The William B. and Mary Shuford Palmer House, designed and built in 1950-1951, is significant as one of the finest examples of the late work of master architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The house is considered one of the best in a series of houses based on a module which is either an equilateral triangle or a parallelogram. The house rests comfortably tucked into a hill and is surrounded by a lush informal garden that drops down the ravine to the east and southeast.
In 1949, Mrs. Palmer began educating herself on residential architecture by reading books available in the library of the University of Michigan’s College of Architecture. She read Frank Lloyd Wright’s An Autobiography and Henry Russell Hitchcock’s In Nature of Materials and became an enthusiastic follower of Wright’s philosophy. Her readings about Wright’s architecture, and a visit to the 1941 Gregor S. and Elizabeth B. Affleck House in Bloomfield Hills in 1947 convinced the Palmers that they should ask Wright to design a house for them.
The Palmer house exemplifies Wright’s organic architecture. The plan is open, and non-essential elements are eliminated. Both the basement and the attic found in the traditional American house have disappeared. A substantial fireplace and chimney rises through the center of the house. The kitchen workspace is incorporated with the living room, the furniture is built in, and the floor space is expanded by terraces. A sense of broad shelter is emphasized overhead as the outside and inside mingle.
According to John Howe, Mr. Wright’s chief assistant, Wright himself “…would have placed the Palmer house at the top of his list.” When one considers that his list would, in his later years, have included the Hanna House, now the property of Stanford University, and Fallingwater, one has the idea of the measure of this compliment.
Wright visited the house twice in the last decade of his life. These visits were unusual. It was a period when he was extremely busy with the construction of many large buildings across the country. It is also likely that he never saw most of the houses he designed in the years 1949-1959, but he liked the Palmer house well enough to stay overnight there.
You can download the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Palmer House here.
You can also find out more about the Palmer House by visiting the following sites:
Concentrate Media (video)
If you are interested in staying overnight or renting the Palmer House, click here.