In 1955, as the Kalil family watched their neighbors, the Zimmermans, build a sleek, low-slung brick-and-wood home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, they knew right away they wanted the celebrated architect to design their house, too. By 1955, they had a Wright home of their own — and suddenly Manchester, N.H., had two Wright houses on a single street.
Now the Kalils are following the Zimmermans again, this time into the permanent collection of the Currier Museum of Art. The museum announced Thursday that an anonymous donor had provided the funds for the nonprofit to purchase the Kalil house. The family put the house on the market in September for $850,000. The Zimmerman house was left to the museum in the family’s will in 1979.
The Kalils didn’t get quite what they were expecting with their house. Wright’s design ended up being a stout, angular home built from modular concrete bricks — one of his “Usonian Automatic” houses. The architect had imagined them as a kind of democratic design — high-end architecture for the masses, which he hoped people might choose to build themselves from a kit.
It didn’t quite work out that way — only seven Usonian Automatic houses are known to have been built. But for the Currier Museum, the Kalil house provides the perfect counterpoint to the Zimmerman house, illustrating the idiosyncratic visions of an architect widely regarded as among the greatest our country has ever produced. The Kalil house will open to the public in the spring, according to a Currier spokesperson.
Wright lived many lives, both personally and professionally, enduring tragedy and several big moves. His first signature houses in Oak Park, Illinois — including his own home — were a unique melding of traditional early-20th century styles with a burgeoning modernist movement. His winter home in the Sonoran Desert eventually lead to Taliesin West, his renowned school of architecture that continues to this day.
Wright houses have frequently been made into museums, including Fallingwater in Pennsylvania and the Martin House in the Buffalo, N.Y., area. Many of Wright’s buildings have been declared UNESCO world heritage sites. Some, though, have been demolished, despite preservation efforts to protect them.