What Makes Us Different
1. WE DO NOT TAKE SALARIES
As the founders and principal board members of the FLWRI, my wife and I believe that 100% of the funds raised by the Initiative should go towards the preservation of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings through acquisition and restoration, not to provide salaries and benefits towards those who work for our organization. While it may become necessary, as we grow in the future, to take on some paid staff, we pledge that the administration members will work on an entirely volunteer basis, both now and in the future. We want to commend the board of the Frank Lloyd Wright Laurent House in Rockford, Illinois, who works on the same basis.
2. AT LEAST CURRENTLY, WE DON’T OFFER MEMBERSHIPS
Were we to offer memberships to our organization, we would need to hire someone to write and put out a newsletter every month in order to keep members abreast of all of our activities and accomplishments. We prefer to save that money and manpower and put it towards the actual work of restoring and preserving Wright buildings. Once again, this means 100% of your donation will go directly towards its intended purpose. This policy may change based on circumstances.
3. WE DO NOT CHARGE 25,000.00 FOR PRESERVATION EASEMENTS
For those unfamiliar, a preservation easement is a legal document which gives permanent and all-encompassing protection to a historic building. Once in place, the easement prevents any current or future building owners from not only demolishing, but modifying or altering a protected building in any way. IMPORTANT MISCONCEPTION: having an historic designation DOES NOT ultimately protect a building from demolition, but only somewhat delays the process. Preservation easements are the only true way to completely protect a building, and should be the ultimate aim for any type of building conservancy.
However, the standard practice for such organizations is the expectation of a sizable cash endowment accompanying the easement, ostensibly to cover the costs associated with traveling to each protected structure in order to conduct inspections at predetermined intervals, usually every year or two, making sure no modifications have been made. Also, to cover legal expenses which might arise from needing to deal with an uncooperative future owner of the property, who will not comply with the terms of the easement.
At least one conservation organization, the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, charges up to 25,000.00 for this particular “service”. Frankly, I believe this is a completely unnecessary charge, and that this practice actually DETERS Wright building owners from donating their easements. Our organization charges zero dollars for the same service. It is a very simple and inexpensive matter to hire a qualified inspector who lives in the area of the protected building. And, being a non-profit, we utilize the services of an attorney who works pro bono, and will do so should the need arise to take on a non-compliant owner of a Wright building whose preservation easement we hold. The ultimate costs incurred are low and can be easily absorbed as overhead by us as the easement holding body.
4. OUR MISSION IS TO ACTUALLY SAVE FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT BUILDINGS
Our philosophy is that in order to genuinely protect a Frank Lloyd Wright building, an organization like ours must be proactive, and not reactive. To wait until after a FLW building is sold to “go into action” is exactly what led to the Lockridge Clinic being lost.
For a building to be protected, a preservation easement must be in place BEFORE that building is sold, or the building itself must be acquired to protect it from falling into the hands of a developer who wishes to demolish it, or an ignorant owner who wishes to significantly and inappropriately modify it (Hello Olfelt House). As mentioned on our recent webinar, we have already procured the preservation easement for one Wright home (the Wilbur Pearce House), as well as that of our own Pappas House. Based on conversations currently taking place with other Wright building owners, we expect to acquire several other PE’s by the end of this year.
If you wait until after a building is sold, you are completely at the mercy of the new owners wishes. Some owners who wish to demolish their Frank Lloyd Wright building have been talked into allowing the building to be deconstructed and rebuilt on a different site. Although this action has been characterized as a resounding success by some, we consider it to be an absolute failure, a complete dereliction of oversight. Is moving a Wright building better than having it town down? Yes, but not by as much as you’d think. Those buildings already moved have set a terrible precedent which may lead to other Wright buildings being threatened in the future.
Three Reasons Why
First off, of course the new owner will allow the new building to be moved, because it saves them the cost of demolishing it.
Secondly, it opens the door to a dangerous trend, establishing the precedent of moving Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, which as most Wright fans know, were specifically designed for their original sites. This would make it an acceptable practice for developers who want to build on property where a Wright building sits, then get off the hook from being portrayed as the villain in the story, and provide cover when they want to buy and demolish the next historic building when the same opportunity occurs.
Thirdly, it doesn’t make economic sense. If the cost of buying a Frank Lloyd Wright building is commensurate with the costs associated with moving and rebuilding it on a site in a completely different part of the country, why not simply use the same money to buy the house, restore it, leave it where it belongs, put on the preservation easement, and check it off the list of buildings needing protection. This is why my wife and I bought the Pappas House and why the FLWRI is currently in negotiations for a second Wright home. This is our model for saving Wright buildings.
5. WE ASSIST WRIGHT BUILDING OWNERS IN A TANGIBLE WAY
When we hold a fundraising event at a private Frank Lloyd Wright home, we insist that the owner retain a portion of the proceeds in the form of a “rental fee”, which is a way that we can legally give the owner some immediate financial assistance. Also, upon request, we will have one of our staff architects visit the home site which is in need of restoration, which results in a comprehensive, itemized list of recommended repairs and a budget for those items.
While it is not officially a defined “quid pro quo” arrangement, the understanding is that once restoration is completed, the preservation easement will be donated to our organization, and as previously noted, without cost to the owner
We feel that this financial and professional assistance is the extent to which we can legally support privately owned homes with nonprofit funding. However, we of course stand by to assist with ongoing guidance and counsel as they hire our professional partners who follow through on the actual restoration work. Of course, if the FLWRI acquires the house all of the restoration work will be completed using donated funds.
An up-to-date list of financial assistance given to Frank Lloyd Wright properties:
Oboler rebuilding fund (outstanding) 45,000.00
Banff Pavilion Project 40,000.00
Bazett/Frank House 3,306.85
Buehler House 2,000.00
Wilbur Pearce House 6,800.00
Haynes House 2,500.00
Pappas House 2,500.00
Seamour Shavin House 6,985.00
Friends of Cedar Rock 500.00
George Ablin House 225.00
Bott House 2,000.00
Grant House 4,400.00
UPDATE ON PREVIOUS FINANCIAL COMMITMENTS
We have made several monetary pledges in the past for Frank Lloyd Wright properties. Here is the status of those pledges. In addition to the above mentioned Oboler House rebuilding pledge (which is still outstanding), we committed 25,000.00 to the Pappas House Foundation towards the purchase of the house. That pledge became moot when my wife and I followed through and actually bought the house ourselves.
We also made a 200,000.00 commitment for the acquisition of the Spring House in Tallahassee, Florida, which was to be used as a matching grant for a like amount raised by the Spring House Institute. First off, the corresponding matching grant fell through, plus we found the owner impossible to work with. All I will say on the matter is that we refuse to help people that won’t help themselves.
6. WE DO NOT ACCEPT GOVERNMENT MONEY
While I personally believe that the preservation of buildings and the promotion of the arts are of extreme importance, and although it is my own interest to feel differently, I do not believe that government entities, especially those at the federal level, should be involved in these matters. It is the reason that the federal government is 158 zillion dollars in debt. We don’t hold the “non-profit mentality” of simply feeling entitled for our right to thrive by having our open hands permanently extended towards the government. Rather, we try and earn our keep, and believe that this process is best solved by the private sector in the form of individual donations, and the sponsorships of good corporate citizens. In other words, our organization has ethical standards which supersede our own interests.