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#569 - Frank Lloyd Wright
Historic collection of working drawings and plans for Wright's proposed Grover Project
Magnificent archive related to the construction of a residence for Donald and Viola Grover by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which features two working architectural drawings and a booklet of nine original blueprints for the couple’s planned property in Syracuse, New York. The collection is supplemented by a detailed chain of correspondence between Wright and the Grovers, in addition to letters from Wright’s secretary Eugene Masselink and various building and design companies involved with the project. These letters include four TLSs from Wright, and the original working architect's contract, all of which are signed by Wright with his initials, “F. LL. W.”
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The archive is highlighted a pair of original colored, hand-drawn designs of the proposed Grover estate, expertly accomplished on 37 x 35 sheets of draftsman paper, both of which are entitled along the bottom, “Residence for Dr. Donald S. Grover, Syracuse, New York, Frank Lloyd Wright Architect,” and bear the orange Taliesin block to lower left corner, with one signed and dated, “F. LL. W., Mch 15, 50.” The first is an overview elevation of the first floor, which displays the exterior of the structure and the surrounding grounds, and the second is an 1:16 scale aerial overview of the structure and entire property, which marks the locations of the “Mezzanine,” “Auto Court,” and “Gravel Drive.”
The blueprints are stapled to form a 36.25 x 29.5 booklet containing nine sheets of 1:16 scale plans, each of which are entitled along the bottom, “Residence for Dr. and Mrs. Donald Grover, Syracuse, N.Y., Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect,” with initialed Taliesin box to lower right corner. The sheets are numbered and identified as follows: Sheet No. 1, a plot plan with notes regarding “Excavation and Filling," “Layout of Building,” and “Gravel”; Sheet No. 2, a ground floor plan for “Plumbing” and “Heating Diagram”; Sheet No. 3, a main floor plan related to “Concrete Work” and “Electrical Work”; Sheet No. 4, a mezzanine plan for “Masonry”; Sheet No. 5, a side view concerning “Elevations”; Sheet No. 6, a sections plan relating to “Carpentry & Millwork,” “Hardware,” “Glazing,” “Painting & Finishing,” and “Linoleum”; Sheet No. 7, a mezzanine framing plan; Sheet No. 8, a roof framing plan with notes for “Lathing & Plastering” and “Roofing”; and Sheet No. 9, which consists of “Millwork Details.” Sheets three and four feature handwritten notations.
The original working contract, one page, 11 x 8.5, blindstamped Taliesin letterhead, March 23, 1950, with additional typed notation: “Due for Preliminary Studies according to conditions of architect’s services herewith: 5% of $35,000.00, proposed cost…$1,750.00.” The contract states, in part: “The personal architectural services of Frank Lloyd Wright are available for ten percent of the cost of the completed building which invariably includes the planting of the grounds and the major furnishings considered as part of the building scheme. The fee is the same for a million dollar building or for a dwelling.” The contract fee is divided into three parts: 5% to be paid when preliminary studies are presented; 4% upon submittal of working drawings and specifications; and 1% “to complete the fee of ten percent for the architect’s supervision only, during construction.” Signed within the orange block by Wright.
The four TLSs, each one page, 5.5 x 8.5, Taliesin letterhead, all addressed to the Grovers, are as follows (all original mailings envelopes are included):
July 13, 1949: “Terms are enclosed. We would like to build for you if you will give us a topo-survey and your requirements in detail.”
April 14, 1950: “Thanks! We mailed you colored prints last week and are working on your plans.”
May 29, 1950: “The rock samples arrived. Will give opinion soon.”
September 20, 1950: “Bricks o.k. as suggested.”
Also included is a Western Union telegram from Wright to Donald Grover, dated March 15, 1950, which states: “Ready to discuss come weekend March 18 wire arrival time Phoenix will meet you.”
The correspondence also includes six letters from Wright’s secretary Eugene Masselink, dated between October 7, 1949 and May 27, 1952, and nine carbon copies of letters sent by Donald Grover to Wright between June 10, 1949 and July 21, 1950, with the earliest letter expressing their interest in employing Wright as their architect: “Mrs. Grover and I are planning to build a home on a sloping lot overlooking Syracuse. We have been very much impressed by your plans which have been presented in numerous books and magazines. Our first problem is to find a suitable architect and we are greatly interested in knowing about your proposition. Would you be so kind as to write us and to provide us with information on whether your organization could accept our work and what arrangements you offer when we are so far removed from your headquarters. Briefly—we are interested in a strictly modern and functional house. Our net income is $15,000 annually. We have a son, age 9, and twin daughters, ages 3. We require a two car garage.”
The balance of the archive consists of sundry letters, notes, and receipts from plumbing, building, heating, and air conditioning supply companies associated with the project, in addition to a pair of unsigned original Frank Lloyd Wright architectural service contracts. In overall very good to fine condition, with creasing and edge wear and tears to the blueprints, some of which are tape-repaired on the reverse.
The Grover Project of Syracuse, New York, was an application of Wright’s solar hemicycle concept, an idea that had frequent recurrences in his work, most notably that of the second home of Herbert and Katherine Jacobs, which utilized a semicircular layout and the use of natural materials to conserve solar energy. Unfortunately, the plans and costs were not feasible for the Grovers, and their Syracuse home was never built. If the Grovers had approved of the plans and opted to greenlight construction, the included two drawings would have been returned to Wright, as was customary for all his projects. This trove of documentation vividly represents the relationship that existed between Wright and his clients, from the initial communication and contract process and, ultimately, through to the creative undertaking that culminated in a complete set of working drawings and plans.