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Luxury

Restored Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian Goes on the Market in Michigan

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We first came across this ranch when it landed in our most popular listings -- and we knew there was a deeper story. Our instincts were correct.

Commissioned by Samuel and Dorothy Eppstein and built in 1953, this three-bedroom, two-bathroom Usonian home in Galesburg, MI, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It's registered on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy.

Now on the market for $455,000, it's the cheapest Wright home currently for sale in the country, according to listing agent Fred Taber of Jaqua Realtors. It's also the only Wright home for sale in Michigan -- and it features many of Wright's signature elements: a stone floor-to-ceiling fireplace, built-ins, low and slanted ceilings, and radiant-floor heating. There's also an in-ground cement pool in the yard. Ten-foot windows in the living room coax nature inside.

To understand the significance of this property, you have to go back a few decades to its origin story. In the late 1940s, scientist friends at the Upjohn Company, a pharmaceutical manufacturer in Kalamazoo, MI, dreamed up a plan to have Wright build 21 Usonian homes in The Acres, a wooded community outside the city.

Each owner pledged to help build his or her own house, to further bring down the cost of Wright's affordable-minded Usonian design. But only four units were built. Interstate 94 wasn't yet constructed, and Galesburg was considered too far outside of town.

"Some of the wives did not want to live this far out in the country," says Taber.

Still, "it's the only Wright development of its kind in the U.S.," says Taber. Each home in The Acres is on 1 acre and has access to 70 wooded acres and a pond.

Selling this architectural masterpiece, however, has been a challenge. "It's at the top of the price point of the Galesburg area," says Taber of the 2,250-square-foot ranch.

The home's third (and current) owner snatched up the property as a summer place and poured between $250,000 and $350,000 into restoring the home.

The restoration involved repairing a skylight that, due to leakage, ruined the kitchen. "He took the Firestone roof completely off and replaced the skylights, all the (exterior) mahogany," says Taber. The owner used the same firm that restored the Westcott House in Springfield, OH.

During the 1970s, the home's second owner did a round of updates by adding carpet and fresh coats of paint, along with the pool.

"It's, like, 95% done," says Taber, of the renovations. "Whoever is going to buy this is going to be a huge Wright enthusiast. They're also going to be an enthusiast for a Usonian-style home."

In early February, an open house attracted 35 people, and Taber's been aggressively advertising it in architectural and modern design communities. In 2013, he sold the Fonken house (designed by Wright protge Francis "Will" Willsey) for $141,700 (it was listed for $149,000). Right now, he's focused on coaxing a buyer to Michigan who's intrigued by the opportunity to snap up an original Wright design for a (relative) bargain. Kalamazoo, here we come!