A Frank Lloyd Wright building in Montana will soon be demolished, or will it?

The building is one of only three Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings in the state.

November 18, 2016 |

Photo courtesy of Jaydec, Wikimedia Commons

While states in the Midwest such as Illinois and Wisconsin may be stippled with more Frank Lloyd Wright-designed projects than there are dimples on a golf ball, Montana is certainly not a state overflowing with the designs of the legendary American architect. In fact, there are only three buildings designed by Wright in the entire state, and that number may be dropping down to two in that not too distant future, Curbed reports.

One of Wright’s later buildings, designed in 1958 and not completed until 1959 after Wright had died, in the town of Whitefish, Mont., is at risk of being demolished if the Whitefish Architectural Review Committee decides to grant formal approval and a building permit for a new three-story commercial development on the site.

If formal approval is granted and a building permit is issued, Wright’s structure will be demolished and replaced with a three-story commercial development that includes retail space, offices, and four residential units on the top floor. The decision will be made when the committee meets on Dec. 6.

However, that meeting might not be as important for the Wright-designed building as initially thought. Not to eleiminate any dramatic tension, but the committee may have one less thing to consider come Dec. 6, as a story from the Whitefish Pilot posted to dailyinterlake.com, claims the developer has scrapped his plans for the commercial development amid backlash from the surrounding community and the Chicago-based Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy over the decision to demolish the Wright structure.

Mick Ruis, the developer who purchased the building for $1.6 million, tells the Whitefish Pilot he was unaware of Frank Lloyd Wright’s significance or the rarity of his buildings in Montana. He also says it was never his intention to destroy anything of any importance.

The 5,000-sf building was originally constructed as a brick and cast-concrete medical clinic with a brick fireplace, double clerestory windows and a 64-foot-long wall of floor-to-ceiling glass. Since its completion in 1959, some of the original details and features have been changed or removed. Ruis now plans to put the building back on the market at the same price he purchased it for; $1.6 million.

The hope is someone who will preserve the structure will buy it. In 2012, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but that does not protect it from demolition, meaning there is still a chance someone who will not be swayed by public opinion could purchase the building and demolish it. But, as of right now, it seems as though Montana’s count of three Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings will hold steady.

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