Not Your Typical Architecture Patron

Posted on: September 29th, 2008 by Dolores McDonagh 1 Comment
Living room of the Pope-Leighey House, a National Trust Historic Site. Photo by Ron Blunt.

Living room of the Pope-Leighey House, a National Trust Historic Site. Photo by Ron Blunt.

I know as VP of Membership for the National Trust for Historic Preservation I shouldn't have favorites among our historic sites.  And I love them all for different reasons.  But I can't help but have a major soft spot in my heart for the Pope-Leighey House on the grounds of Woodlawn Plantation in Alexandria, Virginia.  That's why the obits took me back a little this weekend when I read that Loren Pope had passed away, the man who commissioned the Usonian jewel of a house the National Trust for Historic Preservation rescued in the 1960s when it was slated to be demolished for Interstate 66 through suburban Virginia.

Now many of us think of Frank Lloyd Wright homes as iconic, groundbreaking, beautiful.  But rarely are they ever thought of as "affordable."  But that's just what Loren Pope's home was -- part of FFLW's vision for "Usonian" architecture -- utopian housing for the "common man."  I've heard Mr. Pope tell his story about how as a young DC journalist he wrote FFLW and asked him to design him a home within his modest budget.  And how, rather than scoff at him, Wright accepted the challenge and answered "Of course I am ready to give you a house."  (Of course it came in over budget, but it was still a bargain.)

I've always loved the Pope-Leighey House -- the way it sits in nature, the way you immediately feel welcome and embraced when you enter this modest home.  And I've often thought it said volumes about Frank Lloyd Wright.  But until today, I never really thought much about what it said about Loren Pope.  The next time I visit, I will think about Loren Pope and what he taught us through his bold act to commission this masterpiece.

Don't be afraid to be bold.  Don't be afraid to ask for what you want -- you might just get it.  Patronize the arts -- you don't have to pay a zillion dollars to bring beauty into your life.  And don't let anyone tell you to settle for less because you are looking for "affordable" housing.  We ALL deserve homes, neighborhoods and communities that enrich our lives, even if we're not Wall Street magnates with golden parachutes.

Thanks, Mr. Pope.

I'll leave the obituary to the Washington Post, but I will pass along that you can learn how to visit the Pope-Leighey House (the only FFLW home open to the public in the DC metro area, and yes (National Trust for Historic Preservation Members DO get free admission) by visiting our Pope-Leighey site on PreservationNation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Modern Architecture

One Response

  1. Jerry A. McCoy

    October 1, 2008

    My wife Nan and I were good friends of Loren and his late wife Viola. Even though they were both a generation older than we, Loren and Viola truly embodied L’Esprit de Joie.

    Lorain loved his Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house so much that he commissioned specially designed gold wedding bands that reproduced the clerestory panels in the Pope-Leighy House!

    Our lives were incredibly enriched for having known them and we express our deepest condolences to their repective families.

    Jerry & Nan McCoy
    Silver Spring, MD