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New Frank Lloyd Wright house adds beauty and bucks | News

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New Frank Lloyd Wright house adds beauty and bucks

Lakeland, Florida -- There are a dozen buildings at Florida Southern College from one of the great minds America's ever produced, Frank Lloyd Wright. 

And they've just dusted off 75-year-old blueprints from the architect to add another. It's the college's first new Wright structure in 55 years and it opens Friday.

Photos: New Frank Lloyd Wright house under construction

Colorful light streams in through small squares of stained glass set into the sand-colored walls, as the great room opens to the world through a row of french doors.

Built-in furniture -- amber-colored wooden tables, benches, and bookshelves -- flow right from the walls, just as they flowed from Frank Lloyd Wright's mind.

The low-to-the-ground home is formed from nearly 2,000 wide, short concrete blocks. The "textile blocks" all fit and lock into place with no mortar to hold them together.

Wright called this a "Usonian house." He designed it as a home for a professor, but because of the Great Depression and World War II, it wasn't built until now.

"We want to have a place where tourists can come, learn about Wright, his significance in the world of American architecture -- if not worldwide architecture -- and to get a great tour," said Florida Southern College's Rob Tate.

As a visitor center, this old home is a new face for Tampa Bay tourism.

Legoland Florida opened nearby two years ago with a promise to make Polk County more than just a day-trip from Orlando. The goal was boosting the area as a cultural and family destination of its own, with tourism dollars coming here, too. And the folks at Florida Southern College say it's happening.

"Currently, we have about 30,000 visitors who come from around the world each year to tour this amazing campus," Tate said.

"We feel with the advent of the Usonian house and the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center on campus, and some strategic marketing, we can quickly grow those numbers to 100,000 a year."

That translates into jobs and revenue for Lakeland and other communities nearby. "Economic impact, direct local spending, will be almost $10 million," Tate said.

The area's attractions are linking up, building on each other, and growing -- just like the blocks that join together to create Wright's ahead-of-its-time Usonian house.

When it opens Friday, the house will become the first Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building built on an original site for an original client in nearly 50 years.

After that, the house and its Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center will be open every day, so you can come see it and the rest of Florida Southern College's impressive Frank Lloyd Wright campus yourself.


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