Frank Lloyd Wright house: LAPC

On July 9th, I returned to Silverton, Oregon, to go on a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright house. When I think of simplicity in architecture, I think of Frank Lloyd Wright. I recently featured a view from the road of the Gordon House. Limited tours of the inside are available by reservation only.

Frank Lloyd Wright house

Tour of Frank Lloyd Wright House

Our 45-minute tour began in the great room. Walls of floor-to-ceiling glass doors flanked towering ceilings. They opened to allow a welcome cross breeze on this warm summer day. As in all Wright houses, a fireplace served as a focal point. Red concrete slabs with radiant heat covered the floors, and they made the walls from concrete blocks. Built-in cabinets, desks, and tables are in nearly every room.

Great room

The design featured the fretwork seen here on the interior and exterior of the house. One of the workers joked how he’d gone through all the router bits in the state cutting the house’s fretwork. That was long before laser cutters!


We saw how the vertical lines between the blocks were filled in, so the horizontal lines stood out as a design element. The cedar interior siding and blocks match up perfectly.

matching horizontal lines

Our guide gave us a brief history of Frank Lloyd Wright and of the Gordons, for whom the house was created. This house was designed in 1957 and built in 1964.

The Gordons & Frank Lloyd Wright

Conrad Gordon has an interesting background. From 1901 to 1910, he drove a stagecoach from California to Yellowstone National Park. After that, he became a soap salesperson, traveling throughout the West. While working at that job, he met Evelyn, whose father owned several laundromats. They soon wed. He tired of working as a salesperson and longed for his former cowboy way of life. They bought five hundred acres near Aurora (now Charbonneau) in Oregon, where they raised cattle and pigs.

Frank Lloyd Wright house

In the 1950s, Evelyn longed for a Frank Lloyd Wright house like the ones she’d seen in a magazine. They sold all but twenty-two acres of their land to help finance that dream. Conrad Gordon spoke with Wright while he visited his winter home in Scottsdale, Arizona, about designing a house for them. It was good timing, since Wright’s goal was to have one of his homes in every state. There wasn’t yet one in Oregon and the good rapport between the two men helped make this dream a reality.

The original estimate was $26,000, but the final bill was $55,000. This 2,133 sq ft house would be worth a lot in today’s real estate market.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) is widely known as the greatest architect of the 20th century. He rejected the Victorian box design, opting for strong horizontal lines, open floor plans, and complex partitions. Wright believed form and function should blend with the site. The 1936 Falling Water house in Pennsylvania reflected these design elements. He designed over 1,100 houses, businesses, churches, and other structures. Wright also designed furniture, lamps, art glass, dinnerware, silver, fabrics, graphic arts, and landscapes.

Frank Lloyd Wright house

The Gordon House

The Gordon House is one of the Usonian houses Wright designed for middle-income homeowners after the Great Depression. “Usonian” stood for “United States of North America.” They are simple, more economical designs. There were five basic designs for this house. Wright incorporated local materials into each of them. They constructed the Gordon House of Western red cedar, white oak, and Douglas fir.

I sat on a comfortable red banquette listening to our guide and learned why the seating was so comfy. Conrad Gordon told Wright that the seating he designed was uncomfortable. When Wright asked him what the most comfortable seating was for him, Gordon referred to the front seat of his pickup truck. Wright measured the back angle on the truck’s bench seat at 15 degrees. He brought the 15-degree angle to various parts of the house. For example, here’s the corner of the kitchen counter.

15 degree countertop

We also learned that Wright didn’t like clutter, and only included shelves above the banquette at Evelyn Gordon’s request.


Our guide had us pull away a cushion to reveal the type of hidden shelving that Wright preferred. Another cabinet held a stereo with slots for records.

Hidden storage

The Kitchen

Our tour group’s first stop was the kitchen. Since Evelyn Gordon was not big on entertainment, they tucked the kitchen into a small space with a two-foot-wide door opening. Though the great room has soaring ceilings, the rest of the rooms, except the kitchen, have six-foot nine-inch ceilings. The skylight gives the enclosed space more light.

kitchen ceiling skylight

The simple lines of Wright’s architectural style continue into the kitchen.

Red is not the first color you think of for a kitchen, but it adds warmth and depth to this small room. Accents included small appliances from the time. Tiny details, like covering the refrigerator door with matching wood, were ahead of their time.

Frank Lloyd Wright house

The homeowner requested an incinerator. Dropping garbage into a small hatch in the hallway sent it to the incinerator in the basement.


The office was the next room. The custom-made desk included a 15-degree angle on its top surface and legs. Shallow shelves lined one wall.

