Burton J. Westcott House Springfield, Ohio

The Burton J. Westcott House has a varied history.  It started on the design table in 1906 and was constructed as a Prairie House between 1907 and1908.  According to the WestcottHouse Foundation’s web site, in the 1940s it was converted to a 6 unit apartmentbuilding with acare-takers apartment in the carriage house.  It remained like this untilrecently.

As is evident from these photos, the home is under seriousrenovation.  In the last year or so, all of the tenants were moved out andthe renovation process started.

Main House looking back towards the Carriage House

The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and the WestcottHouse Foundation have begun a lengthy and total renovation with the final goalof opening the home to the public.

Carriage House looking towards Main House

Carriage House

In its original form, it was a perfect representation of whatWright’s idea of organic architecture.  Its use of terraces, gardens, poolsand a pergola helped it be in harmony with its environment.  Wrightincluded the home in the “Wasmuth Portfolios” published in Europe in1911.  You really have to use your imagination to see that now.  Onlythe large urns remain out front at this point.

Most of the pergola has been removed over the years.  Thegrounds and buildings show the wear and tear of almost 100 years of Ohio wintersand the construction process.

Carriage House with missing Pergola

The pool has been completely removed.  It used to bebetween the two urns on the front of the house.  You can see the edge ofthe pool where the yellow scaffolding rails are leaning.

At some point in the home’s life, a garage door was added to godirectly into the basement of the main house.

Carriage House Windows

Most recently the Carriage House was converted from the buildingmanager’s residence to the restoration office.

Restoration Sign

Westcott House from Street

****  UPDATE ****  On April 22,2003: I had a great experience this week which deserves to berecorded.  Initially it started out as quite an upsetting experience. In the end it turned out to be one of the highlights of my experiences with thisweb site.

I received an e-mail this week that was quite disturbing. One of the key people who works on the Westcott House restoration had found myweb site and thought that many of my photos appeared to be taken from within thefences they’d put up.  The mistake is easily made.  I did my best totake photos that showed the house without showing the fence and wall thatsurrounds it.  The foundation was very upset that I’d gone on the propertyand published the photos.

Once I’d explained that I hadn’t gone on the property, and thatI’d taken all the photos from the legal side of the fence and wall, the person Iwas corresponding with warmed up completely and we both apologized for themisunderstanding.   I also removed the photos from my site that gavethe appearance that I’d trespassed.  At that point we had a GREAT e-mailexchange about the house and the progress on the restoration.  I feel likeI’ve got a new friend who loves Wright’s work as much or more than I do. Thanks Matt! I look forward to staying in touch with you.

As a note to others who visit the Westcott House and otherWright buildings, please respect the posted signs and fences.  I often walkup to the property line, but I always respect the owners wishes andprivacy.  It was obvious to me in this instance that the Westcott HouseFoundation has had trouble with Wright fanatics crossing the fence andtrespassing on their property.  This not only is dangerous and illegal, butalso it inhibits their ability to conduct their restoration.   Thanksfor respecting their wishes.

New Photos: 03/28/2004

In early March, I visited the Westcott residence and talked with one of the care takers of the house. He helps out with the restoration now, but he lived in the home for over 25 years when it was split up into apartment building. Here are some of the photos I snapped.

Carriage House

Main House under renovation

Carriage house and main house in distance

Main house behind wall

Side of main house looking back towrads carriage house

Main House from side street

Front of house

Front of house

Front of house

Side of house away from street

Distant shot of the front

A little closer up

Front of the house from the side

House from the parking lot next door.

Another shot from the parking lot

Back of the house where a lot of renovation is taking place

Carriage house with the windows taken out

Back of the main house. An addition was recently removed

Back of house from wall

In May of 2004 I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the Westcott House restoration with the site manager for the Westcott House Foundation. As you can see from this web site, I’ve been looking at this home and photographing it for a few years as the work has progressed. Early this year, my wife and I got to tour the interior with a man who had lived in the home for 25 years when it was an apartment building. In May I was back in the area and my schedule matched up with a friend that I made in my Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired travels. The photographs that follow are the result.

The front of the Westcott house. This is the side that faces the street. Much of the concrete and tile work around the terrace has crumbled and is being rebuilt. The amazing thing about this photo is that the rows of windows and the horizontle beams are now straight. You’ll see what I’m talking about when I get to the basement.

Fish-eye view of the front of the Westcott House. Even with this lens the beams look straight. You can really see that the stucco has been completely redone and the wood and windows all look great.

Looking at the front of the house from the west corner. The cool thing about this view is that you can see the cantilevered nook in the bedroom above. We’ll see that later too.

This is the west side of the house. Thanks to the way the water drained off the parking lot next door, this whole end was complete rotted out. It has been replaced and the new facing looks great. The planter is ready for some plants when they get to that point. You can definitely see how Wright built close to the lot line. There is barely 6″ between the house and the lot line. Amazing.

The largest urns that Wright designed for any of his homes. Both of them survive in the front of the Westcott House.

