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Frank Lloyd Wright's Pope-Leighey House

Steven M. Reiss

BUY Cloth · 216 pp. · 7 × 8 · ISBN 9780813934976 · $35.00 · Oct 2014

Frank Lloyd Wright designed and realized over 500 buildings between 1886 and 1959 for a wide range of clients. In Frank Lloyd Wright's Pope-Leighey House, architect Steven M. Reiss presents the updated and detailed story of one of Wright’s few Virginia commissions. Designed and built for Loren and Charlotte Pope and later purchased by Marjorie and Robert Leighey, the Pope-Leighey House stands as a stunning example of an innovative form of shelter—which Wright called Usonian—for families beset by the Great Depression. Here, and elsewhere, Wright offered a unique and unprecedented approach for homes that would be small yet architecturally significant, carefully sited, and constructed of readily available local materials. He believed that anyone with an acre of land should have the opportunity to own a Usonian home.

Set in Northern Virginia, the Pope-Leighey House has an unusual history in that it has been moved twice, first to the grounds of the National Trust’s Woodlawn to rescue it from the path of Route 66 in Falls Church, then to re-site it to better correspond to its original orientation. Wright’s mission was to remind us that "we need to see life in simpler terms." In this amply illustrated book, Reiss echoes Wright’s reminder that small, carefully built structures should be the starting point of sustainable and environmentally responsible house design.


As the current owner of the Robert Llewellyn Wright house in Bethesda, Maryland and a frequent visitor to the Pope-Leighey house on Woodlawn Plantation, I am delighted to see this update of the history of the Pope-Leighey house. In the light of the recent saving of the David Wright house in Phoenix from developers who were willing to tear it down, the efforts of Mrs. Leighey to save their home from destruction are particularly moving. It was only fitting that she was allowed, near the end of her life, to live in the home in its new location. Steve Reiss, himself an architect and sometime docent at the Pope-Leighey house has done a masterful job of summarizing the architectural challenges facing both the original construction and the move to Woodlawn as well as the very human story of Mrs. Leighey’s courageous efforts to save her home.

Thomas Wright, grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright and owner of the Robert Llewellyn Wright House in Bethesda, MD

Steven Reiss tells the complex tale of the Pope-Leighey House through a multifaceted account of its architecture, the personalities involved in its creation, and its relation to preservation history which today defines historic preservation for important historic sites and structures. I was particularly interested in Reiss's book because my parents, Herbert and Katherine Jacobs also commissioned Wright to design a low-cost house in Madison, Wisconsin in 1936, which became the first Usonian house to be built.

Susan Jacobs Lockhart,Past President, Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy andTrustee of The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Steven Reiss provides an insightful and engaging narrative about not just the making of an important Wright house, but on its over eighty-year life up to the present. We learn much not only about an engaging architect-client relationship, but on the valiant, precedent-setting effort to rescue the house from demolition in the 1960s, and the struggles to preserve its fabric over the following decades. This is a valuable addition to Wright studies and a wonderful guide to the house itself.

Richard Longstreth, George Washington University, President, Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy

"Architect and author Steven Reiss, AIA, documented the unique and quirky past of one small, carefully crafted home moved not once but twice in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House.... Despite the home’s bumpy history, it is an important example of a sustainable and environmentally responsible design, which resonates throughout Reiss’s book."

Architect Magazine

In Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House, Steven M. Reiss sets out to tell the story of the little Virginia house that made a big splash — and barely survived because of it.... The book contains a wealth of primary source material, including blueprints, correspondence, and even a grocery list of the lumber, concrete and roofing materials used in construction.

Washington Post

About the Author(s): 

Steven M. Reiss is an architect, author, and lifelong student of Frank Lloyd Wright.

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