When you think New England architecture, images of Colonial, Georgian and Federal-style homes are probably the first to come to mind. You may be surprised to learn, then, that Manchester is the site of not one but two homes designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Because of the generosity of the Zimmermans, visitors to the Currier Museum of Art can choose to take a tour of the larger of the two houses, an example of Wright’s Usonian model. The second home is privately owned (though it’s currently for sale at the bargain price of $1.5 million).
The Zimmermans, Isadore and Lucille, met while working at the state hospital in 1936. They married and moved to a Colonial Revival home in Manchester, where they lived for 13 years. The couple decided to downsize, so they purchased a ¾-acre lot on Heather Street. The Zimmermans were fans of Wright’s work, and decided to write to him to ask if he would design a Usonian house of them. To their great surprise, he agreed.
The Zimmermans visited Wright at his home in Spring Green, Wisc., to discuss the design. Wright assisted with not only the house plan, but also the design of the furniture, interiors, garden and even the mailbox. The projected cost of the house was $36,000, but because of upgrades – like high-end wood and a speaker system to play their extensive classical musical collection – it ended up costing more than $50,000. With only a suitcase apiece and their musical instruments, the Zimmermans took up residence in 1952.
While the home was going up, neighbors referred to it as “the chicken coop” or “train station,” but they warmed to the Zimmermans themselves, and eventually the house. Visitors can see Wright’s signature work throughout the house – extended rooflines, virtually seamless glass corners and mathematical precision carried out from the square clay roof tiles (all 9,000 of them), to the furniture height and flooring. There are no accidental design elements – every inch was planned to carry out Wright’s philosophy of living outside of the box (quite literally – he detested square rooms).
Even those who prefer more traditional architecture will find themselves wowed by Wright’s work, making the Currier Museum tour a must. The guides offer a wealth of knowledge on the architect and the home, making the 90-minute tour fly by. Tour groups are small, so there are plenty of opportunities to ask questions.
Tours fill up fast, so advanced reservations are highly recommended. Tour tickets cost $18 for adults, $17 seniors, $8 children (children under age 7 are not permitted on the tour), and includes admission to the museum. The general tour is offered Thursday-Monday. Focus tours and special events are also offered throughout the year.
For more information on the Currier Museum and the Zimmerman House, visit currier.org.