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A Wright House Looks to Move

By C.J. Hughes
August 3, 2012
Photo courtesy Tarantino Studio
The Bachman-Wilson House (1954), designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is looking for a buyer to relocate it.

A Hillsborough, New Jersey, house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that’s been ravaged by floods over the years is looking for a buyer who can relocate it.

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The 1954 concrete-and-mahogany structure, known as the Bachman-Wilson house, sits next to the Millstone River, which has jumped its banks seven times in the last two decades, according to owner and current resident Sharon Tarantino.

And the last time, in August 2011, during Tropical Storm Irene, the flooding was extreme; six feet of water surged through the two-story house, forcing Tarantino to enter it by canoe.

Over time, that water has damaged the red concrete slab on which the house rests, and its original radiant heating system, says Tarantino, an architect who’s helped renovate several Wright houses across the country, with her husband, Lawrence.

“The site is no longer appropriate,” says Tarantino, adding that the estimated asking price is $1.5 million, which would pay for taking apart, packing up, and moving the house, and the necessary permits. Also included is furniture, some of which was original to the house, as well as other Mid-century pieces, like a Saarinen womb chair.

Immaculately restored, the house features signature Wright touches like cantilevered roofs, as well as a living room with 10-foot-high plate-glass windows. A previous occupant turned a carport, original to the house, into a studio. An adjacent converted timber-frame barn not designed by Wright, which functions as the Tarantinos’ office, will remain on the two-acre property.

Purchased in 1988, after the Tarantinos stopped there during a drive, the house is named for its first owners, Abraham Wilson and Gloria Bachman. Wright was hired to design it because Bachman’s brother, Marvin, had apprenticed at Taliesin West, Wright’s Arizona compound. It is one of four Wright houses in New Jersey, says Tarantino.

As Bachman-Wilson looks for a buyer, another Wright creation, Phoenix’s David Wright house, which was designed for Wright’s son in 1952, faces a potential threat from a developer, who plans to build on its two acres.

Yet Wright houses rarely meet the wrecking ball, says Janet Halstead, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, a 23-year-old Chicago advocacy group. Today, there are 382 Wright houses across the country, which is about the same as 40 years ago; just a handful have been lost, Halstead said, and to fires or destructive renovations. A few have successfully been relocated, like the Gordon House, which was moved from Wilsonville, Oregon, to Silverton, Oregon, in 2001.

Currently, Halstead is trying to get the word out about Bachman-Wilson’s plight, because “a new location will help insure its survival for many, many years,” she says.

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