- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2000

Loren Pope served during World War II as a national news editor for Washington's Evening Star, a position that had him juggling the latest dispatches from the war front.
After work, "the adrenalin would still be flowing," says Mr. Pope, who still retains an editor's eye for detail.
To unwind after a long day at the typewriter, he didn't need a favorite chair or after-work beverage. He simply descended the steps into his Falls Church, Va., home, a marvel of simplicity designed by the late Frank Lloyd Wright at Mr. Pope's behest.
"I'd walk five steps into my cathedral, and the tension would dissolve," he says of the unpretentious dwelling. "Winston Churchill once wrote, 'First, we shape our buildings, then they shape us.' I never new how true that was."
Mr. Pope will be on hand June 8 to celebrate the birth of Wright, arguably the greatest American architect of the 20th century.
The program, "An Evening With Frank Lloyd Wright," will be held at the Pope-Leighey House at the Woodlawn National Trust in Mount Vernon, the only Wright home open in the metropolitan area and one of only a few remaining Usonian houses that still welcome visitors. Usonian refers to a home built for a moderate price that features radiant heating hot-water pipes placed in the cement slab floors among its innovations.
Lyman Shepard, an architectural historian and seasoned Wright impersonator, will perform in character as part of the celebration.
Mr. Pope sold his original Wright creation more than five decades ago, but his ties to the building endure. His wedding band contains the same geometric patterns that encircle the home and parts of its interior. His memories of the house remain as fresh as the architecture itself.
Mr. Pope first became enthralled with Wright's work while thumbing through the artist's writing, which included his autobiography.
"Wright, to me, was an epiphany," Mr. Pope says. "He believed in being your own man … truth against the world. He would have been a great man even if he had never built a building."
Mr. Pope wrote to his architectural hero in August 1939 and asked if Wright would design a home for him. The letter praised the architect's work so highly it would have been hard for anyone, let alone someone with Wright's elephantine ego, to refuse, Mr. Pope says.
Sure enough, a buff-colored envelope with a red square in the corner signifying Mr. Wright's firm soon arrived in Mr. Pope's mailbox accepting the assignment.
Mr. Pope, whose employer lent him the bulk of the money for the home, gave no input into the finished product, save a budgetary outline.
"If you hired Mozart to write a symphony, you didn't tell him how to do it," he says. The final product, which was finished in 1941 for about $7,000, met all of his lofty expectations.
"This is a work of art to live in for people of moderate means," he says. "True elegance isn't a function of size or cost."
When the sawdust settled, Mr. Pope had more than just an elegant new home. He had a friendship with its creator. The two kept in contact through the years and even discussed working together on a second home project.
Mr. Pope acknowledges that Wright's reputation was a bit foul.
"But to me, he was the most charming person I've ever known, also the smartest," he says.
Career changes, however, forced Mr. Pope to sell the house in 1946 to the Leighey family for $17,000.
"When the moving van was outside, I sat on the fireplace knob and wept," he says.
The home was relocated at the Leigheys' request to the Woodlawn grounds in 1964 to spare it from the Interstate 66 road project.
Today the building squats in the center of a modest clearing, with wooded slopes surrounding its quiet bulk. The home's faded wood exterior still gives off an immovable presence, perhaps because of the way it efficiently hugs the earth.
Though modest in size, the sleek, 1,200-square-foot house bears Wright's fingerprints throughout, down to the eclectic furnishings.

That iconoclastic spirit is mirrored in Mr. Shepard's impression of the architect, a 55-minute performance that includes 80 slides of Wright's masterworks.
Mr. Shepard lives in Oak Park, Ill., the town with the largest concentration 33 buildings of Wright's work.
"He was an amazing man," says Mr. Shepard, who first assumed Wright's persona 26 years ago as a board member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Foundation. "He designed everything from small buildings to exotic buildings in Japan." Wright died in 1959 at 92.
Mr. Shepard began performing what he calls an "impression" of Wright's life before Rotary clubs and professional groups. Now he assumes the exotic garb and outsized persona of Wright across the globe, from Washington to Sydney, Australia.
Wright had a "tumultuous career," including three marriages and an extended period in which the public shrank from his work.
"He wore costumes, not clothing. It was more dramatic. It accentuated his personality," says Mr. Shepard, who dons a porkpie hat and flowing cloak as part of his regalia.
"He loved celebrity … he was a character all the way around."
Yet Wright's dramatic flair hid a more pragmatic side, particularly when it came to education.
"He was a big believer in learning practical things in a practical way," Mr. Shepard says.
The presentation offers a warts-and-all approach to Wright's legacy.
"I focus on what he did and the problems he accumulated," Mr. Shepard says. "He never did things in a simple way."
The Headquarters Gallery of the American Institute of Architects joins in the birthday spirit with "A Way of Life: An Apprenticeship With Frank Lloyd Wright, 1948-49," on view through June 23.
The display features 57 color photographs taken by Lori Davidson Gottlieb, who served as Wright's apprentice for two years. The gallery is at 1735 New York Ave. NW.

WHAT: "An Evening With Frank Lloyd Wright"
WHERE: Pope-Leighey House, Woodlawn National Trust, 9000 Richmond Highway, Mount Vernon
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 8. Reception and presentation by Wright impersonator Lyman Shepard at 6:30 p.m.
CHARGE: Free admission to Pope-Leighey House during the day. Two admission plans are available for the 6:30 p.m. reception: Art patrons who donate $200 toward the Pope-Leighey home will receive special acknowledgments and a gift, while regular tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for college-age students.

PHONE: For reservations, call 703/780-4000
WHAT: "A Way of Life: An Apprenticeship With Frank Lloyd Wright, 1948-49," 57 color photographs by Lori Davidson Gottlieb
WHERE: Headquarters Gallery of the American Institute of Architects, 1735 New York Ave. NW
WHEN: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays through June 23
CHARGE: Free
PHONE: 202/626-7387

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