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The Spiteful Destruction of a Frank Lloyd Wright Building

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Over two months ago, a real estate developer in Whitefish, Montana, demolished the Lockridge Medical Center. This building was the only structure in the state of Montana designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This demolition also sets a dubious record as being the only Frank Lloyd Wright building destroyed in over 40 years.

The Lockridge Medical Center was designed by Wright in 1958 for three doctors, T. L. Lockridge, John T. Whalen and Bruce C. McIntyre. The construction on the Lockridge Medical Center started in 1961 and was completed in 1963, long after Wright’s death in 1959. It was occupied by the doctors for only a single year. The 5,000 square foot building was a low, single-story horizontally oriented structure. It was built of brick and cast concrete, which featured Frank Lloyd Wright’s typical horizontally-raked mortar joints, with interior and exterior brick.

The developer who purchased the site in 2016, stated that his vision was to demolish the building and construct a 3-story commercial retail space. At the time of the purchase, they were unaware of the historical significance of the building. Once the information became available to the developer, they were unimpressed with the historical value and pressed on with their plans. The goal of the new commercial space was to capitalize on visitor traffic from the nearby Glacier National Park. Activists and historical preservationists quickly engaged with the developer to halt the development plans, and proceeded to raise $1.7 million to purchase the property. At the end of the day, as pressure built from local and national interests, the developer demolished the property in one overnight event.

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The outcry was swift and loud, causing a significant backlash in the architectural community. In the spirit of the recent Oscar-nominated movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a billboard quickly appeared in the town. The billboard attacked the destruction of the historical building and the reprehensible act of the developer. The identity of the person(s) posting the billboard remains unknown. The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and the Montana Preservation Alliance, two groups that actively fought to save the structure, have disavowed any knowledge of the posting.

We admire the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright. We were honored to have worked on the Mat House in Reseda, California, designed by Frank’s son Lloyd Wright and known for its distinctive angular, thatch-like roof. The house was granted historic landmark status in 1996.

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by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG Lighting