Crystal Bridges:Bachman-Wilson House by Frank Lloyd Wright

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An affordable Frank Lloyd Wright home? That was the goal of the “Usonian home,” a design concept born during the Great Depression. Wright chose Usonian as an abbreviation of “United States of North America” and he envisioned these homes as a way to make good design available to the American middle class.

Between 1936 and 1959 about 60 Usonian homes were built by Wright or his apprentices. Usonian homes were delivered in shipping containers to be assembled by third party contractors. Detailed blueprints provided guidance in the construction.

Below is a copy of the letter requesting the commission of this house. I like its directness, beginning with “Would you build a home for us?” and concluding, “Please say ‘yes’ Mr. Wright.”

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The back of the home and living areas face southwest and open to the outdoors by way of extensive glass walls and doors. This side of the home would have faced the Millstone River in its original New Jersey location. At Crystal Bridges, it faces Crystal Spring hollow.

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From a nearby hiking trail you get this view looking down on the front of the home.

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Students in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design built the Interpretive Pavilion that serves as a transitional and informational entrance to the Bachman-Wilson House. A Crystal Bridges blog post and video provides an overview on how this was done.

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Notice the unobtrusive front door and limited windows on the front side of the home. Wright used limited openings on the front to increase privacy.

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The mahogany and glass clerestory windows increase natural light. These windows break up the cinderblock walls and form a band around the house below the ceiling. Clerestory windows and two narrow front entrance windows were the only openings to the front of the house. Wright modeled this window design on wing-shaped sycamore tree seeds.

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Crystal Spring is in the hollow just downhill from the back side of the Bachman-Wilson House. The spring flows from the base of a rock just behind the rock bridge above this cascade. Nice backyard!

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Our self-guided tour of the Bachman-Wilson House was at 5:30 p.m. Tickets were required to limit the number of visitors. Ordering free tickets online was easy.

It was a treat to see 1950s appliances, the fireplace, and living areas. I was impressed by a very narrow hallway that connected the living area to a work area next to the carport. The space saved from the hallway was added space for the kitchen.

Disassembling, labeling, shipping, and reassembling this house on its new site is another story. On my last visit to Crystal Bridges, the house was under construction. I can’t comprehend the complexity of this project. The builders had the original blueprints available but had to compensate for minor adjustments the original contractors made in construction.

Several times during our tour I reached compulsively for the camera on my belt, but I followed the rules and resisted indoor photos. As I walked through this structure, I felt thankful that it now stands in this Arkansas location where it will be maintained and protected for future generations.

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After our self-guided tour inside of the Bachman-Wilson House, we paused on the trail for one last view of Chrystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Already a wonderful place, Crystal Bridges is now even more special with the addition of the Bachman-Wilson House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

My wife, oldest daughter, and I made the short walk back to the parking lot and then began the easy task of finding a nearby restaurant before making the drive back to Alma.

If you want to see more about the trails of Crystal Springs, have a look at this post from last April.

The Art Trail

The Art Trail

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art From the Trails

Yield, by Roxy Paine, 2011  Entrance to Crystal Bridges

Yield, by Roxy Paine, 2011
Entrance to Crystal Bridges

How many times have you enjoyed a 3-mile hike followed by lunch at the trailhead and an afternoon walk through a world-class art museum? Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a museum of international fame, offers this possibility. As an added bonus, the trailhead is located in the city of Bentonville, Arkansas, and a mere five minutes from Interstate 49.

Crystal Bridges

Crystal Bridges viewed from above.

Don’t let the ease of access scare you. The multi-use trails around Crystal Bridges pass through some beautiful Arkansas woods and offer a true hiking or mountain biking experience. You also have the advantage of customizing your route to fit your mileage needs. Many visit Crystal Bridges without realizing what the trails have to offer. It’s helpful to view the trails as a continuation of the museum from inside to outside where you’ll find nature’s artwork and occasional sculptures on display.

Prior to my hike, I enjoyed plotting my route on the beautiful map offered at the museum. I covered most of the trails, leaving only a section of the Dogwood Trail to add on my next visit. I designated the museum entrance as my “trailhead” since the Orchard Trail begins there and fit well within my route. Other locations around the museum provide access to the trails.

The Art Trail

The Art Trail

You will be sharing the trail with many walkers and cyclists, but I found everyone to be courteous in sharing the trail. I also enjoyed hearing various languages and accents as Crystal Bridges attracts visitors from many cultures. Some travel great distances to see the museum. Some trails are paved, and others are a firm gravel surface. All trails are in excellent condition and built to take the heavy traffic.

Crystal Spring

Crystal Spring

Early in my walk, I crossed Crystal Spring. A small stone bridge allows you to walk over the spring. A Frank Lloyd House, (Bachman Wilson House, 1954) has been disassembled and was being reassembled during my visit with an estimated competition date within a few months. This will add a wonderful opportunity for visitors when completed.

Crystal Bridges as viewed from the trail.

Crystal Bridges as viewed from the trail.

Architecture alone justifies a visit to Chrystal Bridges! Here’s a view of the museum from an overlook next to the 1-mile Crystal Bridges Trail on the west side of the museum. My route allowed me to loop around the museum and see it from all sides, passing the North Lawn. If I’d had more time, a nap there would be a treat!

Crystal Bridges North Lawn

Crystal Bridges North Lawn

Tulip Tree Shelter

Tulip Tree Shelter

Shelters are functional works of art at Crystal Bridges. Great places to relax and take in the surrounding beauty.

Rock Ledge Shelter

Rock Ledge Shelter

One of many bridges

One of many bridges

My route looped around the east of the museum using the Rock Ledge Trail. This ledge was carved out for a railroad line that was never completed so it makes a nice walking path and only allows foot traffic. I then intersected with the Orchard Trail at the southeast corner of the properties and returned to the museum entrance for a 3.1-mile hike.

After your hike, you might enjoy an icy glass of tea and sandwich followed by a walk through Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to my next visit! The trails of Crystal Bridges should be on the “must do” list of every Arkansan!

Crystal Bridges Cafe

Crystal Bridges Cafe

Food and hydration available at the “trailhead.”

Ceiling of the cafe

Ceiling of the cafe