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Cloquet’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house has new home — in Pennsylvania

The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Lindholm House was recently disassembled and moved from Cloquet to Polymath Park in Acme, Penn., where it will be reconstructed. Submitted photo

For more than 60 years, a home designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright stood tucked in the woods on the south side of Cloquet, little-seen and little-known as the city developed around it.

Now, after being on the market for years, the R.W. Lindholm House has been deconstructed and its pieces are on their way to Pennsylvania, where they’ll be reassembled and the home opened to the public by a group dedicated to conserving Wright-designed structures.

The house’s most recent owners, Julene and Peter McKinney, are descendants of Ray and Emma Lindholm, who originally commissioned Wright to design the structure — as well as the much-more-famous Wright-designed gas station in Cloquet — and wanted to see the home preserved.

“The decision to relocate the house was a very difficult one for us. The house has been in our family for over 60 years and our son, David, grew up there. The three of us believe this solution is best for the long-term survival of the house,” Peter said in a statement provided to the News Tribune.

While most people know the Lindholm Service Station — the only gas station to be designed by Wright — on state Highway 33 in downtown Cloquet, few people know about the house, said Minneapolis architect Tim Quigley, who is one of the architects overseeing the relocation.

Moving the house to Polymath Park, a 130-acre “architectural park” in Acme, Penn., will preserve the house while allowing the public access to it, he said.

“This is a decision we didn’t take lightly and I know some people might be upset that a (Wright) house is leaving Minnesota, but I must say that we think more and more and more people will have an opportunity to see it out there than ever had the opportunity to see it in Cloquet,” Quigley said.

Relocating a Wright-designed house to preserve it isn’t a typical solution, but moving the house to a new location ensures the house’s long-term survival, said Janet Halstead, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in Chicago.

“We don’t encourage moving any house because it takes it out of its historical setting, and so it’s been the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy’s approach to not move or sanction moving a Wright house unless its demolition is imminent or its site becomes compromised to the extent that … we feel that it’s not going to survive long-term,” Halstead said.

Constructed in 1952 on a seven-acre property, the three-bedroom Lindholm House is about 2,300 square feet. Prior to its move, the home — also known as “Mantyla,” which is Finnish for “house among the pines” — was located along Highway 33 across from what is now a Wal-Mart Supercenter and other commercial development.

“He took them all on”

About 400 houses designed by Wright exist in the United States and now that the Lindholm House has been relocated, the number of Wright-designed houses in Minnesota has gone from 11 to 10, Quigley said. Other Wright-designed houses are located in Rochester, Austin, St. Joseph, Stillwater and the Twin Cities. Wright also designed the Fasbender Medical Clinic in Hastings and the gas station in Cloquet, which is currently for sale.

Wright made his mark designing “fairly radical Prairie School houses” and he made the cover of Time Magazine in the 1930s for Fallingwater, a Wright-designed house in Pennsylvania partly built over a waterfall.

“It was a huge honor and this was because of Fallingwater, that it just captured everyone’s imagination. From that point on, people wrote him from all over the country, saying, ‘Would you possibly design a house for me?’ ” Quigley explained. “I think most of these people thought the answer would be ‘No, your project is too insignificant, too small,’ but he took them all on, every last one. He did more work from age 65 on than he did before he was 65 years old. It’s pretty amazing.”

Ray and Emma Lindholm, at the time the owners of a growing gas station business, were among those who requested that Wright design their new home.

The Lindholms’ daughter Joyce McKinney told the Cloquet Pine Journal in 2008 that she and her husband, Daryl, had seen Wright's work while they were students at the University of Minnesota, and encouraged her parents to ask Wright to design the home. They all traveled to Spring Green, Wis., to meet the famed architect.

"He was very accessible and I don't think terribly busy, either," McKinney told the Pine Journal in 2008, "because he said he was not only interested but willing to do the house plan right away. ...

"I thought he was easy to work with — a little acerbic at times, even a little overbearing, but he designed a house my parents really liked after they found the right piece of land. ...

"Mr. Wright always used to say, 'Find a piece of land that's five miles out of town — and then go five miles farther,' because he thought cities were ugly, particularly the way they grew up so fast in this country. Today, it's kind of ironic, because when my father bought the land (on Highway 33), it was considered far out — and now look what's happened."

A few years later, the family — pleased with the home — hired Wright to design the gas station in downtown Cloquet.

Wright is considered by many people to be “America’s greatest architect,” known worldwide for his impact on the development of modern architecture, Halstead said. Quigley pointed out that houses like the Lindholm House need to be preserved because they represent “tremendous architectural achievement” by Wright.

“They really are significant works of art, so that’s why we do what we do — trying to preserve that cultural heritage for generations to come,” Quigley said.

Deconstruction process

Relocating a Wright-designed house is considered the last resort, Quigley said.

“The conservancy really tries to not do this sort of thing. We try to make sure that houses stay in good condition and good ownership and ideally on the same piece of property that they were always intended for, but every now and then, we run into situations where that can’t be,” explained Quigley, a co-chair of the conservancy’s Advocacy Committee.

The Lindholm House had interested buyers, but Quigley said the problem was that people realized it was beyond their ability to move the house due to the encroaching development at its current location. The house was marketed to people both interested in preserving it on its Cloquet site and relocating it.

“The house had been vacant for more than two years and its condition was starting to deteriorate,” Halstead said. “It had been on the market on and off during the last 10 years … but there’s a lot of development coming in around the area so it was not going to be the same kind of setting that it was originally designed for. They were having difficulty attracting a new owner who wanted to live in it in that setting, knowing that development was going to be more intensive as time went on.”

With no takers, the McKinney family donated the Lindholm House to Usonian Preservation Inc., the nonprofit group associated with Polymath Park.

The Lindholm House will become the fourth house located at the park — it’s already home to the Duncan House designed by Wright and the Balter and Blum houses designed by Wright’s apprentice Peter Berndtson. In addition to tours, the Duncan House is available to reserve for overnight stays and the Lindholm House also is expected to be available for reservations, according to the conservancy. Polymath Park, about an hour east of Pittsburgh in an area called Laurel Highlands, is also located near Wright’s Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob houses.

The deconstruction of the Lindholm House was kept under wraps because of concerns about people coming by to take a souvenir of the house, Quigley said. Over the course of four weeks in April and May, the Lindholm House was dismantled piece by piece by a crew of just a few people and then put into trailers to be transported to Pennsylvania. One person on the crew was responsible for numbering, photographing, documenting and tracking every piece of the house.

“Once you have a pile of lumber, it’s a mess. ‘Where did that one go?’ It’s really incredibly intricate,” Quigley said.

Parts of the Lindholm House that Quigley called the “superstructure” — concrete block on the exterior and poured concrete for the floor foundation — were demolished. Those parts will be newly constructed at Polymath Park, he explained.

Although it only took four weeks to deconstruct the house, reconstructing the house piece-by-piece is expected to take much longer. The house is expected to open at Polymath Park in spring 2017.

“The superstructure gets built and then all these pieces and parts come out, all the windows, all the doors, in this case roofing tile — there were clay tiles on the roof — and then all these individual boards have to be reassembled. It’s incredibly labor intensive,” Quigley said.

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