The Rosenbaum House: Frank Lloyd Wright's Jewel in Alabama
Last week I visited the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in Alabama for the second time - the first being 5 years ago when I was just beginning to develop an interest in modern design. That experience blew my mind and inspired me to pursue a design related career by way of restoring mid century houses and vintage modern furniture. Many other people have had a similar experience at this house including the world famous architect Paul Rudolph who visited at the age of 22. He is quoted as calling the living room shown above 'one of the most sublime spaces in American architecture'.
This 1940 house was built in the city of Florence for a young couple: Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum. Built across from the house of Stanley's parents, the Rosenbaum residence is one of Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian houses. Usonian homes represent the master architect's shift into designing unique houses for the ordinary people of America, not just the wealthy.
To achieve affordability the attic and pitched roof were removed, as was the basement. This led to a long and low profile that must have shocked residents of this small town. The Rosenbaum house strikes a dramatic profile unlike any other house before it (apart from possibly other Usonians!)
This house has so many great 'moments' but the carport entry sequence is once of my favorites. The experience of walking under this very low cantilever is quite incredible and it begins FLW's exercise in compression-expansion so perfectly.
The change in space and light revealed when you leave the restrictive, plain brick corridor just inside the front door and step into the expansive living room is breathtaking. It really needs to be experienced in person!
Another thing in this house that made a deep impression on me the first time I visited was the way all the lines worked together, constantly guiding your eye and helping you to understand and explore the space. These lines are everywhere: On the ground in the concrete floor with the 2'x4' module scored into them, up the walls where the cypress board and batten courses follow a 13" module and finally across the ceiling where the plywood boards reflect the scored concrete floor below.
Shelves, desks, closets and even the dining table fit seamlessly into this masterfully spun web of architectural genius.
The structure has a pinwheel plan with rooms peeling of off others and doorways suggesting options and spaces around the corner. Sitting on a gentle slope, both the house's living areas and bedrooms overlook a serene lawn.
The children's room (part of a later addition) has an enviable view, looking out onto a beautiful walled Japanese garden.
And even the rear entrance is a piece of architectural magic:
Visiting the Rosenbaum house
601 Riverview Drive
Florence, AL. 35630
45 minute house tour $10 Adults, $5 Seniors + Students
You'll find the visitors center tucked around the corner of this cool mid century modern school building, and inside you'll be able to meet the excellent docents who will guide you through the history of the house. Tour times are not fixed but flexible to accommodate arrivals. Large groups should call ahead. Find out more on the Rosenbaum house website here.
For more architectural photo tours of incredible properties, check out some of our previous posts: