Henry J. Allen House

Added by Jennifer Whisenhunt, last update: August 17, 2012, 12:44 pm

Henry J. Allen House
Photo: North view of the Henry J. Allen House , source: Randy Whisenhunt, date: 26 March 2012
Location
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Residential (RES)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

National Register of Historic Places (1973)

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Wichita, Kansas residence in 1915 for Henry J. Allen, one of Kansas' most influential twentieth-century statesmen. The Allen family moved in after construction finished in 1919 and lived in the house until the late 1940s.

Dates: Commission / Completion:Commission: 1915, Completion: 1919
Architectural and other Designer(s): Frank Lloyd Wright
Others associated with Building/Site: George M. Niedecken (furniture), Henry J. and Elsie J. Allen (1915-1947), Edgar H. Adair, Arthur W. Kincade, Wichita State University Endowment Association, Allen-Lambe House Foundation (1990-present)
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): Unaltered
Current Use: Today the house is maintained by the Allen-Lambe House Foundation as a house museum.
Current Condition: Good: The house underwent an extensive restoration project in the 1970s and the garden was restored in 2010.
General Description:

The Henry J. Allen house is an L-shaped two-story structure with a basement. This large Prairie style residence designed by Frank Lloyd Wright measures approximately 125' long east to west while the one-story north-south wing is about 90' long. There is a courtyard on the north side of the main section of the house, which is enclosed by the building on the south and east, by a garden teahouse on the west, and by a massive brick wall on the north. -NRHP Nomination Form

The house is located in the northeast portion of Wichita, Kansas and still sits on its original site of approximately one acre of flat land in a residential neighborhood. The house is revered within the Wright World for being one of his last examples of the Prairie style, and as having influences from his Imperial Hotel, as seen in the curved roof lines, and his Usonian houses, as seen in the concrete blocks in the front of the house.

Construction Period:

1917-1919

Original Physical Context:

Still on original site. The house, located in the northeast portion of Wichita, Kansas, was built on approximately one acre of flat land in a residential neighborhood. Designed as a part of the total environment, the backyard courtyard area boasts a rectangular pool and plants.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

The exterior walls are built of yellow-buff brick laid with the vertical joints cut flush and the horizontal joints deeply raked, typical of the Prairie Style. Ornamental stone trim is used extensively throughout the building, especially for column bases, window sills and planter boxes. Brick pilasters are used to separate each window or door opening. The roof features broad overhangs and a low-pitch, hip style covered with massive red-clay tiles. The casement windows are rectangular with brown painted wood frames. -NRHP Nomination Form

Social:

The house’s social history comes into play in the context of local and state politics. The house was originally designed for prominent statesman Henry J. Allen who became the Kansas governor from 1919-1923. He then went on to serve as a United States senator from 1929-1930 to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Charles Curtis. Before his stint in politics, Allen was known as a newspaper mogul, buying multiple papers such as the Salina Republican (later the Salina Journal), Manhattan Nationalist, Ottawa Herald and Wichita Beacon. As a prominent social and political entity in Wichita, Allen most likely would have been aware of how Wright was transforming the American household and understood how associating with Wright's progressive idea's would advance his career and political goals in the social realm of the city.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
Known as the last Prairie-Style house designed by Wright, the building speaks to his unique horizontal aesthetic, as seen in the roof, brick work and window and furniture details. The house was built during a transitional period, not only for the United States as the nation entered World War I in 1917, but also for Wright and Allen individually. Wright was in the midst of designing and building the Imperial Hotel in Japan while Allen was running a bustling newspaper business only to soon become the governor of Kansas in 1919. The Allen House is thought to be the last Prairie style design of Wright's career and embodies the ideals of a "democratic architecture" for America. There are three main characteristics seen in the exterior that link this house to the design aesthetics of the Prairie style: the brick work, the window placement and the roof design.
Historical:

The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1973 for its association with Frank Lloyd Wright and Henry J. Allen. These relations and the fact that this is the only Wright designed house in Kansas give historical importance to the building. The building is also the only house museum in Wichita.The Allen House is not only Wright's last statement of Prairie style architecture, acting as a transition piece between Prairie style, Usonian and Japanese influences, but it is also a symbol of an architectural democratic movement that began when Wright began to question the "classic" architecture expressed in countless homes across America.

General Assessment:
The Henry J. Allen house is a combination of the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie-Style and a local political celebrity. The house is in great condition and is being maintained by the Allen-Lambe House Foundation however; it is only open for tours by appointment booked ten days in advance and no photography is permitted inside. The Allen House is of great importance to Kansas and should be more accessible for the local residents to enjoy.
Documentation
Text references:

City of Wichita. Wichita's History at a Glance. 2012. Web. .
Connelley, William. Kansas. Kansas State Historical Society and Department of Archives. History of Kansas Newspapers: A History of the Newspapers and MagazinesPublished in Kansas from the Organization of Kansas Territory, 1854, to January 1,1916. Topeka: Kansas State Printing Plant, 1916. Web. .
Frank Lloyd Wright's Allen-Lambe House. The Allen-Lambe House Foundation, 10 July 2008. Web. 20 Feb 2012. .
Hall, Charles, and Richard Pankratz. United States. Kansas State Historical Society. National Register of Historic Places- Nomination Form. 1973. Web. .
Huxtable, Ada Louise. Frank Lloyd Wright. New York City: Lipper/Vicking, 2004. Print.
Kansas. Kansas State Historical Society. Henry J. Allen. 2009. Web. .
Kansas. Kansas State Historical Society. Henry J. Allen House. 2012. Web. .
"Kansas Museums." Blue Skyways. State Library of Kansas. Web. 21 Feb 2012. .
Legler, Dixie. Prairie Style : Houses and Gardens by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie
School. New York City: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1999. Print.
United States. United States Congress. Henry Justin Allen (1868-1950). Web. .
Wright, Frank Lloyd. An Organic Architecture: The Architecture of Democracy. Cambridge:
MIT Press, 1970, c1939. Print.
Yount, Lori. "Architect's Grandson Visits Rare Open House." Wichita Eagle [Wichita] 09 May 2010, n. pag. Web. 21 Feb. 2012. .

Authoring
Recorder/Date: Jennifer Whisenhunt | jlw2195@columbia.edu | 12 May 2012
Additional Images
Henry J. Allen House
Photo: South view of the Henry J. Allen House , Source: Randy Whisenhunt, date: 26 March 2012
Henry J. Allen House
Photo: Window detail of the Henry J. Allen House , Source: Randy Whisenhunt, date: 26 March 2012
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