After visits to several Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures in Wisconsin, a Wright structure in Independence, Iowa beckoned. Once a secluded private home, The Lowell and Agnes Walter Estate at Cedar Rock was equally impressive. Brick, glass, and concrete characterized the entire structure.
Indicative of Wright’s Usonian architectural style, broad overhangs protected the low-slung house and a single bright red ceramic tile bore Wright’s signature initials. The gorgeous private home also featured the architect’s signature ‘Cherokee Red’ paint.
Inside the home, a long planter flanked the hall leading to a 900-square-foot living room, where banks of plants flanked narrow windows high above. Massive skylights and wall-spanning windows flooded the living room with natural light and woodland views.
Custom furnishings by Wright and his apprentice, John De Kovenhill, paired white upholstery with plenty of wood accents. Although the room seated up to 40 people, it retained a feeling of intimacy, due to multiple ‘conversation areas.’ A massive brick fireplace undoubtedly provided much-needed warmth during cold northern Iowa winters, while openings in the brick walls housed brightly colored backlit glass pieces. So much natural light flooded the space that it felt like an outdoor living area.
In the small and simple yet functional kitchen, long open wood shelves above the sink displayed polished copper canisters and other pieces. Dual-layer drawers and cabinets with triangular interiors maximized storage space.
Nearby, a narrow and dark wood-paneled hallway with recessed ceiling lighting led toward several bedrooms. In each one, high ceilings and more tall banks of windows with wooded views created welcoming sleep areas. When opened, floor-to-ceiling glass doors provided easy access to plenty of fresh air. Polished wood walls surrounded the beds and a brick wall with fireplace accentuated one room.
Next, the guide pointed out a massive outdoor, circular brick seating area and fire pit. Here, the Walters entertained guests – including Wright – amid natural quiet and beauty. The final tour stop lay down the hill from the home’s limestone bluff river overlook.
One of only four Wright-designed boathouses completed across the nation, the brick-wrapped Walter River Pavilion at Cedar Rock is the only such structure that has remained intact since it was built. Designed with a cantilevered terrace and roof lines, it features an inviting wood-burning fireplace near a wall of windows and a nearly invisible door beside an expansive deck.
There’s a small kitchen space and a bathroom plus a desk area flanked by long wooden shelves. But the most impressive feature is on the lower level, where a basement boat ramp and folding metal gates remain, amid more sturdy brick walls.
If you’re in Northeast Iowa and appreciate Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural genius, check out this beautiful estate that draws from 10-12,000 visitors annually. Tours are available hourly, from late May through mid-October, on Thursday through Sunday.
Image credit: Lisa Waterman Gray