Of the handful of Frank Lloyd Wright-free states — Nevada, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Georgia, Louisiana, Alaska, and a few others — you’d think that the nation’s second smallest, sixth least populous state would also be lacking a home designed by the iconic proto eco-architect.
Delaware, enchanted sales tax-free land of sub-par pizza chains, disc golf courses, and Wawa gas stations as far as the eye can see, does, however, boast a single Wright-designed home and it’s an enveloped-by-nature 1956 Usonian that serves as a “stunning example of Wright’s organic architecture” in the words of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.
And for the first time ever, the hemicycle-shaped home — the Dudley Spencer House or “Laurel” as Wright referred to it — has hit the market.
The asking price? The National Register of Historic Places-designated (1974) three-bedroom/two-bathroom abode situated on a woodsy 6.7-acre parcel will set you back a cool $1.35M.
If you’re still hung up on the fact that even Delaware has a FLW-designed home, think a bit harder and it makes sense: Although a majority of the tiny, tri-county Mid-Atlantic state is rather rural — and in the southern coastal areas, resort-y — in character, the northern section of Delaware, part of the Philadelphia-Camden metro area, is heavily industrialized with the city of Wilmington being home to polymer powerhouse, DuPont. In fact, the late original owner/builder Dudley Spencer was working as a DuPont engineer when he commissioned an 88-year-old Wright to design a home for his family.
Located along Shellpot Creek at 619 Shipley Road just north of Wilmington, the Dudley Spencer House boasts the usual trademarks of a middle-class family-oriented Usonian: A low-slung profile with flat roof, carport, the extensive use of natural materials (in this case, fieldstone), radiant floor heating, built-in mahogany furnishings and custom fixtures, and a commanding central hearth. And, of course, there’s not shortage of both soaring clerestory and oversized picture windows that blur the boundaries between the interior and exterior worlds.
Reads the official Sotheby’s listing:
Laurel — beautiful curvilinear form creates open living space and views from every room. A central eat in kitchen serves as the hub of Wrights built-in furniture designs, which he incorporates in every room to provide ample seating, living and storage space. With flow-through natural light and views of surrounding wooded acreage, creek and sculpture garden paths, indoors blends with outdoors in this artistic sanctuary. Terraced outdoor spaces offer a very private, peaceful setting
Describing the 2,598-square-foot home a “wonderful combination of structure and art and functionality” built and inhabited by two “nature lovers,” the daughter of Dudley Spencer and his wife Dorothy, Patricia Ferraro, describes the home she grew up in — and is parting with — to the News Journal’s Delaware Spaces column:
The house, as you can feel, is like a sanctuary. It’s like a fortress. The walls are 3-feet thick. It’s stone on the outside, concrete block, stone on the inside. What’s cool about it is this hemicycle. The windows face the southerly, easterly exposure. So the sun comes in the morning; it’s like passive solar. The intent was that (with) the sun the redness in the concrete absorbs the heat and radiates it back out. There is radiant heating in the floor. The big, heavy wall faces west, so it’s really protected with the concrete, the stone and the trees from the heat of the afternoon. It’s a forward-thinking design.
Although unclear as to why Ferraro is selling the family home, it's evident that she's understandably torn up about it: "It’s incredibly difficult. I get really teary. This house was a labor of love for both of my parents, definitely. But it’s home. They created a beautiful environment here."
And Ferraro isn't alone: According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, there are currently about 20 Frank Lloyd Wright homes on the market which is the highest number in recent years.
Related on MNN: 6 destroyed Frank Lloyd Wright buildings