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Bismarck’s Thompson House

 

Bismarck is home to a house inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. The beige brick house built in 1963 and 1964 is of the Usonian design. These “modest” houses, represent Wright’s ideals in construction, in part because they are “bound to nature, and responsive to the lives of their inhabitants.” 

Wright’s Taliesin estate was his “laboratory of organic architecture,” and the Taliesin residence, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is “the heart” of the buildings Wright designed from 1897-1959. His apprentices lived, worked, and studied with him at Taliesin.

Ralph and Marjorie Thompson purchased the land for the Bismarck house in 1954. Both were interested in architecture, and they hoped to have a local architect design their home. They asked their friend and local architect Donald Froeschle, but he was too busy. 

Unsure what to do, they decided to check in with Frank Lloyd Wright. They wrote to him in late 1958, requesting his services. Eugene Messelink, his secretary, wrote back, requesting a list of what they wanted and needed, with information and photos of the land. However, Wright died a few months later. Four days after his death, the Thompsons received a letter stating that the lot was small, but that the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation was willing to accept the commission. After some discussion, they agreed to have their home designed by the Taliesin Associated Architects.

In keeping with Wright’s sensibilities, the house does not have a basement. It features a swept-back gable roof and brick terrace, and the angle of the windows lets in sunlight from sunrise to sunset. Inside, there are touches of Philippine mahogany. The floors are concrete and have the same red pigment as the exterior. Along the north wall of the study are 28 American Indian stone implements mortared into the brick. These items were gathered by owner. He obtained the architect’s approval before asking the mason to include them. 

The Thompson house is not listed in the National Register of Historic Places, but has been recognized as eligible. It serves as a reminder that many homes are unique, with their own history marking the development of our communities.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

Sources:

https://franklloydwright.org/usonian/

https://franklloydwright.org/taliesin/

https://franklloydwright.org/the-taliesin-fellowship/

Draft of National Register of Historic Places Registration Form – Ralph S. and Marjorie Mueller Thompson House

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