When Linda Christian Davis was four, she moved into her dream home and now almost six decades later, her love for the house her parents built has never diminished despite her worldwide travels and the numerous moves she made for her job as global human resource manager for Exxon.
But then what could be better than a house designed by family friend and famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright?
Davis’s home, the 2200-square foot Samara House in Lafayette, Indiana, built in 1955, is one of only three or four Frank Lloyd Wright homes still occupied by the original owner. That would be 93-year old John Christian, former head of Purdue University’s school of bionucleonics (Davis earned a degree in that subject as well) who with his wife Catherine, a Purdue social director, first contacted Wright in 1950, wanting one of his Usonian-style homes – known for their flat roofs, interconnecting rooms, concrete floors, carports and a feel of serenity produced by the measurements and layout of the home.
“My parents had limited resources,” says Davis, as we sit on orange swivel chairs in the sunken living room at Samara. “So when we moved into this house we had just the basics.”
But they also had the complete plans and with Wright that meant everything from landscaping to Dr. Christian’s business cards.
“Dr. Christian is still completing Wright’s plans,” says Linda Eales, associate curator of the home. “And he’s been living here for 55 years.”
Getting it “Wright” often meant, for the Christians, laborious efforts.
“When we went to have the living room rug made, it took three years to find someone able to make it,” says Linda Christian who went with her father to Bangkok where the carpet was woven. “And it took three years to have it made.”
And though the Christians were totally enthused with almost all aspects of Wright’s designs, Catherine Christian wanted colors bolder than typical for a Wright home. She got what she wanted – a charming harmony of lime green, magenta, orange, yellow and purple that create an “oh wow” impact for those walking into the home.
Living in a classic Wright house might daunt many children, but Davis remembers living there with delight.
“It was so wonderful,” she says. “The floors were heated and I would slide on the floor with my socks. I’d have friends over and we’d roll up the rug, roast wieners in the fireplace and sleep in sleeping bags on the floor.”
Adults had fun – Mad Men style.
“My mother always entertained,” says Davis. “And her parties usually had a theme.”
For her atomic bomb party (this was the 1950s after all), Catherine ordered a cake in the shape of an atomic bomb with cotton draped over the top to represent a mushroom cloud.
“She had mints made locally with radiation symbols on them,” says Davis.
The Christians developed a friendship with Wright over the years and even spent nights at Taliesin West, the architect’s home in Scottsdale, Arizona. To gain inspiration for the house, Wright traveled to Lafayette.
“Wright would look at the lot where the home was going to be built and find something the client really liked,” says Davis noting that her father at the time was planting pine seedlings thus the house was named Samara, the name for the winged seeds a pine produces. “He then would do an artistic abstraction.”
This abstraction is found throughout the house -- on the eaves outside, in the hand loomed rug, carved into the tall backs of the dining room chairs and even on the small windows set high above the walls of glass framed by Philippine mahogany that achieve another of Wright’s aims – merging both outside and in.
The house, which belongs to the John E. Christian Family Memorial Trust, is open for tours by appointment April to November. For more information, 765.409-5522 or www.samara-house.org
While you’re in the area:
Take a step further back into history at the 46th annual Feast of the Hunters' Moon on October 5th and 6th. Held at Historic Fort Ouiatenon Park on 30 acres along the Wabash River near West Lafayette, Feast of the Hunter Moon re-creates the time when fur traders, Native Americans, settlers, French militia and the Colonial Army of America journeyed through the woods and paddled down the Ouiatenon River for a last rendezvous before winter set in. Their goal was to barter items such as hand forged knives, pots and pans as well as produce, hams, bacon, furs, tobacco and other items necessary in what would become Indiana in the mid-1700s. Hunter Moon also known as Blood Moon is the first full moon after the harvest moon appears during the autumnal equinox. Because these moons are low, they shine brighter, the light aiding hunters stalk their prey more easily. With over 200 vendors, costumed re-enactments and a plethora of entertainment circa 1760s, it’s a lively event for all ages.