A Curiosity in the Wright Archives

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2017)

I saw something curious in the archive of Frank Lloyd Wright presentation and construction drawings at the Avery Architectural Fine Arts Library at Columbia University while doing research there early this week. I had never run across a cost estimate on one of Wright’s presentation drawings before. The estimate is smack in the middle of one of the drawings for the Stephen A. Foster Cottage and Barn (1900) on Chicago’s south side. The estimate for $3500 is equivalent to about $103,000 today. The website I use for cost comparisons is:



Foster 2.jpg(c) 2017 The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

Foster House 001.jpg

I was interested in looking at the Foster file because the house slightly predates the commission for Fred B. Jones (Penwern) on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin which I am writing about. The Foster “Cottage” and three of the four buildings Wright designed for Jones have flared or raised ridge rooflines, thought to be a Japanese design influence.

Perhaps it was not uncommon to have a cost estimate on a drawing, but this was the first time I had seen one. Incidentally,  isn’t a fact that Wright never brought buildings in over his initial cost estimate, or am I mistaken?

6 thoughts on “A Curiosity in the Wright Archives

  1. Interesting article Mark. As an architect, I can tell you that square footage estimates are very unreliable. They typically only work for builder’s spec homes, especially if one design is being repeated. My professional opinion puts that house construction at about $500K today!

  2. Hi Mark,
    Fantastic research. Unfortunately, this cottage doesn’t get the attention as other Chicago Wright designed homes. I wonder if there were more like this style and material usage…?

    • The flared or raised roof ridge lines, a Japanese touch, are of particular interest to me because they are on three of the four buildings on the Fred B. Jones estate on Delavan Lake (Penwern) which I am writing a book about. They are also on the Bradley and Hickox houses in Kankakee. See http://www.penwern.com

  3. Did you happen to get any full size scans of these plans? I am doing research on this house specifically and would love to be able to have some larger scale copies for reference. I am going to get in touch with the Avery library as well, but wanted to reach out to you because of this post. Thanks for posting this information.

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