In Spring of 2012 Frank Lloyd Wright's David and Gladys Wright House was purchased by a developer and threatened with demolition to build luxury homes on the large lot in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix.
Modern Phoenix partnered with The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, Arizona Preservation Foundation, Taliesin West and the City of Phoenix to help ensure this architectural treasure could be appreciated by generations to come.
Although we had long been aware that the home was on the market, it had yet to find the right permanent owner. Awareness of the home's vulnerability started with an application at Phoenix City Development Services. The developers filed for permission to split the lot, featuring a property line that grazed within feet of the footprint of the home. Before the new owners closed escrow, the City of Phoenix initiated the HP-L (Historic Property - Landmark) investigation process and informed them of the procedure.
The David & Gladys Wright Home by Frank Lloyd Wright
The events below chronicle the preservation struggle in the rough chronological order they developed and as information became publicly revealed. They are provided here as a first-hand chronicle of how various news agencies and groups reported the proceedings. Hindsight maybe 20/20 now but these links provide the events as they were perceived and happening in real time. The struggle entered its next phase in December of 2012 when a philanthropist purchased the home with plans to make it accessible to the public. Here's how we got there.
- Learn how a flash mob of MoPhos and concerned citizens mobilized to save the David and Gladys Wright Residence by Frank Lloyd Wright.
- Modern Phoenix attended a walk-through of the home in June with a group of stakeholders including Frank Henry and Will Bruder, and Blooming Rock reported that it was in better condition than one might think.
- As the clock ticked down in the deadline given by the developers, the building's future was in no way 100% secure.
- In the months that followed, 28,645 people worldwide signed the petition to save the David and Gladys Wright House. (petition closed)
- City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission unanimously voted to move forward with landmark designation of the David & Gladys Wright House. This was the first of four required meetings.
- A citizen's observations on the Planning Commission Meeting that sent the preservation community ablaze.
- A narrow vote to proceed with landmark status designation of the David and Gladys Wright House passes despite lawyer's threats to sue the city at Village Planning meeting. Includes Channel 12 video in right column.
- A video tour of the property by Scott Jarson filmed in August 2012.
- Critical article on Page 1 of the New York Times sets off a firestorm of local coverage of the David and Gladys Wright House preservation debate
- CBS Morning News segment on the need for an angel to purchase the David and Gladys Wright home. Includes interviews with Scott Jarson and granddaughters of David Wright. Ironically, the developers were not accepting any offers on the home.
- BBC News segment on the David Wright House controversy featuring Mayor Greg Stanton and Neil Levine. (available for a limited time)
- An editorial in Oct. 5 Arizona Republic calls developer 8081 Meridian out for a brawl
- 8081 Meridian claims they were away all summer and unaware of historic designation process for their recently acquired Frank Lloyd Wright home. Bizarre, because seven days before they closed escrow they had already publicly declared they would preserve it.
- Mayor's policy advisor Brendan Mahoney reported that a low-level over-the-counter clerk was responsible for issuance of a demolition permit of the David Wright home. This was and unfortunate complication.
- The Wright heirs were heartsick over the fate of their family home in the AZ Republic
- You could just move it, right? Prairie Mod explained why the David and Gladys Wright House cannot be moved.
- The New York Times pondered once again why Phoenix values the new over the old.
- Phoenix Business Journal reported that the David and Gladys Wright home is re-listed for sale for 2.38 million dollars by Robert Joffe.
- An editorial by former Wright student Vernon Swaback made a compelling argument in the AZ Republic.
- Have a few million dollars? KPHO reported that The David Wright house finally went up for sale again. Meanwhile, the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy was working hard behind the scenes to find a suitable buyer.
- The Arizona Republic reported that 8081 Meridian's demolition permit expired on Tuesday October 23rd, with no intent to renew it.
- Download the structural assessment of the David Wright House [PDF], indicating that about $312,010 in improvements were needed to make it a sound residence. This number is in contrast to the millions of dollars cited earlier by developer 8081 Meridian.
- Owner Steve Sells threatened in the New York Times to wait out the 3 year stay of demolition, then demolish when it expires to recoup his losses if the home is designated HP-L.
- A City of Phoenix staff report recommending Historic zoning overlay with Landmark status was issued, revised September 18, 2012
- The official real estate listing for the David and Gladys Wright House went public in Fall of 2012, and a mystery buyer came forth with an offer.
- Arizona Preservation Foundation placed The David & Gladys Wright Residence on their list of 25 Most Endangered Historic Places in Arizona.
- The first mystery buyer who offered to purchase the David and Gladys Wright House for a full cash offer backed out for business and personal reasons during escrow.
- The Phoenix City Council might have been forced to vote on Historic Landmark status for the David and Gladys Wright house without owner's consent if a new buyer was not found before December 5th.
- The second mystery buyer lined up to purchase the David Wright home also backed out.
- Michelle Dodds spoke about the David Wright House, midcentury neighborhood preservation overlays and Prop. 207 on PBS Horizon.
- Councilman DiCiccio asked for a longer delay in the final vote, and suggested that if preservationists all got their act together, they could save the home with donations, as if nobody had thought of that before. No agencies were willing to administrate such a multi-million dollar campaign. Later in his re-election campaign, DiCiccio would take credit for saving the home when many on the inside believe that his resistance to preservation in general and defense of the developers was an obstruction.
- Arizona Preservation Foundation started a postcard campaign flooding hundreds of red postcards into Councilmen and Mayor's offices.
- Due to winter travel schedules, there was not any vote on the David and Gladys Wright home's Landmark as planned.
- In order to better comply with public notice protocol, the City of Phoenix delayed the final vote on the David Wright House.
- The David Wright House made Architeizer's list of Top Ten Architecture Controversies of 2012
- Sal DiCiccio in Phoenix City Council District 6 calls for the future preservation of all Frank Lloyd Wright properties in our area, so this stress may never have to be endured again. He didn't realize that The City of Phoenix and AIA were already working on it.
- Blooming Rock observed that architectural preservation in Phoenix may never be the same after resolving this landmark battle, and gave credit to the team of advocates who worked behind the scenes on this effort.
- Arizona Republic published Alison King's editorial "Miracles Happen" in the week preceding winter holiday.
- Phoenix Business Journal reported that the David Wright home sold for 2.38 million dollars
- The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy ultimately facilitated the purchase of the David Wright Home
- VICTORY! The David and Gladys Wright home sold to an anonymous buyer on December 20th! Transfer to a nonprofit agency is forthcoming.
“Historic preservation is critical for our city. How we preserve our past says a lot about our future. Thank you to Larry Woodin and Janet Halstead and other professionals at the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy Board. They believed in the importance of this home and the people of this city by partnering with my office. We developed a close working relationship in this process and we stand ready to help them with landmark designation, restoration and a conservation easement so that this important piece of our Phoenix history and the Frank Lloyd Wright legacy will be preserved for generations to come.” - Mayor Greg Stanton, December 20. 2012The vote for Landmark Designation is projected to happen in Fall 2015. The Phoenix City Council needs to hear what you think about landmark designation. Please write, email, telegram or call your councilman and the mayor here. You may also register your support here. If voted through by City Council, the David and Gladys Wright House is sure to become a cultural resource that Phoenicians will treasure for decades to come. The vote will likely be close, so weigh in on the future of your city.
Modern Phoenix is grateful for all those who have signed the petitions, are writing their Councilmen and attending the events. You can become a fan of the David and Gladys Wright House by linking them on Facebook. Subscribe to Arizona Preservation Foundation, Modern Phoenix, Blooming Rock and the Save the David & Gladys Wright Group on Facebook to keep abreast of issues as they develop.