“These homes are his approach for designing modern and modernist homes that are affordable for middle-class families,” says Jason Trimmer, curator of education at the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College. The simple floor plans and the use of local materials made the homes affordable.
The Weltzheimer/Johnson home in Oberlin was the first Usonian home in Ohio. Now owned by Oberlin College, the home was commissioned in 1947 by Mr. and Mrs. Weltzheimer of East Cleveland, a couple who had followed Wright’s work over the years. The affordable design fit well in their initial $15,000 budget, although costs increased to $50,000. A large expense was due to a change in wood — Wright had specified red cypress, but Californian redwood was used due to a shortage after World War II.
After some restoration through the years the home is now nearly back to its original state, and visitors can experience Wright’s initial vision from April through November. Trimmer says guests can cozy up on the furniture, survey the closet space, browse through books on the built-in bookshelves — a design request of Mrs. Weltzheimer — and play favorite tunes on the piano. He says most folks’ favorite room is the small, low-ceilinged bedroom at the end of the house, designed for the Weltzheimer’s teenage daughter, who requested a compact space. “There is a beautiful view and a nice feel,” says Trimmer of the wood and glass bedroom.