) of living space, but when the Rosenbaums had their fourth child they asked Wright to design an extension to the now cramped house. His modifications, completed in 1948, added a further 1,084 square feet (100 m2) in a second L-shape.

The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It remained in the Rosenbaum family until 1999 (when Mildred Rosenbaum moved into a nursing home), longer than any of Wright's other Usonian clients. By this time the house was in poor repair, with extensive water penetration and termite damage. The Rosenbaum family donated the house to the City of Florence and at the same time sold the furniture and contents of the house to the city for $75,000. The city spent a further $600,000 on repairs, using original plans sent by the Wright Foundation at Taliesin West. The city opened the house as a public museum, the Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House, in 2002. The museum displays some of the original Wright designed furniture, and won the 2004 Wright Spirit Award in the Public Domain from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. Mildred Rosenbaum was the first recipient of the Wright Spirit Award for her tireless efforts through the Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House Foundation. In her last five years in residence, which ended in 1998, nearly 5,000 visitors received personal tours conducted by Mrs. Rosenbaum, who died in 2006.

National Register information 

Status
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on December 19, 1978
Reference number
78000492
Architectural style
Other architectural type; Usonian style
Area of significance
Architecture
Level of significance
State
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction
Property type
Building
Historic function
Single dwelling
Current function
Single dwelling
Period of significance
1925-1949
Significant years
1940; 1948

Tags 

20th Century (29,077)
Alabama (1,820)
Brick (42,460)
Built 1940 (340)
Built during 1940s (1,728)
Florence, Alabama (29)
Frank Lloyd Wright (147)
House (27,155)
Lauderdale County, Alabama (70)
Private owner (54,396)

Update Log 

  • May 25, 2011: Updated by WillyT: Added description

Sources