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Friday, October 22, 2010

Frank Lloyd Wright's Nathan Rubin House, A Hidden Jewel

If you don't know that the Nathan Rubin house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the 20th century's premier architect in this county, is located at the corner of 44th and Frazer, in Canton, you'll drive right by.

The house, designed by Wright for Dr. Nathan Rubin and his wife Jean, in 1950, during what is known as the Usonion period, is almost entirely surrounded by trees and hedges, the only exceptions are two driveway openings. The Rubin house, built in 1951, was the first of three houses Wright designed for residents of Canton.

I had an opportunity to interview Jean Rubin in 2008, she was 86-years-old at the time, just a few months before she passed away.

The Rubins, Jean noted, met Wright at his home in Spring Green, Wisconsin, Taliesin, in 1950. According to Jean, many of the things most often heard about the architect are inaccurate.

“He’s been depicted as being very difficult, of not allowing input from his clients,” she said. When Wright met with her and Dr. Rubin, Jean told me, he had them explain the structure of their family, how many children they had and what they liked to do.

“Mr. Wright soaked it all up, assimilated it and decided what we should have,” Jean said.

Of the house Wright designed, Jean said, “It was marvelous beyond my imagination. It’s indescribable beyond the bricks and stone. I’ve lived in it for over 50 years and it’s more astounding every day.”

 It wasn't unusual for Jean to find fans of Wright knocking at her door. When I first visited, years before our interview, she was kind enough to invite me in for a look at the house.

“People show up at the door. Whenever possible I let them see at least part of the house,” she said. “I enjoy it when they appreciate the house.” Some, she added, come just out of curiosity.

Comfortable is the word Jean used to describe her house. “It’s not for show and it’s not meant to impress,” she said. According to Jean, “You feel harmony and peace” in the house.

Jean addressed two more commonly held beliefs about Wright; that his houses were expensive and that he went over budget.

“We found out that he didn’t charge any more than local architects,” she said, adding “He saw to it that we did not exceed our budget. He was more concerned about it than the local architects we spoke to.”

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