The John Christian House, Samara, in West Lafayette has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The home was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1956.
April 15, 2015
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed John E. and Catherine E. Christian House, Samara, has been designated a National Historic Landmark (NHL). Fewer than 30 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the U.S. have achieved NHL status. It is the 40th NHL in the state of Indiana.
Samara was previously named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992 at the age of 36, well under the standard requirement that buildings be 50 years old to qualify for listing.
Wright designed the Christian house and landscape, as well as the furnishings, lighting, tableware, linens – even the Christians' stationery. Wright gave the house its name, Samara, a botanical term which means winged seed, a reference to pine cone seeds found at the site. He created a logo for the property based on the winged seed. Experts regard the site as one of the most fully realized Wright designs in existence.
John and the late Catherine Christian asked Frank Lloyd Wright to design a house for them in 1950 on a lot they had purchased in West Lafayette. At the time, Dr. Christian was a young professor at Purdue University and had limited resources. They had studied Wright’s work and thought they had nothing to lose in asking the master to design their home. The Christians were overjoyed when he accepted the commission. The house was built in 1956.
Although the couple could not afford to execute all of the furnishings and other elements Wright designed for the property in the beginning, the architect agreed that they could complete his vision as their funds permitted. The Christians held true to their commitment to Wright. Dr. Christian, age 97, still lives in his home.
“We listened closely to Mr. Wright’s guidance, took his philosophies and designs to heart, and have always felt that our home, grounds, and experiences working with Mr. Wright should be shared with others,” comments John Christian.
“One of the opportunities which influenced me the most was the large number of national and international visitors who would stop by, with or without advance notice, hoping to be able to see the house and talk with my parents about their experiences working with Mr. Wright. Over time, it became clear to me that our unique home was respected and of great interest to people of all ages and ranges of diversity,” notes Linda Davis, Dr. Christian’s daughter.
The United States National Park Service administers the National Historic Landmarks Program, which identifies nationally significant historic places that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.
In its designation of Samara as a National Historic Landmark, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell called Samara “an outstanding and mature example of a Usonian house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright during his late period (1941-59). It is a remarkably complete Usonian design, incorporating more than 40 Wrightian design elements, including character-defining Usonian features such as modular design, indoor-outdoor connections, slab floor construction, flat roofs, and open-plan public spaces conducive to simple living for average middle-class families.”
“This is an important day for Samara,” said Marsh Davis, President of Indiana Landmarks, the state’s nonprofit historic preservation organization. “Achieving National Historic Landmark status for Samara is a testimony to the relationship between Frank Lloyd Wright and his client. Dr. Christian commissioned the house, fulfilled Wright’s vision in its entirety over the course of his long life as the property’s steward. He also has made provisions for the home’s future, ensuring that Samara will be preserved and continue to inform and inspire new generations of those seeking a deeper understanding of Wright’s work,” he added.
Unlike recent high-profile cases in which Frank Lloyd Wright-designed properties faced the threat of demolition, Dr. Christian and his daughter were determined to protect Samara. They created the John E. Christian Family Memorial Trust, Inc., which will ensure the preservation of the home and archives.
The John E. Christian Family Memorial Trust is governed by a board of directors led by Marsh Davis of Indiana Landmarks. “The family trust pursued National Historic Landmark status for the property because it represents official confirmation of Samara’s significance, and increases awareness of the house so that many can enjoy it into future.” according to Linda Eales, Associate Curator of Samara.
Samara, 1301 Woodland Avenue, West Lafayette, IN is open for tours, by appointment only, annually from April to November. Visits can be scheduled by emailing email@example.com or by calling 765-409-5522.
Source: The John E. and Catherine E. Christian House, SAMARA