Photos by Valerie Urbanik | Oberlin News-Tribune
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright focused on every little detail of the Oberlin home he designed, from molding on the ceilings to brick work and the size of the dining room table.
Every little detail mattered in the eyes of architect Frank Lloyd Wright when he designed the Weltzheimer home in 1948 — and this fall, you can see those details for yourself.
Wright, perhaps the most celebrated American architect, built the 2,100-square-foot house at 435 Morgan St.
It is the first “Usonian” home in Ohio, a style that characterized a 20-year period of his career and combined utopian and American ideals in home design, according to Allen Memorial Art Museum curator of education Jason Trimmer.
In Wright’s final years he focused on creating modern homes for middle-class families and broke away from designing only homes for wealthy people, Trimmer said. Roughly 100 Usonian homes were built.
How did Oberlin get so lucky to have Wright’s magnificent architectural work in town? It was all because of the Weltzheimer family, which bought the land in the 1940s.
“They just sent him a letter out of the blue,” Trimmer said.
The family asked Wright if he would design their home on a specific budget and he accepted the job.
Trimmer said the Weltzheimers moved to Oberlin from the east side of Cleveland and father Charles Weltzheimer worked in downtown Wellington.
“They wanted to settle here because of the college,” Trimmer said.
Construction began in 1948 and the Weltzheimer family moved in on April 1, 1949.
Wright designed the home to sit back off Morgan Street and be nestled in the trees. “It’s supposed to look like it’s of its surroundings and comes out from the ground,” Trimmer said. “I think that makes this house fit in very nicely.”
Wright’s Usonian homes were built with basic materials — brick, wood, concrete, and glass and the basic floor plan was L-shaped.
“He also wants to connect us to the outdoors and break apart the box of being inside,” Trimmer said. That’s why the home has multiple windows and French doors throughout.
There are rarely any pictures hanging on the walls throughout the home.
“The house itself is the decoration,” Trimmer said.
Wright even designed the dining room stools and table to be able to fit through the living room doors so they can be moved outside onto the patio.
“He really thought about all of the details,” Trimmer said. “He was very detail-oriented. He wanted this whole space to be flexible with how they moved furniture around.”
The Weltzheimer family lived in the house until the 1963 when it was sold to a developer.
Two different developers owned the home in the 60s and made changes to the exterior and interior of the home including painting the inside white.
Oberlin College art history professor Ellen Johnson purchased the home in 1968 and began restoring it to the original design. Trimmer said Johnson even found the same tub that was taken out of the master bathroom and reinstalled it.
“It’s a well hidden gem,” he said.
After her death in 1992, the home was donated to Oberlin College as a guest house for the art department and the museum.
The art museum holds public tours from noon to 5 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month from Sept. 6 through November for $5 per adult. After the winter, tours will resume in April.
Trimmer said the college and museum use the home for public and private tours, student-generated events, and sometimes college guests spend the night at house.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.