Editorial: Making the Wright choice

Architectural structures seldom make headline news, unless they were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

A little-known Frank Lloyd Wright house in Arcadia was hairs away from demolition until last week. Before the controversial demolition, Phoenix residents had no idea an architectural marvel stood in the neighborhood near Camelback and Arcadia drives.

The home, built for Wright’s son David, was sold in 2008 after David and his wife died. Wright and his wife left the house to two granddaughters who sold it to a buyer who agreed to “fix it up and live in it” but “did neither,” according to The New York Times.  The historical Wright home went back on the market. 8081 Meridian, a real estate developer, closed on the property on the same day the city “approved a lot split,” which John Hoffman, a managing partner, interpreted as an “indirect approval for demolition.”

In a matter of a few months, the Frank Lloyd home has been a center in which Phoenix residents have directed newfound city patriotism. Until recently, little emphasis has been placed on the architectural monuments that define Phoenix, the city. Small neighborhoods in central Phoenix that were some of the first homes in the Valley and places like the Westward Ho near the Downtown campus have been preserved, but many more of Phoenix’s first buildings and landmarks no longer exist.

Arizona remains defined by a gorgeous desert landscape — like the red rocks of Sedona or the cacti that dot the geography of Tucson — but it has lost some of its historical city roots in favor of a more sleek and modern future. Phoenix’s cityscape has been constructed at the expense of Phoenix’s older, more historic buildings that faced demolition, just as the Frank Lloyd Wright house did.

A lot of the buildings that shed light on Phoenix’s Wild West past, like secret illustrations in a history book, have been torn down in favor of a skyline that’s meant to lend itself to a thriving economy and cultural hotspot. Inhabitants of Phoenix who want a small taste of Arizona’s history must venture far into Bisbee, Yuma or Globe.

Preservation arguments for the house have drawn support and acknowledgment from media outlets across the country, reaching as far as Time Magazine and The New York Times. In a small way, readers know about the small pockets of Phoenix that are buzzing — albeit, quiet and developing — cultural gems.

The Frank Lloyd Wright house might become a tourist attraction, a place visitors seek out on purpose that will generate culture and history in a city as young as Phoenix. It might be able to rival Paul Revere’s Old North Church in Boston, the site from which the famous “One if by land, and two by sea” signal was sent, preceding the American Revolution. It could also attract as many visitors as the Alamo Mission does in Texas for its architectural wonders.

Preservation of the Frank Lloyd Wright building is a step the city of Phoenix can take to reverse the effects of earlier demolition.


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