Of the more than 1,000 designs Frank Lloyd Wright completed, only 532 were built. Beginning in 1937, he began designing “Modern Homes for the Middle Class” called Usonians. They usually cost under $10,000. The Walter Usonian Residence in the middle of Iowa cost $150,000. The Walters were comparatively wealthy because Lowell and Agnes owned the Iowa Road Building Company and he invented an asphalt topping for roads. The Walter home was their part-time residence on the Wapsipinicon River. They spent winters in Des Moines. Because a boat house was included, this house is often compared to Falling Water, Wright’s most famous house in Pennsylvania.
Tari, our tour guide, took Ruth and me to the top of a bluff overlooking the river to show us the Walter’s home. Lowell and Agnes were arts patrons in residence here for 31 years during the growing season. Lowell was the hometown boy who did well and moved to Des Moines. When he and Agnes decided to spend their summers near Quasqueton, where he grew up, they contacted Wright and asked him to design a home for them. This property looks just like it did when Lowell died and Agnes moved to Waterloo. Only a leaking skylight has been repaired and the upholstery replaced on some furniture items.
The Walter House is called Cedar Rock and was built between 1948 and 1950. The boat house was built in 1948 too and has recently been redone. It has a cantilevered terrace, 2nd level living space, and a small kitchen. It’s one of several boat houses Wright designed, but only 4 were built. This makes Cedar Rock, which is only opened to the public from May to October Thursday through Sunday, rather unique.
Cedar Rock is also one of Wright’s red square signed designs. The Wrights liked Corning glass and used a lot of it for colorful accent pieces in their summer residence. Agreeable people, they pretty much let Wright build the house he wanted; so the Walter house is considered one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most complete designs. You can even see the plywood chair backings.