A few years after Frank Lloyd Wright’s death in 1959, its principal draftsman John Howe moved to Minneapolis, where he continued to champion Prairie School-style architecture.
“He had a significant career as an architect in Minnesota,” said Jane King Hession, who co-wrote the book “John H. Howe, Architect: From Taliesin Apprentice to Master of Organic Design” with Tim Quigley. .
“He learned his craft from Wright, particularly the importance of earth-inspired, organic architecture in which all the parts are connected to the whole,” she said. “So the furniture tended to be designed by Wright and Howe. Everything was in harmony with nature.”
And while he was sometimes overshadowed by Wright, Howe became a famous architect, in part because of the houses he built in the Rochester area. Quigley said that from 1967 to 1987, Howe designed around 200 projects, many of them on lakeside land that tended to be hidden.
Among the homes designed by Howe were estates including the Washington House, built in 1976 on a 5-acre hill on Mayowood Hills Drive and named after its original owners, Maaja and Dr John Washington, who was formerly head of clinical microbiology at the Mayo Clinic.
The Washington House is a nod to Prairie School-style architecture and features many of Howe’s trademarks: vaulted ceilings, a sloping overhang, a continuous band of windows, and a horizontal design that connects the house to the land.
“He was truly gifted as a draftsman, legendaryly quick and able to produce extraordinarily artistic perspective renderings of Wright’s projects. … Wright designed three houses that exist in Rochester. Howe did three or four,” said said Quigley. “The Washington House is truly a fine example of what Howe excelled at: creating a modest home with simple materials that was both intimate and grand.”
A lasting impression
The house has seen three owners since it was built. When current owner Ed Baum stumbled upon The Washington House over 3½ years ago, he was immediately drawn to it.
“As you drive up to the house, the thing that really catches your eye is the wrap-around balcony which has a cantilevered section. It really is an engineering marvel,” he said.
Inside, Baum was won over by the details such as the mix of geometric shapes as well as the built-in furniture, ranging from desks to bookshelves. He also liked how, like other houses in the Prairie school, it used natural materials.
“There’s a lot of wood inside the house, mostly mahogany, and a cedar deck,” Baum said. “You can see the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work in this John Howe house. It’s very unique. It’s very personal.”
Baum didn’t have to do much inside once he moved in. It had been serviced and was working well. At some point in the house’s history, a detached garage was built and the old garage was converted into the owners’ suite.
“The work I’ve done is mostly exterior work,” he said, which included paving the old asphalt driveway. He also undertook landscaping projects, adding plants, rocks, outdoor lighting and outdoor seating.
“This house is so amazing in the way it lets you connect with nature,” Baum said.
Although Baum has enjoyed living in the house, it’s time for him to move on. He listed the four-bedroom, three-bathroom home as over 3,700 square feet.
“It’s a reverse pandemic for me,” he said. “Most people are looking for a neighborhood where they can have more space and property and have peace and quiet. I am now looking for the opposite, where I want to enjoy more of an urban environment.”
In the meantime, he will continue to love living in a home that has allowed him to connect with nature, especially from his favorite room.
“The living room has high ceilings and it has an amazing two sided brick fireplace with concrete details. This is the part of the house where the balcony is and it has great views to the west for so you can see the sunset,” he said. said. “It’s a great place to relax at the end of the day and enjoy the beauty of home.”
Listing agent Karen Rue said the home’s architecture incorporates the signature styles of Howe and Wright, while keeping the Midwestern location in mind. She added that the location on a hill and a wooded lot can’t be beat.
“He designed architecture that responded to the Minnesota landscape and weather conditions, like opening things up on the south side of the house. [for natural light] and closing the north [from the wind]”Rue said.
“It’s totally private. Once you’re here, you become one with nature. It’s one of those homes that is timeless.”