Home Guru: Less Than Six Degrees of Separation From Frank Lloyd Wright

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Alfred Bush, as a Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice, building Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Ariz. Later he served as a model for the Atlas sculpture at Rockefeller Center.
Alfred Bush, as a Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice, building Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Ariz. Later he served as a model for the Atlas sculpture at Rockefeller Center.

When I was a youngster, “The Secret” hadn’t been written yet, so I didn’t know anything about making my intentions known to the universe to attract what I wanted. But I guess the dynamic worked anyway, judging from several instances where unwittingly I called upon its power and it worked for me.

As an adolescent, I loved DinahShore and her TV show where she would sing, “See the USA in Your Chevrolet” and throw a big puckered kiss to the camera at the end of her show. Gee, I thought, I’d sure like to meet her someday.

Incredibly enough, some 25 years later, I found myself as a guest in her Beverly Hills home at a dinner table with her and some of her good friends, including Gregory and Veronique Peck, Gene Kelly, Billy Wilder, Angie Dickinson, Willie Nelson and Morgan Fairchild. I was in star stalkers heaven!

And when I was in one of my art history courses at college, I remember the day that the “father” of American architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, died. My professor devoted the entire class to his achievements as the greatest architect of his day, or likely any day, for creating organic architecture where buildings and homes are designed and built in harmony with humanity and the environment.

Interested as I was in architecture, I thought, wow, wouldn’t it be nice to be rich enough someday to live in one of the houses he designed? Well, that dream was not turned into reality, but last week I came close to Wright by as little as two degrees of separation as I listed a home in Croton-on-Hudson that was built by his apprentice, Alfred Bush.

Bush, I learned from his two children, Jessica and Eric, who are executors of his estate, was an individualist of the first order, traveling the globe to create housing for the poor, developing as an artist, dancing with Martha Graham and having the distinction of modeling as Atlas for the sculpture used at Rockefeller Center. How’s that for provenance!

The home he built in 1962 shows his individuality by attaching to a basic Wright design a double parabolic roof that Wright himself never used. A Frank Lloyd Wright authority who visited the house at my invitation put it this way: “Bush was tutored and influenced by Wright, but he was not a copyist.”

Sitting majestically on a hill at the highest point of the almost four-acre property, the Bush House is constructed of stone, wood and concrete blown into wire forms, allowing it to  undulate and curve organically. Combined with angled roof appendages, it looks as though it’s about to take flight from a precipice. Its design seems to defy gravity, but has as intimate a relationship to the knoll on which it sits as did Wright’s most notably designed house, Fallingwater, near Pittsburgh.

While the home in Croton enjoys an almost unworldly aesthetic, the unvarnished truth of the matter is that it requires some serious, very worldly rehabilitation. It’s a job that is not for the faint-hearted. It will probably appeal to an architect, engineer or builder who wants to relish a project as a labor of love. It helps that the property can be subdivided for new construction of another house.

My wonderful professor loved to tell the back stories of every subject we explored, and I was transfixed by a macabre story about Wright. In 1914, a mass murder of seven people took place in his Taliesin home in Wisconsin, which had served as a love nest for him and his mistress, when they were both married to other people. One evening when he was away, a servant went berserk, setting the house on fire. When its occupants ran through the nearest exit to escape the flames, he was on the other side of the door and hacked each of them with a hatchet. Surely, that horrific event must have shaped the rest of his life and his life’s work.

To see a video about Wright’s protégé and his extraordinary home, search for “Alfred Bush” on youtube.

Bill Primavea is a Realtor® associated with Coldwell Banker, as well as a marketer and journalist who writes weekly as The Home Guru. For questions about home maintenance or for anyone who wants to buy or sell a house, he can be reached at or called directly at 914-522-2076









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