Looking at the back of the Westcott house from the carriage house. The pergola has been dismantled and will be rebuilt when that phase of the restoration comes along. The windows are boarded up because they are all off being restored. The portion of the house at the right of this photo is covered in plastic because that was where an addition was constructed.

Another view down the pergola.

The lower floor of the carriage house was built with horse stables in it, as well as a place for a car.

This is the part of the carriage house that was used to store the car. The area under the ladder is the beginning of the excavation of the grease pit. Many early garages had them since there were few mechanics shops and people tended to work on their own cars, or hired mechanics to come to their home to work on the cars. This particular grease pit held a lot of interest for the people restoring the Westcott house. One of the people who lived here years ago said that many of the original furnishings were stuffed into this space before it was sealed over. They opened it up in hopes of finding a treasure trove of original artifacts. It didn’t work out that way. All they found was Jimmy Hoffa’s body. (just kidding)

Upstairs bedroom in the carriage house. The floors are covered in plywood since the home was being shown to the public the next weekend. As I said before, the windows were removed for restoration. They’ll be back soon. The windows are larger since they face the private side of the house.

This is the other room upstairs in the carriage house. Notice the smaller windows since this is the side that faces the street. Even the staff got a little more privacy in their quarters.

This is inside the main entrance of the house. This is where the paint excavation is being done. The chemist is able to go back and look at the original colors and composition of the paint.

Looking down the stairs at the main entrance. There are a lot of cool things about this entrance. It is somewhat low and dark as is typical of Wright’s entry ways. It is found on what would normally be considered the “side” of the house, rather than in the middle of the side that faces the street. You have to hunt for it a little. The door is also very wide. Once you walk in, you’re drawn up the stairs to the light of the living room.

This is the living room. There used to be a row of radiators under the band of windows. The radiators were hidden in cabinets. They’ll be put back at a later date.

This is the living room fireplace. The brick is all original. There are marks in the floor and brick that show where the original built-ins were located. These are the radiators that were in front of the windows.

The view from the front windows.

This is the east side of the living room.

This is the west side of the living room. I believe this was used as the dining room.

This is the kitchen. It is immediately behind the dining room. For a Wright home, this is a positively HUGE kitchen.

The small servants’ stairs were removed and an incinerator was put in some of the space. You can see the burned walls at the back of the incinerator. It is a miracle that the whole place didn’t burn down. We’ll see this again later.

Ahhhhh the basement. Much of the basement had to be dug out in order to make a good place to work and shore up. You can see the amoutn of work that went into replacing floor joists andmajor beams.

More basement space. To the right is the bottom of the entry stairs.

This part of the basement was originally just crawl space. This is my friend Matt giving me the tour. This will be used for storage when the home is opened to the public for tours.

Another part of the basement.

This is the room that has the ventilation hose in it.

We’re upstairs now. This is a skylight that was boarded up. You can see a brick archway up in the skylight. The brick work tells me this was not intended to be seen… that it is just structural.

This is one of the upstairs bedrooms. On the left you can see the little nook that I showed from the outside. It is cantilevered off the side of the house and makes a great place to sit and read.

This is a broader view of the room. This was one of the apartments when the building was split up into a multi-family home (read apartment building). The bathroom is off to the left and a small hallway leads to a beautiful balcony. We’ll see that later too.

This is the other apartment. The gentleman that gave us our first tour of the Westcott renovation lived in this room for 25 years. He said it was a climate controll nightmare, but the home was so beautiful, that he didn’t want to leave. The restoration foundation let him continue to live in the home until the actual restoration began.

The poor fireplace got painted over. You can see that some research on the brick has begun. There are a lot of coats of paint on that brick. It is going to take a lot of elbow grease to remove all that paint.

View down the pergola from the main balcony. You can see the ventilation hose coming in the house.

The good view from the balcony.

The servants’ stairway. On the lower left is the incinerator shaft. It is being restored to a stairway

The original fuse box. This was in use until the renovation began. Yet another miracle that the house didn’t burn down. Jack said that you used to be able to walk past this and feel the heat coming off of it.

Back bedroom. The addition was attached to the right. Its only closed off by plywood and plastic sheeting now.

This is the main stairway. One of the main bedrooms is off to the right. The stairway is beautiful and quite well preserved. They grouved the plaster with a router to keep it from cracking and buckling when the home was stabilized and shored up. The sad part about this stairway is that a banister will have to be installed before it can be opened to the public.

The bottom of the mainstairway.

Looking back into the living room from the top of the entry stairs.

Many thanks to my friend Matt for showing me through the house. I can’t wait to come back and see how the renovation process has come along. Keep an eye on the Westcott Foundation’s Web site for updates on the restoration.

About the author

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Brad Smith

Brad Smith is an experienced interior designer and the founder of OmniHomeIdeas.com. With a Master's degree in Interior Design from Pratt Institute and a passion for creating safe and healthy living spaces, Brad shares his expert insights and innovative design ideas with our readers. His work is driven by the belief that home is where every story begins.

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