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Commercialism endangers Frank Lloyd Wright home

Posted on: October 26, 2012

Every once in a while I check out The New York Times; today’s website carries this story on its front page. Truly sitting here with my mouth agape, in astonishment, I pass it along to readers of The Inside Scoop at

Owners since JUNE, John Hoffman and Steve Sells had plans — not for the house but for the land. The twosome purchased the Frank Lloyd Wright property with an eye to “splitting the lot”. According to The New York Times, “their plan was to build two luxury homes and make a killing. ‘The dirt alone,’ in the heart of the Arcadia neighborhood and in the shadows of Phoenix’s picturesque Camelback Mountain, ‘would be worth $1.2 to 1.4 million,’ Mr. Sells said.”

Hoffman and Sells paid $1.8 million for the property – which, the paper stresses, was $1 million less than Wright’s granddaughter sold the property for (date of that previous sale is not mentioned).

“They {Hoffman and Sells} felt the approval to divide the lot implied permission to demolish the house, which Wright had built for his son and daughter-in-law, David and Gladys…” A red plaque, signed by Wright, can be found near the front door:

At one point, in August, Sells and Hoffman HAD their demolition permit! By the end of September the city invalidated it, after Preservationists moved to protect the house, asking that it be given landmark status. “Mr. Sells, 50, a technology entrepreneur, said he had no idea of its significance, or of the difference ‘between Frank Lloyd Wright and the Wright brothers’.”

Preservationists have a tough job ahead: Arizona’s landmark status only applies for three years. If the house – which is back on the market – doesn’t find a buyer, Sells is quoted as saying that he’ll wait the three years, “‘Then I’m going to knock it down to recoup my losses.'”

Here’s some brief descriptions of the house – which, unless Federal Historic Preservationists get involved, may not grace the landscape much longer:

Priced at $2,379,000 (heaven forbid there’s no profit in five-months of ownership and a little oil dabbed on the woodwork), the Wright house features four-bedrooms (and four baths); it’s made of galvanized steel and concrete. Built in 1952, there are wood cabinets, shelves, sofas – all designed by Wright:

Join the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s online campaign
to save and protect the David Wright House.

click on photo to go to the Foundation.

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Read More:

Learn from another country’s past:

New York Times articles:

Watch these CBS News features:


10 Responses to "Commercialism endangers Frank Lloyd Wright home"

What a shame that someone does not know Frank Lloyd Wright’s work! This house was part of my 20th Century Art History Class when I was in college. I’m shocked that someone that has any connection to real estate does not know such a well reknowned architect & designer. Perhaps a class in architectural history and historic preservation is in order for these men.

I feel so sorry for the house. I know that sounds simple-minded, but that’s how it is. I live in Phx and I’m doing what I can to help on a small, community level, but these kinds of things are usually “saved” with deals in rooms I never have entered.

Hi, Nadine — WordPress ‘ate’ my original reply. Just wanted to say, let us know what happens with the Wright house down the road. We are CellularWindowShades are very interested in its fate (a couple of us have even signed the petition).

Hi CWS, It was announced on Wednesday that an anon buyer was found, but the City still isn’t making much of an inroad on voting for HP-L; politicians are trying to get re-elected by developers, so they are turning it into an “easement” issue, as to not make it look like the are voting against private property AND to not upset current owners who, as you know, have been threatening to bulldoze. Best guess on buyer is Moby, who would preserve it. Check out our blog on FB at “Save the David and Gladys Wright House” as it is current and informative. Sincerely, Nadine

Hi, Nadine — that IS wonderful news! Fingers crossed here.

Can you send a full URL for the blog? I find a couple of potential sites but am not sure I have the right website. I do find an announcement on!

Try this link. It’s our main blog for current info and rumours LOL!
Looks like tonight’s vote will be postponed until 5 December, but according to a couple info leaks, closing should actually happen next week, and vote will be on schedule to pass next month because the future/new owner wants that, too.

Ah… never thought FB=Facebook! (I’m dense, as I use it less than most).

Here I was just thinking that the vote was upcoming TONIGHT. Wonder why the delay? But if the “new” owner doesn’t mind that wait and will purchase no matter what, that would put this unpleasant ownership to one side.

New owner is still in escrow so technically not new owner yet. And politicians spin it another way (wish I “thought” like you message as I would have expressed it that way last night–since the owner is preservation-minded, why not have it already voted and set-up Hx for them) but like I said, politicians are pretending they want to discuss with future owner first because they want all their developers-citizen-voters to remember they are for property rights, not preservation.

Oops!! Didn’t proof the above post so there are typos. House in escrow, should close in 3 weeks to end of year.

[…] proponents had already moved to save the house from the wrecking ball. See our earlier post about the battle for the Wright House. News sources will be celebrating as word gets […]

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