Dining room table at Springfield’s Frank Lloyd Wright designed Westcott House (photo by Andrew Pielage)
Ohio Life

How Springfield Saved its Frank Lloyd Wright Home

The Westcott House went through modifications that marred the architect’s original vision and decades of dilapidation before a community effort brought it back to its original splendor.

Burton and Orpha Westcott’s new home was the talk of Springfield when it was completed in 1908. Locals were often spotted eyeing up the out-of-character structure built where East High Street meets Greenmount Avenue. East High Street had seen its share of unique home designs, from Italianate to Richardsonian Romanesque styles, but nothing quite like this residence created by visionary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

A December 1908 article in the Springfield Daily News addressed the attention the place was receiving: “There are several homes which cost more money, but none which has aroused so much and so varied comment.”

The Westcotts had become well known in Springfield since moving to the city from Indiana in 1903. Burton’s father, John, was founder and president of the Indiana-based Hoosier Drill Co., which merged with other firms to create Springfield’s American Seeding Machine Co. He was also an owner of the Indiana-based Westcott Carriage Co.

Burton served as treasurer of the farm-implements firm and later brought the Westcott Motor Car Co. to Springfield in 1916.
      Front exterior of Springfield’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Westcott House (photo by Rod Hatfield)

A restoration completed in 2005 brought the home back to its original appearance. (photo by Rod Hatfield)

Always forward-thinking, the Westcotts hired Wright to design their Springfield home, part of what came to be known as the architect’s First Golden Age, which ran from around 1893 to 1910. It was a time marked by Wright’s conception of the Prairie Style home — a distinctly Midwestern look defined by horizontal lines, natural colors, stained woods and open floor plans. The Westcotts were the only Ohioans who hired the Chicago-based architect to design a home during this period, and they lived in it for nearly two decades.

The Wescott House’s architectural allure was unfortunately marred years later though, when a new owner constructed walls inside that destroyed Wright’s design and turned the home into apartments. As the decades ticked by, the once-prized structure fell into disrepair that threatened its very existence, until a group of locals worked with the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy to bring Springfield’s architectural treasure back to life.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s trip to Japan in 1905 inspired his designs for the Westcott House, which he began drafting blueprints for the following year. A takeaway from his visit was the idea of “eliminating the insignificant,” according to Marta Wojcik, executive director and curator for the Westcott House.  

Visitors to the Westcott House today recognize the low-pitched, hip roof with its cantilevered overhangs as also being inspired by Wright’s trip to Japan. The architect worked with his clients to determine how they used the spaces within their home to create a layout that complemented the way in which they lived. 

“We know for a fact that his principle on how he designed was to really get information of family lifestyle: what they like, how they entertain,” explains Wojcik, adding that the architect would then work to convince his clients to step beyond the ordinary. “I think [the Westcotts] were coming in knowing they wanted something new.” 
     Reception room with display case, coffee table and chair in Springfield’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Westcott House (photo by Andrew Pielage)

Burton and Orpha Westcott greatly enjoyed entertaining guests in their reception room at the front of the home. (photo by Andrew Pielage)

Wright finished the blueprint for the home in 1906 — 16 rooms total, with four upstairs bathrooms and six bedrooms — and construction was completed two years later. A look at the first floor gives a sense of the entertainment possibilities. Just two wooden walls, each about 5 feet tall, divide the space into living, dining and reception rooms. Dark green velvet benches in the living room create a sitting area in front of a large fireplace.

Most of the walls through the home, except those in the kitchen and bathrooms, are covered with encaustic paint, a paint-and-wax mixture with natural pigment that results in a finish that draws comparisons to the colors and textures found in nature.

“It is so driven by [Wright’s] observation of nature. It’s just intuitive to us to kind of be drawn to it,” Wojcik says of the Westcott House. “These days, we can use technology in so many different ways to make [a home] truly jaw dropping, but there’s this human aspect of architecture and how you feel in those spaces.”

One of the most intriguing pieces in the home is the angular dining table, complete with box-like fixtures at each of its four corners, which the architect created to provide optimal lighting for dining and socializing. A set of chairs surrounding the table offer the illusion that their seats nearly touch the ground, an effect created by elongated linear backs that hover just a few inches above the floor.

“The dining table is such a fascinating idea, and Wright definitely was obsessed with it because he created so many different variations for Prairie Style homes,” Wojcik says. “[He was] always working on incorporating that electric light into the design of the table. It’s really quite, quite, quite bold for the time.”

      Exterior of Springfield’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Westcott House (photo by Andrew Pielage)

When the Westcott House was built, it received a great deal of commentary from the community, as referenced in a 1908 “Springfield Daily News” article. (photo by Andrew Pielage)

After the deaths of Orpha and Burton Westcott in 1923 and 1926, respectively, their home succumbed to the pull of the post-World War II housing crisis. The beautiful interior became almost unrecognizable, divided into seven apartments in the late 1940s. It remained that way until the late 1990s. By that time, the structure had been compromised and the home’s foundation was in bad shape. 

In 2001, local citizens and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy established the Westcott House Foundation to bring the home back to its original look and condition. Two Ohio architectural firms — Schooley Caldwell Associates of Columbus and Chambers, Murphy and Burge Restoration Architects of Akron — spearheaded the effort. Durable Slate Co. of Columbus was the main contractor, and the Westcott House Foundation implemented a bidding process for different parts of the job. Four furniture companies were involved and assigned to various designs.

“The obstacle — the hardest thing — was to solve that puzzle of how the house was put together the first time around so they were as true to Wright’s vision as possible,” Wojcik says.

The first step was stabilizing the structure’s foundation. Then came replacing beams, excavating the basement, replacing the roof, improving interior brickwork and landscaping the site. Modern mechanical systems were installed and the art glass in the skylight and other areas was repaired.
      Group of people on a tour at Springfield’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Westcott House (photo by Matthew Allen)

Visitors can tour the interior and the grounds of the Westcott House today. (photo by Matthew Allen)

“This house could not really be effective without that skylight …” Wojcik says. “It’s just always something amazing to look at, and in the evening, it has a special glow.”

Renovations cost nearly $5.8 million, funded with around $3 million from the local Turner Foundation. A Save America’s Treasures grant brought in additional funds, and the rest was raised through donations. The Westcott House opened as a public Frank Lloyd Wright home in October 2005. 

Nearly two decades later, people are still visiting Springfield to see the home, with 35% of those who toured it in 2022 coming from out of state, according to Wojcik. It is one of just two Frank Lloyd Wright homes in Ohio that offer public tours and the only one to do so regularly. (Oberlin’s Weltzheimer-Johnson House is open on the first Sunday of the month, April through November.)

“That’s the beauty of a Frank Lloyd Wright house,” Wojcik says. “They are so rare when it comes to public sites, and it feels like this is a place where the whole state can embrace us.”  

85 S. Greenmount Ave., Springfield 45505, 937/327-9291, westcotthouse.org