Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Rosenbaum Usonian home

We recently took a long road vacation to Florida and parts in between. On the way back home, we made a detour to Florence, Alabama to visit the Rosenbaum residence.

This Usonian home was purchase and restored by the city of Florence and is now open to the public for guided tours. Our tour was led by a very knowledgeable docent and lasted approximately 1 hour.

The home is located in Florence  near the hospital. The land and $7500 was given to Stanley Rosenbaum and his wife Mildred by his parents in 1938. Stanley and Mildred wanted a modern home. An architect friend suggested they contact Frank Lloyd Wright to design it. Their friend, Aaron Green, later became an apprentice of Wright and then had a successful practice in San Francisco.

The home is very typical Usonian. Rather modest dimensions, beautiful materials, flat roof and lots of windows. As typical with Wright, the budget of $7500 proved inadequate. The home cost $14,000 to build.

The Rosenbaum home is beautiful. It is beautiful from the outside as well as from the inside. It feels very comfortable even though the the size of the rooms are small by today's standards. As typical with Wright's Usonian designs, the doors and hallways are narrow in part due to his grid system of design. But, they are passable for most people, just not we are accustomed to.

The bathrooms are also small but still functional. The original kitchen on the other hand was far too small even in 1940. All in all, it is a beautiful little home.

I am in the process of designing a Usonian style home. The design is an L shape like many Usonian homes and like the Rosenbaum home. I have liked the L shaped design for many years, ever since I visited my first Usonian in Oberlin, Ohio, the Weltzheimer residence. There is something about the livability of this layout that I like; how each main room in the home has large windows and doors that open onto a common exterior space.

Yes, this layout is not particularly material or energy efficient, too many exterior walls because of the shape leading to higher material costs and reduced energy efficiency. However, the small size can help to offset some of the added expense. I consider quality of life or livability a fair trade for the added energy costs of such a design.

Usonians also benefited from the quality and beauty of the materials used in their construction. I liken them more to a jewel box than a home. It is not practical to build a modern Usonian style home today using the same materials, or not at least on a budget that most people could support. I will write more on alternative material choices in another blog entry.

Anyway, if you happen to be near norther Alabama, you might want to consider taking a short detour and visit the Rosenbaum residence, you won't be disappointed.


  1. Any chance that your usonian plan will be posted once done?

  2. I am sure I will publish some of the plan. Most likely the floorplan and a couple elevation views. But it will be a while as I have been too busy with new custom designs to do any work on much else.