- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2004

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — An 88-year-old beach house designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright came tumbling down last week to make way for a four-bedroom home with a two-car garage.

The last Wright structure to have been demolished before this was the Arthur Munkwitz Apartments in Milwaukee in 1973.

From its wind-stripped shingles to an embarrassing overgrowth of weeds and bramble, the erstwhile beach house on Lake Michigan’s shore did little to declare itself a creation of the architectural luminary.

Although there are those who maintain that the ramshackle summer cottage in the village of Grand Beach was beyond meaningful repair, to destroy it was akin to shredding a sketch or lesser work of a great painter, said Ron Scherubel, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. The group saved one of Mr. Wright’s prefabricated homes in April.

“You want to preserve the entire body of work of a great artist,” said Mr. Scherubel, adding that his group would have fought the demolition had it known of the plans. Although rumors had swirled about the property changing hands, the conservancy didn’t hear about the demolition plans until after they were carried out Nov. 8.

Given some warning, Mr. Scherubel said, he would have tried to talk the new owners into other options, such as renovating or moving the home.

Grand Beach issued a demolition permit to Thomas and Irene Trainor of suburban Chicago on Oct. 28, said John Boden Jr., the building and zoning commissioner of the southwestern Michigan village just north of the Indiana state line.

The new place isn’t “going to be a big, giant house,” Mr. Boden said. “It’s going to fit in nice.”

About 350 of the 400 Wright-designed homes remain. Some have been lost to fire or natural disasters, while others, such as the Grand Beach summer cottage built for someone named W.S. Carr, have been demolished. Over the years, several changes were made to the Carr house, and it fell into disrepair.

Mr. Boden, a carpenter who has restored old homes, said it would have been very costly and time-consuming to restore the Carr home. There also were other factors to consider.

“A Frank Lloyd Wright house, to me, is not the most energy-efficient home to have along the lake here,” Mr. Boden said. “You get that wind howling down the lake in the winter and it gets rough on a house.”

Mr. Scherubel agreed that it would have been a major renovation.

“It was in pretty bad shape,” he said. “It would have taken somebody with a real commitment and interest in restoring it to have put the time and effort into it.”

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