Gordon House — one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s last Usonian houses


Photo by Efrain Diaz-Homa

historic-houseWell howdy do — Frank Lloyd Wright houses came with pink bathrooms, too. And just wait until you see the vintage 1964 Formica kitchen counter tops in Brady Bunch bittersweet orange  Proof yet again — that the most hi-falutin’ architect-designed homes and the most modest ones shared many common elements once inside. The Gordon House – located in Silverton, Oregon — is considered a lovely example of a Frank Lloyd Wright “Usonian” house — and it’s one of the last ones ever commissioned. Let’s take a closer look…


Photo by Efrain Diaz-Homa

I found the best write-up on The Gordon House on The Oregon Encyclopedia. It explained:

  • The house was designed in 1957 — commissioned by farmers Conrad and Evelyn Gordon for their remote property along the Willamette River about 20 miles from Portland.
  • The house was not built until 1964. It is the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house in Oregon.
  • In 2000, new owners of the property were planning to tear down the house, which had fallen into decay. A well-publicized campaign was launched, and the house was moved to its present location in Silverton, Oregon, where it is now part of The Oregon Garden complex. The Oregon Garden isan 80-acre botanical garden, featuring more than 20 specialty gardens showcasing the diverse botanical beauty that can be found in the Willamette Valley and throughout the Pacific Northwest.”
  • The Gordon House was added to the National Historic Register in 2004.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian Houses

Moreover, the Gordon House is considered a prototypical “Usonian” house. On Wikipedia, it says that this house was one of the last Usonian houses commissioned.

“USONA” was Frank Lloyd Wright’s acronym for United States of North America. Usonian houses were his vision for low-cost housing for the masses — he began work on the concept in the 1930s. You will recall that just yesterday, we wrote about Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House – Bucky’s vision for low-cost housing for the masses. Seems like all the big brains were contemplating this topic. Note: Seems to me that in the end, we ended up with variations on my heartthrob Royal Barry Will’s Cape Cod – albeit more and more “ranchified” especially as you moved to the west. Sometimes the easiest solution is the most practical solution… Also, I think that Americans are simply very conservative about the houses they want to invest in — the traditional Colonial is still the prototype for “The American Dream House” and the Royal Barry Wills Cape Cod is a Colonial variant. Architectural critics may turn down their noses. But what if smarty had a party and no one came to smarty’s party?

Anyway, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian houses all had a relatively small footprint… they were built on a T-plan… and shared certain concepts like lots of built-in storage and thick slab concrete floors with radiant heat underneath.

The Gordon House has 2,133 s.f. of floor space, according to Wikipedia.


Photo by Efrain Diaz-Homa

Another feature of this house — and of all Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian houses (if I am reading the research correctly) — is the “fretwork” window screens used throughout the house, shown above. Each FLW Usonian house received a unique design. The screens are strategically located on windows to block the high sun of the summer. There is no known meaning to the designs, although it’s believed they reference FLW’s love of Japanese woodblock prints.


Photo by Efrain Diaz-Homa

This house is built of concrete block and cedar.


Photo by Efrain Diaz-Homa

Lots of built-ins, to maximize living space and make the house easier to clean.


Formica counter tops from 1964. Photo courtesy of The Gordon House.

Here are the orange Formica counter tops we promised. I am pretty sure I spy a vintage Revco refrigerator peeking into the photo at the left – see this story showing a Revco fridge, confirmed in the wild.

And apparently (again, if I am reading the writeups correctly), the ceiling in the kitchen is two stories high. I don’t know if I like that particular FLW idea. High ceilings are less cozy, and I think I think a kitchen should be cozy. Also, I think it would feel like there is more opportunity for dust to be flying around up there and falling into my food… It must be something to see, though…


Formica counter tops from 1964. Photo courtesy of The Gordon House.

Can anyone identify the built-in oven (with warming drawer underneath??), the stove top — with cover!… and dishwasher? This is a lovely, no-nonsense kitchen. Very nice.


Photo by Efrain Diaz-Homa

The fretwork is so pretty and sparkly-like with the light streaming in… Also notice the square recessed can lighting. We have done research indicating where you can still get square recessed can lighting today.


Photo by Efrain Diaz-Homa

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  1. says

    Hi Pam–
    Not sure how I missed this when it first published, but we just visited the Gordon House and wrote about it on our own blog. (http://bit.ly/14D0YGU) We included lots of photos of details from the house, which we thought was amazing. We’re generally not fans of low ceilings, but the rooms with them didn’t feel cramped to us at all. We were told that the formica in the kitchen isn’t actually the original formica, but it’s close to the original color.

    We’re so glad this place was saved. It was almost destroyed by its last buyers, who wanted to tear it down to build their own home on its original lot. Can you imagine?!? Really love that Wright designed modest homes for middle-class Americans.

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