Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959), the American architect famous for his Prairie Style, designed—or at least is credited with designing—four houses in Mississippi. Two of the houses were totally destroyed by hurricanes, while two have been restored.
The first bungalow in Ocean Springs (1890) was designed for Wright’s employer and mentor, Louis Sullivan. Sullivan wanted a summer home next door to his friends, Helen and James Charnley, who transferred some of their land to him in exchange for house plans. While there are conflicting accounts regarding who designed both the Sullivan and Charnley properties, the general thought is that Wright, who was a junior architect in the firm of Sullivan and Adler, did the drafting for both Ocean Springs properties.
The Sullivan house was a traditional dogtrot house, with bedrooms on either side of a central living room and a porch across the front, facing Davis Bayou. The stable, demolished in 1942, was a smaller version of the main house. Some renovations throughout the years altered the main structure, but a full restoration in the 1980s brought the bungalow back to its original state. On 30 August 2005, however, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the main house, leaving only a chimney.
The three James Charnley buildings next door (1890) included a main bungalow, a guesthouse, and a stable cottage. The bungalow was similar in plan to Sullivan’s, though larger and more detailed. The guesthouse and stable cottage repeated the octagonal detailing found in each corner of the main bungalow. Hurricane Katrina knocked the Charnley bungalow off its foundation, caved in part of the roof, and destroyed the porch and front doors. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, the Mississippi Heritage Trust, and the City of Ocean Springs have worked together to restore the house, which the State of Mississippi purchased for $1.4 million in 2011. In 2014 it received the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s Heritage Award for Preservation Education and the Trustees Award for Exemplary Restoration of a Mississippi Landmark, and it opened to the public in September 2015.
The J. Willis Hughes Residence, also known as Fountainhead, was built in 1948 and is located in Jackson’s Woodland Hills neighborhood. By 1948 Wright’s work had evolved into the recognizable modern style for which he was known, and Fountainhead has many Wright hallmarks. The building features concrete walls, a slab floor, and cypress paneling throughout the interior. Its most distinctive feature, aside from its angles and copper roof partially hidden below street level, is the bedroom wing, which ends with a wall of windows looking out onto the fountain that cascades into the wading pool below. After falling into disrepair, the house was entirely restored by Jackson architect Robert Parker Adams, and since 1980 it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The last Wright-designed house in Mississippi was the Welbie L. Fuller residence in Pass Christian (1951). This large, modern house had many unusual features, such as a post-and-panel structure and exposed asbestos panels for walls and ceilings. It also featured heart pine floors on two of the three floors, copper flashing, and Wright-designed furnishings throughout. On 17 August 1969 Hurricane Camille demolished the structure.
- “Charnley-Norwood House to Open for Tours” (2 September 2015), http://www.dmr.ms.gov/index.php/news-a-events/recent-news/826–15–59-mms
- Michael Martinez and Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune (8 September 2005)
- Mississippi Heritage Trust website, www.mississippiheritage.com
- William Allin Storrer, The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Complete Catalog (1979)
- William Allin Storrer, The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion (1993)