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

Link love:

mid century house museums

See The Gordon House our epic list of 59 mid-century & modern historic house museums you can visit

  1. 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.

  2. Trouble says:

    I know this is a little worn out now, but I found a Youtube link to one of the homes in the Rush Creek development here in Columbus.

  3. Rick S says:

    I am a FLW fan and live near and work in Madison WI where there are many homes designed by him.
    I was itrigued by the Seth Peterson house built by Devil’s Lake. It has been restored and you can rent the place to stay if your in the area. You can even reserve a night in the winter.


    Another house you can rent is the Swartz house in Two Rivers WI


    Wisconsin is FLW central.


  4. I’m going to be the dissenter here: Having visited the Gordon House several times, and as much of a fan of the Usonian Houses as I am, I would still characterize the kitchen as dark and small, rather than cozy. The photos of the kitchen furnished by the Gordon House must have had additional lighting used, because in broad daylight, with all the lights on, that kitchen was dark. It always struck me that that kitchen was not designed by a cook – clearly FLW was not!

    That said, the house is an architectural gem, and definitely worth the visit. If you’re lucky, you can get on a tour and see the upstairs, too.

    1. MIke Henson says:

      FLW was indeed not a cook. But to understand his attitude towards kitchens, all you have to do is look at what he called them in plans:
      “Work Space”.
      You see, from his perspective ( which was from his childhood in the 1800’s) kitchens were generally small, and often away from the house. It wasn’t a place were people congregated at all. They were sparse and usually consisted of a “Hoosier cabinet”, cook stove, a work table, and a freestanding cabinet to store canned goods.
      And generally speaking, men seldom frequented that room.
      In my opinion, for all his ability to for see the future of how we as a society would live, he never considered the kitchen would become the hub of entertaining and congregating that it now has.

  5. Pat Wieneke says:

    FLW used to say that if you were over 5’10”, you were a weed and should be flattened with a farm implement. He usually went for low ceilings and then higher ones for the light and air. Are there windows above the cabinets in the kitchen? Clear story windows, especially on the north, were a favorite of his from what I have read.

  6. Kelly Wittenauer says:

    Wow! Melissa & Kevin – you are both very fortunate to live in the beauty of Usonian homes.

  7. Kevin Wagner says:

    Both the kitchen’s Chinese Red Micarta plastic laminate, and the pink ceramic tiles were fairly standard specifications for usonian houses. I have seen both in quite a few Usonian homes, and have some original Wright specification booklets, and those two items are common. The third Mrs. Wright sort of fancied herself a color expert, so there is some thoughts that she could have been responsible for favoring the tile color. The Wright house I used to live in did indeed have the pink bathrooms, but not the chinese red Micarta. The Wright apprentice designed home we now live in also has the original chinese red plastic laminate, which I have posted on here a while ago.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Ah — Chinese Red. Thank you for that clarification, and for the info on pink bathrooms!!!

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