You know how it is when you have a great tourist place in your own home town but you just never seem to take the time or have the time to go and visit it? If you’re like me, you say, “We’ve got to go there next Saturday!” But then Saturday comes and something else comes up and you just never make it. Well that’s how it’s been for me with one of Oberlin’s most famous treasures – the Weltzheimer/Johnson House built by the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. We have lived here for 15 years. Joe has visited this famous house several times with school elementary classes but I have only driven past the outside, always wondering what it was like on the inside. Well, today is the first Sunday of the month, the normal open house time, and I decided that I’d put this visit on the back burner long enough! We could visit the house and then go for a walk in the woods nearby. So off we went!
The Usonian House sits on 3 acres right in Oberlin and is one of the few Wright built homes open to the public. It was designed for the Weltzheimer family of Wellington in 1948 and completed in 1950. My impression of this house was “WOW! This is really unique!” The walls and ceiling are all wood – no need to paint! The floor is concrete – no need for carpeting! The heat consisted of hot water pipes running through the concrete floor so it was warm on your feet. (Unfortunately, we were told that the pipes are too rusty to use now.) The windows are doors that open to the outside. No need for drapes or curtains! The kitchen is not quite original, but is uniquely located off the great room and separated by brick columns so if you’re working in the kitchen you can still converse with guests in the other room.
After listening to the tour docent, we set out to explore the rest of the house, which consisted of 5 bedrooms all located next to each other and all with 2 doors that opened to the outside. The long hallway that connected these rooms had book shelves the entire length of it opposite the bedrooms! Would you have enough books and nick knacks to fill this up?! The master bath had a corner tub with toilet and bidet (The bidet is the one thing that the elementary students really loved and remembered!). The beds and furniture in the house are very simple and utilitarian. The house seemed a little dark since it is all wood and the doors and windows are on one side and it made it difficult to get good pictures even with a flash but I could live there! . Life would be so simple! That’s what this house conveyed to me – simplicity and freedom from ‘stuff.’
This is a view from a bedroom to the Great Room. The house is in the shape of an L. The short side is the Great Room and the long side is the bedroom side.
View from Great Room to the outside. Notice the sky lights in the porch roof.
For more information go to the Oberlin Allen Art Museum website at http://www.oberlin.edu/amam/flwright.html. And WHEN you come to Oberlin ( notice I said WHEN, not if, you come to Oberlin), be sure to put the Frank Lloyd Wright House on your itineray. You will not be disappointed. Come and visit Oberlin. You know you want to!