While the David Wright House in Phoenix has understandably been dominating the Frank Lloyd Wright-related housing market as of late (in the ongoing saga to save the endangered home, an anonymous buyer/savior has now backed out of the $2.4 million sale), another FLW property has recently become available to potential buyers with seriously deep pockets and an affinity for both boulder-based architecture and helicopter commutes.
Here’s the thing: Included in the $20 million sale of Massaro House is Petre Island, the craggy, 11-acre private island on which the 5,000-square-foot home was built. And in addition to the island and the showstopper of a home, the new owner will also be inheriting a rather intriguing back story.
The story starts back in 1949, when A.K. Chadroudi commissioned Wright to design a retreat on his heart-shaped private island, located in the middle of Lake Mahopac in Putnam County, N.Y. Realizing that he couldn’t afford the $50,000 home, Chadroudi canceled the project after Wright had invested three months working on the design — a design that the architect believed would out-dazzle even his most famous work of organic architecture, Fallingwater. Instead, Chadroudi enlisted Wright to design a small guest cottage on the island.
Fast-forward to 1996 when retired sheet metal contractor Joseph Massaro purchased Petre Island — and Wright's original, unrealized design for the main house — for $700,000. A couple of years after the purchase, Massaro decided to complete Wright’s unfinished design and, ultimately, build the home with various tweaks that would allow it meet modern day building code. Working with architect and Wright historian Thomas Heinz, construction of the home took place between 2003 and 2007. During this time, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation filed a lawsuit that prevented Massaro from referring to the home as being designed by Frank Lloyd Wright even though he and Heinz were working off of authentic plans. As a result, the structure was downgraded to the status of being “inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright.”
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation continues to refuse to certify the home as being a legitimate Wright design. And no doubt, the foundation isn't too pleased with this latest development (like the foundation isn't busy enough staving off wrecking balls in Phoenix).
Massaro told the Los Angeles Times of his battle with the “notoriously picky” Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation: “You hear these purists that talk about how no unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright house should ever be built because Frank Lloyd Wright isn’t here anymore. And then you take a look at this masterpiece of his — I’m sure Frank would rather have it built than not built at all.”
Authenticity squabbles aside, the Massaro House is believed to be the first (partially designed, at least anyway) Frank Lloyd Wright home to be constructed on its intended site since the architect’s death in 1959.
Despite an array of upgrades and alterations which were not featured in Wright’s preliminary plans and have managed to piss off purists — chimney caps, air conditioning, radiant floor heating, 26 domed instead of flat skylights, protruding instead of flush decorative "rubblestone" — the Massaro House, conceptually at least, is pure, nature-embracing Wright. Blending seamlessly into the rocky island landscape, the home features a 28-foot cantilevered deck that extends over Lake Mahopac (the largest ever designed/inspired by Wright) and entire walls composed of windows that blur the interior and exterior living spaces. The structure itself incorporates a 60-wide wide boulder dubbed "whale rock" that spans the entrance hall; a smaller rock formation called "tail rock" serves as a kitchen and bathroom wall.
According to AHAlife, the home also features a rooftop helipad (Manhattan is a 15-minute helicopter ride away), six wood-burning fireplaces, 2,000 square feet of exterior deck space including the aforementioned cantilevered deck, and African mahogany woodwork that’s “custom-built to Wright’s specifications.” And in addition to the island and main home itself, an artist studio and Chadroudi’s original Wright-designed guest cottage are included in the sale. Hey, at least the 1,200-square-foot cottage is the real deal.
Lots more on the controversial history of the Massaro House over at the Los Angeles Times. And if you want to experience the strange sensation of placing a $19.9 million property into your virtual shopping basket, head on over to AHAlife.