Sunday, August 1, 2010

Prairie School Architecture (Blythe House) in Mason City, Iowa

This photograph by Versluis shows the north façade of the Blythe House on First Street, which is set apart from the street by the perimeter wall and oriental-styled entrance light. In this view the window looks like a little emerald-cut jewel on the front of the house. The garage window is illuminated by the strong early morning sunlight streaming in from the east.

In 1912 Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony began work on a community development situated on Willow Creek located just a few blocks east of downtown Mason City, Iowa. Contractor Joshua Melson and an attorney-banker, James Blythe, established the development project called Rock Crest–Rock Glen. Melson’s house was built at Rock Crest and Blythe’s house was constructed a short distance across the stream at Rock Glen. According to Paul Kruty, in Walter Burley Griffin in America, Griffin and Mahony designed the Blythe house like the Tempel houses [Trier Center development, Winnetka, Illinois] as “a crystalline expression of hollow tile and concrete… set in a landscape he [Griffin] helped to create.” The base is made from rough cut and chiseled indigenous limestone (dolomite).

This elevation indicates straightforward proportions and the broad, flat horizontal surfaces that form a “chapel in the woods” sentiment. Notice how the ingenuity of window detail enhances the surrounding landscape environment.

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