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Iowa's Frank Lloyd Wright Masterpiece
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Iowa's Frank Lloyd Wright Masterpiece

Cedar Rock State Park near Quasqueton is where famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright built a home for Lowell and Agnes Walter on a limestone bluff overlooking the Wapsipinicon River

Lowell grew up in the area and moved to Des Moines, where he made a fortune in the blacktop business. In 1948, he commissioned Wright to build a retirement home back in Buchanan County.

Lowell gave Wright a budget of $50,000 to work with, but the home ended up costing $150,000! That’s the equivalent of about $1.5 million today, but after touring the home, we concluded the Walters got their money's worth. This place is amazing! 

The house is a classic example of the “Usonian” style of architecture that Wright developed—typically one-story, low-profile homes that blend into their natural surroundings for living close to nature. The home is 1,800 square feet and built of concrete, brick, walnut, and glass. Even the roof is concrete with skylights that let in natural light while also allowing summer heat to escape. 

The entry was intentionally made to feel a bit dark and claustrophobic. For purposes of contrast, it quickly opens into the main living area, a 900-square-foot living and dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows that bring the river and backyard gardens into view. Talk about “wow” factor! 

Wright furthered the outdoor feel of the Garden Room by blasting holes in the limestone bedrock to create planters, then built the floor around them. 

He also designed all of the furniture to assure that it blended with his architectural style and even picked out the drapes, dishes, and other accessories. 

Up the hill from the house is a magnificent barbecue pit Wright called the “Council Fire,” and down by the river, he built a boathouse. For 30 years, Lowell and Agnes spent spring, summer, and fall at Cedar Rock, and they kept it just as Wright furnished it. 

Lowell had acquired considerable farmland in Buchanan County and sold some of that land to create a trust for the perpetual maintenance of the house after their passing. It’s now under the supervision of the Iowa DNR and is open to the public for an hour-long tour Memorial Day weekend through Oct. 31. Call 319.934.3572 or e-mail cedar_rock@dnr.iowa.gov to schedule a tour.

This content previously appeared in the popular “Road Trip” series in Our Iowa Magazine. Learn more about the publication at OurIowaMagazine.com.

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  1. Travel Iowa Team
    Travel Iowa Team
    Wow! We can't wait to visit! Thanks for posting to the Travel Iowa blog.
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