Group Trying to Save a Part of Evansville's 'Hidden History'

Published 04/30 2014 06:49PM

Updated 04/30 2014 07:02PM

Indiana Landmarks recently released it's Top 10 Endangered Sites and one of the newcomers on that list is right here in Evansville. The house, built in 1935, is the city's one and only genuine connection to a famed architect and his radical style of architecture.

In a sea of shotgun-style houses, it stands out. Chances are, however, you might not see it at first. Build deep into the narrow lot, shaded by a canopy of whispering trees, it's the little brown house at 1506 East Indiana Street.


History is much more than what we know.  It's often what we don't realize.

"It was sleeping here in Evansville," said Dennis Au, the city's historic preservation officer.

It has now been woken up.

It's number is 1506 and it's name is the Peters-Margedant House. Arriving at the inconspicuous brown house is actually a departure.

"This little home here in Evansville's one and only genuine connection to Frank Lloyd Wright," Au said. "This house was an important aspect in the development of Wright's style which is called the Usonian style. It was anticipated to be a more affordable kind of house and here we have it right in Evansville."

Frank Lloyd Wright is considered by many historians to be one of the most important and influential architects in American history. His name isn't on this house but his style helped shape it.

"There are a lot of radical ideas that Frank Lloyd Wright had developed and his apprentice William Wesley Peters brought together here," Au said.

Peters grew up in Evansville and attended what is now the University of Evansville. After two years, he transferred to MIT. He became Wright's first apprentice. During a two-year break from his apprenticeship, Peters married Wright's step-daughter much to the dismay of his teacher. During that two year stint back in Evansville, Au said, Peters built the house on East Indiana St. using the radical style of architecture that Wright was still developing at the time. Peters eventually took over Wright's studio after his death in 1959.

Many experts believe the house holds tremendous national and international significance because it could shed light on the collaboration that Wright and Peters had.

However, the house that Peters designed is now on the state's Top 10 most endangered sites list.

"You see one bungalow after another," Au said. "There's a rhythm and then all of the sudden you have this. It's a complete departure from everything."
"I look at it all the time," said next-door neighbor Lashonda Skinner. "Wow. That's really a house? It's nothing like our houses."
That's precisely the reason why a consortium of people are trying to save the house, Au said. The group consists of state and local historians, historic preservation societies and the University of Evansville. And that's the reason why a group of people -- headlined by u-of-e --  are trying to save the little brown house.

"I hate to always pull the 'this is the first one' card," Au said. "Let's just call it -- right at the birth of the Usonian style here."  

Au said he hopes the group will have a big announcement in the coming months. He said the group would like to keep the house on the current property but the possibility exits that it could be moved to a new, permanent location.


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