John Shearer: Karen Shavin Hopes To Preserve Local Frank Lloyd Wright Home Long-Term

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 - by John Shearer

For Karen Shavin, her parents’ former home she now hopes to live in is not your typical family residence.

 

For starters, it is cherished by plenty of others besides just her family, and it might also be considered to have museum qualities.

 

Such is the life of about any structure these days that had been designed by the very famous and popular late architect Frank Lloyd Wright, especially one that is located in a part of the country where not as many Wright structures can be found.

 

Even if someone does not know the architect, his homes and structures for decades have stood out due to their appearances featuring unique lines and shapes – features that often make them look definitely different from other homes.

And the buildings also usually fit a landscape in an aesthetically appealing way.

 

Ms. Shavin understands all this affection, and she is incorporating this into her plans for the home at 334 N. Crest Road on Missionary Ridge, a structure that, unlike most of the homes on the ridge, is uniquely almost hidden from the main street.

 

“My long-term plan is to restore the home and move in it and also use it in ways to share with the community,” she said.

 

Ms. Shavin talked over the phone on Monday from her Baltimore, Md., area home in connection with the planned public tours of the home scheduled for July 11 and 12 for $250 each. The small tours, which will follow strict COVID-19 safety protocols, are to benefit the Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative. Tickets can be purchased here. https://flwrevivalinitiative.org/2020-events/shavin-house-fundraiser-tour/

 

According to the non-profit group’s website, “The Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative aims to promote the legacy of this celebrated architect by rebuilding certain structures that, for various reasons, have been demolished.”

 

The proceeds from the event will benefit the Revival Initiative’s overall work replacing razed Wright structures and is not related to the future plans for the restoration of the Shavin home.

 

Ms. Shavin said the group contacted her about a year ago while her mother, Gerte Shavin, was still living before her death on May 15 at the age of 99. She said that as of Monday, all of the tickets so far had actually been sold to out-of-towners, who are likely fans of the architect and are taking advantage of a rare opportunity to see one of his homes in private hands.

 

“They are coming from afar but we haven’t gotten anyone locally,” she said.

 

Ms. Shavin said she will be on hand to greet the visitors and answer any questions. “I plan to put together a slide show of pictures of the building as it was being built,” she said. “It should be fun for people to see.

 

“I don’t have a formal presentation but will be there to share the story.”

 

Ms. Shavin said she was a very small child when the structure was completed, but remembers moving there in 1952 after they had lived at her grandparents’ residence while it was under construction.

 

Her brother, David Shavin, was born shortly after they moved in, and she remembers the excitement of having a new brother and a new home at that time. They also have another brother, Eliot Shavin.

 

Their father, Seamour Shavin, died in 2005.

 

Karen Shavin still has the same love and fascination for the home that existed when she was young, and she hopes to impart that love in the coming months and years and restore the now-68-year-old home.

 

For example, some carpenter bees have damaged some of the wood, and she recently discovered some issues with running water that need to get fixed.

 

Some native plants have also recently been planted around the home in connection with the upcoming tour and in keeping with the landscaping theme of a Wright home. And a New York architect was on site this week with the help of the Frank Lloyd Wright Initiative to look over the home and offer suggestions for future work, she said.

 

Her goal with the home is to restore it and eventually live in it – if she can get away from extended family near her current home, etc., she added with a laugh.

 

She said that she is just now trying to formulate plans with her mother’s recent passing, and she knows money will be needed. Because of that and because of her late parents’ love for the home, she also hopes to have other future events at the home.

 

“I want to carry on my parents’ tradition of sharing the house,” she said, pointing out that this home is one of a number of Wright’s “Usonian” homes that were considered affordable to the average person, despite the maintenance his homes often require.

 

In recent years, with her mother reaching her 90s and Karen’s name having been put as a contact person at a Wright Foundation website, she said she received a number of inquiries about the home. Some people have wanted to buy it, while one person asked if he could propose to his architecturally focused girlfriend on the grounds.

 

As would be expected, the home has drawn a lot of curiosity seekers over the years, she added.

 

One person still curious and fascinated with the home was her mother, who often gave tours to people who would contact her while she lived there.

 

Despite having moved in recent years to the Northern Virginia town of Leesburg where son David is, she still loved to return to visit her beloved home designed by the noted architect, including a trip she took just weeks before she died.

 

“She came down pretty regularly because she missed the house,” said her daughter with emotion.

 

Jcshearer2@comcast.net

 


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