You do not have to travel to the Midwest to go inside a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Believe it or not, there are two Wright houses in Manchester, NH. One is privately owned and one is owned by the Currier Museum in Manchester, NH and is open to the public. Manchester’s riches of Wrightian architecture is unusual here. There are a mere scattering of  Wrightian houses in New England:  two in Connecticut, one in Massachusetts, and the two in New Hampshire. The Zimmerman House is the only one in New England available for the public to tour. A mid-century modern visitable piece of architecture, right in our own backyard.

Carport with a view

The Zimmerman house was built in 1950 for Dr. Isadore and Lucille Zimmerman. The house is “Usonian” in design, meaning it is efficient, economical and possessing a panache of style available to people of moderate means. With Usonian houses, Wright designed the cabinets, shelves, furniture  and gardens as a total concept living experience. The Zimmerman house is no exception. Although Frank Lloyd Wright never set foot in Manchester, he designed a house for the Zimmermans that sits perfectly on the lot. In visiting the house, only one feature struck me as impractical. The house has a carport, not unlike many Wright houses. New England winters and carports are diametrically opposed. None the less, the carport is gorgeous and has a view of the backyard for the driver, through a picture window-sized opening. There is no paint on any exterior surface as the window frames are poured concrete forms or stained wood and the exterior walls are brick. I guess the low maintenance exterior makes up for the sleet and snow exposed, albeit sexy carport.

Golden orange Georgia cypress ceilings

The Zimmermans lived in the house from 1952 until they died. The museum took over the stewardship of the house in 1988. The Zimmermans had the foresight to realize what a gem they had and bequeathed the house and contents to the museum. Pottery, mid-century artwork, and sculpture all left by the Zimmermans are on display. The house originally was designed by Wright with radiant heat flooring under the signature red color concrete floors. Unfortunately, the heating system failed at some point during Isadore and Lucille’s time there and a forced hot air heating system with ducts was installed. The duct work ran discordantly along the sweeping interior ceiling lines. As the docent explained during the tour, the museum undertook a massive “bring it back” project and jackhammered up the floors, removed the eye jarring duct work, reinstalled new radiant flooring, re-poured the concrete  and matched the original Wright red floor color. The result is beautiful.

When the house was built, the area around it was a country-setting suburb of Manchester. Now the setting feels more  built up suburban, but once you are on the grounds and in the house the country sylvan feeling returns. During the Zimermans’ time, they hosted many musicales. Wright designed a four sided wood music stand for this musical family so a quartet can all play facing one another. The Currier Museum has a twilight tour with live music in the garden room. You can experience what it must have been like to be a guest at one of their parties. Alas, no cocktails are served as you are inside a work of art. No inebriated stumbles allowed please.

Click on any photo to enlarge.

Sylvan setting

Advertisements