Frank Lloyd Wright in Montana: Darby, Stevensville, and Whitefish
By Randall LeCocq
Researched and written by architectural historian Randall LeCocq, Frank Lloyd Wright in Montana: Darby, Stevensville, and Whitefish highlights the intriguing stories of three little-known but important Frank Lloyd Wright projects built during the 20th century in western Montana.
[Wright’s two] Bitterroot projects [Bitter Root Town and Como Orchard’s “University Heights”] remain significant to architectural historians as early examples of architectural modernism. . . . They are models of Wright’s early “Prairie House” designs, few of which are to be found outside of Wright’s core midwestern U.S. homeland. The Bitterroot projects are also significant as early twentieth-century experiments in town planning, employing . . . Wright’s idea of combining urban and agrarian lifestyles, providing a community close to nature, where like-minded families could live in “organic,” uncluttered houses and cultivate their own ten-acre apple plots.
Half a century later, in Whitefish, between Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park, Wright would create the Lockridge Medical Clinic Building. This office building would represent his last phase or modernist style, the “Usonian” buildings. . . . The “Usonians” are slicker than Wright’s previous works, using more glass, concrete, plywood, and brick, and in a more geometric way. . . . But they still adhere to the same Wrightian architectural principles that he used in 1910 in the Bitterroot.
[T]he Wrightian legacy survives in Montana. We had, and have, major, significant Wright projects, and we are favored in having architectural bookends, representing early and late Wright phases, showcasing his development as well as the evolution of modernism in the twentieth century. In 2012, the Wright Montana properties, in the Bitterroot and at Whitefish, were formally listed in the National Register of Historic Places.