By Rachel Bucci
Sunday, Aug. 1, 3 to 6 p.m.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House,
869 W Main St., next to
The Oregon Garden, Silverton
Tickets are $30 each; $50 per couple;
$60 per family; party of 12 $250.
Sponsors are Minto Island Growers,
Mount Jefferson Farms, BASCO and
National Kitchen & Bath Association.
Imagine 4,000 to 5,000 people tromping through your house every year – up and down the stairs, opening and closing cupboards and doors.
For any house built for single-family use, wear and tear would be inevitable.
That’s exactly what the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Gordon House in Silverton has to contend with.
Not that they don’t welcome and encourage visitors to experience the house – they do. Keeping the house open and accessible is part of their mission.
But that access comes at a price.
Balancing the two – access and honoring the home – falls to general director Molly Murphy, who’s been with the Gordon House, first as a tour guide and later as the curator’s assistant, since it was saved from demolition and relocated to Silverton nearly 10 years ago.
Murphy said there is a gray line that has to be drawn in terms of letting visitors touch or move things to get a sense of living in the home – what she calls the “modern museum experience” – versus deciding how many cupboard openings and closings the house can take without significant damage.
On Sunday, Aug. 1, from 3 to 6 p.m., visitors will have a chance to give back, when the Taste of Frank Lloyd Wright benefit will raise money to support Gordon House conservation and maintenance projects.
Guests to the Taste of Frank Lloyd Wright will be treated to an afternoon featuring Willamette Valley farm fare prepared by Northwest chefs including Jeff Nizlek of the Silver Grille and Robert Volz of Pour Wine & Bistro. There will a drawing, music and a chance to taste food from local farmers.
Suzanne Martinson, author of The Fallingwater Cookbook, will sell, sign, and discuss her book and tempt guests with recipe samples. Willamette Valley Vineyards and other East Valley wineries will pour wines and Seven Brides Brewery offer Silverton’s brew.
This is the eighth annual fundraising event, but only the second to take place at the Gordon House.
Murphy said this year’s goal is to attract 350 guests and raise $15,000. Funds will go toward improvements such as enhancing the native gardens that surround the house, structural improvements and continuing restoration of exterior wood and terraces.
“This particular event is all about conservation, restoration and maintenance,” Murphy said. “These things are very expensive in a historic building. It’s hard to find artisans who can work on these buildings who will respect the original integrity. There just aren’t that many people any more who know how to do it.”
The Gordon House, named for the family that originally commissioned the home in 1957 from architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is the only example of Wright’s work in Oregon and one of only 20 or so of his private homes open to the public.
The home is an example of Wright’s so-called “Usonian” design – the architect’s answer to affordable housing for families of modest means.
The house has a small footprint and is creatively designed for modern life. As per Wright’s architectural philosophy, it also integrates with the surrounding environment.
The Gordon House offers visitors a glimpse into Wright’s unique architectural vision, which in the early to middle part of the 20th century was considered boundary pushing.
At that time, Victorian homes with cramped, boxy rooms were the norm.
Wright introduced concepts that revolutionized design, including open floor plans, over-the-counter lighting, built-in appliances and storage. The whole idea of how spaces are arranged in today’s home can be traced to Wright’s designs.
Wright is considered by most authorities to be the 20th century’s greatest architect; in a recent national survey, the American Institute of Architects recognized Frank Lloyd Wright to be the greatest American architect of all time.
Having such a significant cultural and historical resource in our own back yard is something that the Gordon House staff and board of directors take very seriously.
As such, some of the funds raised through the event will go to support the educational programs at the Gordon House – specifically tours for individuals and kindergarten-12th grade students.
“Our mission is to educate the public about Frank Lloyd Wright and this particular style of house that he did,” Murphy said.
One lesson that especially resonates with school children, Murphy said, is the concept of Wright as an inventor and innovator.
“He thought of things that no-one thought of before and put them into action. That’s the number one lesson to school children when they come for tours. If you have an idea, write it down,” she said.