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The Bachman-Wilson House: One Piece at a Time

Eight weeks ago, two trucks arrived at a storage facility in Northwest Arkansas, containing in them a dismantled house designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright: the Bachman-Wilson House. The 1954 Usonian house was transported from its original location next to the Millstone River in New Jersey by J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. It arrived safely, but certainly not in one piece.

Bachman-Wilson House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo credit: Tarantino Studio ©2013, courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR

Bachman-Wilson House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo: TarantinoSTUDIO ©2014

Fortunately, that was the plan. The house was deconstructed in a precise sequence: the interior fixtures and furniture were carefully removed; the boards that made up the walls and floors were inventoried, stacked, and bundled; then finally the exterior façade and doors were dismantled, along with all remaining interior architectural elements. Every bundle was specifically labeled. Safe and secure inside two shipping containers, the materials made the 1,200 plus mile-long journey to Arkansas.

Peering into the containers just moments after they’d arrived at the storage facility, a thought occurred to me: that’s one big puzzle.

Like all puzzles, there is a method to the madness that makes it possible to put the pieces together. Luckily for us, we were not left simply referencing some off-scale image on a box lid. Imagine a jigsaw puzzle wherein each piece is labeled with coordinates that dictate its exact position in the whole. It’s more like that. These labels certainly eliminated the trial-and-error part of the process, but that is ideal when assembling something as sizable and complex as a sixty-year-old house. Bachman-Wilson House Molding Since the house’s arrival in April, teams of two to three workers have been laying out the each section, piece by piece, on the warehouse floor. These arranged segments of wall and floor space make it possible to efficiently identify pieces of Philippine mahogany that may need to be repaired or replaced.

Inspecting the wood

Ron Shelby, CEO and Architect at Hight-Jackson Associates PA inspecting boards

Whatever obstacles present themselves during the reconstruction process, the architectural and engineering experts working on the project will find solutions befitting a historically significant structure such as this.  Conservation, quality, and precision are truly at the heart of this endeavor.

Here on our website, we are tracking the progress of the Bachman-Wilson House’s deconstruction and reconstruction with photo and video updates. Check back regularly to stay abreast of this exciting historic project!

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