Relocation of Historic Frank Lloyd Wright House to Crystal Bridges a First

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 12:00 am  

Sharon and Lawrence Tarantino are spending their long winter days in New Jersey placing numbers on almost every piece, every component of the home they’ve owned for 26 years.

The home is the Bachman Wilson House in Millstone, N.J., designed in 1954 by America’s best-known architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

In a few weeks, sometime in the spring, the fully dismantled structure will be carefully loaded into vehicles provided by J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. and moved some 1,300 miles west to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. It will then be carefully unloaded, moved to its new home on the museum’s 120 acres and reassembled, piece by numbered piece. The resurrected house will then be open to visitors, an example of historic American architecture sharing an Arkansas locale with a historic collection of American art.

It is the first time that a Wright house has been completely dismantled, moved and then reassembled, according to Janet Halstead, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.

“It’s like an archeological site in reverse,” said Rod Bigelow, the museum’s executive director. It’s exactly like a “paint by numbers” piece, only it’s a “build by numbers,” Sharon Tarantino said.

And it’s a time-consuming and painful process for Tarantino and her architect husband, who together so carefully restored the house that they bought in 1988. But it’s a necessary process if the house is to survive.

The Bachman Wilson House sits near the Millstone River. The house is an example of what Wright called Usonian architecture, a house that sought to marry quality architecture with modest materials at a price affordable for the middle class. Wright designed it for Abraham Wilson and Gloria Bachman, whose brother, Marvin Bachman, had studied with Wright.

Like all Wright residences, the house was carefully incorporated into its surroundings. But increasingly frequent flooding threatened the very existence of the house, and the Tarantinos began looking 18 months ago for someone to buy the structure and move it someplace safe.

Sharon, a designer, and Lawrence have practiced together since 1985, and in their career have worked on about a dozen Wright houses. They have received a number of awards, including the Wright Spirit Award in 2008 from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.

Now the couple are carefully overseeing the deconstruction of their home, “every step of the way,” Sharon Tarantino said. Assisting them is their contractor, the Patullo Brothers Builders of Bridgewater, N.J.

“They’ve worked extensively on renovation and restoration type projects, and we’ve worked with them on several projects in the past, so we have a very close relationship with them,” Tarantino said. “They are very careful in their procedures and the way they do things.”

The Tarantinos prepared “as-built” drawings, which show on-site changes to the original construction plans. They then developed a dismantling plan, creating drawings that outlined each stage of the dismantling procedure.



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