The adjoining bathroom was small, but efficient.

Upstairs in Frank Lloyd Wright house

We continued the tour upstairs. We went into a bedroom that had wonderful views of the landscape. Like the great room downstairs, the glass doors opened to allow good airflow.

Floor to ceiling glass

It had a small deck. The closet had a top window with the same fretwork seen throughout the house.

Frank lloyd Wright house

There was a larger bathroom upstairs. Notice the circular shower curtain track on the ceiling, something I’ve considered. Another thing our guide pointed out was the vanity. It’s much shallower than today’s cabinets.


We passed a small nook at the top of the stairs where Evelyn Gordon kept her portable weaving loom. She sometimes moved it to the porch by the bedroom. We entered another upstairs room briefly, then headed downstairs.

Our last stop was the primary bedroom. It is being furnished with furniture similar to the original pieces. Evelyn Gordon preferred a cave-like bedroom, so this room isn’t lined with windows. This is where we watched a video about the house.

Frank Lloyd Wright house

Moving the house

A unique thing about this house is that they moved it from Charbonneau to Silverton to preserve it. Conrad passed away in 1979, and Evelyn lived in the house until her death in 1997. The national Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy expressed an interest in this house after the new owners planned to demolish it.

The Oregon Garden Society, with help from the City of Silverton, proposed taking charge of moving and reinstalling the house. They moved Gordon House twenty-four miles to the south. They had to move it within 90 days. It reminded me of the enormous effort put into moving the Spruce Goose aircraft from California to Oregon mentioned in another post.

In January 2001, they moved the upper story of the Gordon House in one section, while they broke the rest down into smaller sections. Since the concrete slab floor couldn’t be moved, local concrete workers had to match the red color and texture. The concrete block walls also had to be recreated. I was impressed by the architecture of the house, but also how a crew of people working together reassembled it. The Gordon House opened to the public in 2002. In 2004, it was recognized as an Oregon State Architectural Treasure and listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

A Musical Interlude

When I finished the tour, I found it difficult to leave, even though another group was waiting for their tour to begin.

piano player

A young man in my group asked to play the piano. His impromptu performance capped off the tour of this special place.

I walked around the outside of the building, noticing how it looked beautiful from every angle. In its original location, the Willamette River meandered past one side, while Mount Hood stood on the other. Old growth white oaks now surround the home that was nearly demolished. The stand of stately oaks and the Gordon House preserve elements of nature important to us all.

Frank Lloyd Wright house

More Info

Tours run from March 1st through November 25th and cost $20. Staying overnight in the house costs $599. You can also rent the house for weddings and events. See the Gordon House Conservancy website for more details.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Simplicity

19 thoughts on “Frank Lloyd Wright house: LAPC

  1. Your description of the Frank Lloyd Wright home is perfect. Thank you for sharing your experience. Brings back memories when i toured the house.

  2. Great tour Siobhan. Wright truly was a master and it’s so great they preserved this one. I can imagine how glorious it’s original location must have been!

  3. What a fantastic tour of a fantastic architect. And it is a beautiful location. I love his vision and have visiting his school in Scottsdale. A must if you ever get down here. Yes, simplicity, minimalism at its finest. thank you for sharing this amazing work, and yes, the piano player took it to the next level.

    • Thanks, Donna. It’s the only house designed by him that I’ve seen in person. I’ll keep that in mind if I ever get down to Arizona. Loved the impromptu piano!

  4. I liked the way you took us on this trip, Siobhan, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
    Interior cedar siding and blocks are captivating.
    I’m glad you appreciated the spontaneous piano performance. All of the photographs highlight the simplicity of the Frank Lloyd Wright house, and I adore the architectural style.
    Thank you very much for these wonderful photographs!

    • Thank you! 😁 I thought it fit so well with the prompt, so I put that post together really fast. It’s a simple and efficient architectural style.

  5. Ah, I was hoping you’d go back and take us inside! I love the blend of simplicity with clever detailing 😮 I’m hoping to see some Frank Lloyd Wright buildings myself when I visit Chicago in September, so it will be interesting to compare them with this one.

    • Yes, I was eager to see the inside after reading more about it. I loved all the wood! I’ll be curious to see how the Chicago one compares.

  6. Thanks for taking us along on your Wright tour – think I mentioned before that my wife and I are huge fans and try to visit as many of his projects as we can whenever we are traveling.

    • Yes, I was hoping you’d see this post. It’s the only one I’ve ever seen. You and your wife are lucky to have seen more. It was beautiful!

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