WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Tucked away behind one of West Lafayette's busiest streets, you might never know lies a piece of history. A quaint and from first glance, obviously unique house sits along Northwestern Avenue, hidden beneath trees and shrubs.
The house belongs to John Christian, PhD, a retired Purdue professor.
In 1948, he and his wife were newlyweds. Christian said they didn't have much money but knew they wanted their first home to be special.
"We knew we had to find an architect," he said.
Christian was in New York giving a paper and while there, his wife took a trip upstate to the town Pleasantville where she saw homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. She fell in love with the homes and later brought her husband up to see them to.
Christian said he liked the homes as well and decided they should "try to get this Wright guy" to build their home, not realizing, by that time, Wright was world-famous.
Christian said he simply called him up and that's where a little bit of luck and perhaps fate stepped in.
"Fortunately, Wright himself answered the phone," Christian explained.
Christian said it was purely by chance Wright, who had a staff of more than 50 people at the time, picked up the phone that day. He was later told had a staffer picked up the phone, they would have immediately told him "no" and that Mr. Wright was "too busy" to build a home in West Lafayette, Indiana.
"West Lafayette, where's that?" Christian joked, playing the role of a staffer.
Christian said Wright was incredibly gracious and invited the Christians up to his home in Wisconsin. The Christians and the Wrights hit it off immediately and well, the the rest is history.
The Christians told their architect they were in no hurry for the plans and Christian said Wright took that to heart. It would be five years before they would get the plans.
When talking with Wright about the kind of house they wanted, Christian said what they ended up with was nothing like what they told him. Wright observed the couple though, and Christian said what they ended up with was far better than what they had imagined.
"Wright designed this home perfectly for us. He knew much better what we needed than we did ourselves," said Christian.
Wright named the house "Samara" which means "winged seed." He named it for the home's woodsy setting and for Christian, who loved growing evergreen trees from seedlings. Evergreen trees, Christian explained, produce little winged seeds from their pine cones. The larger "helicopter" seeds from maple trees many of us used to play with as children and now spend time raking up off our lawns and driveways as adults.
The entire house, inside and out, is based on the design of the winged seed... in motion. From the structure design, down to the light fixtures, the chairs and even the rugs, you'll notice the winged seed design when walking through Samara. Wright specifically designed it all, in a style he is known for called form and function.
Christian's favorite room is the living room, which seats up to 50 people, and it was designed that way for the popular college professor.
"We wanted something different, a place where we thought we'd like to entertain students, faculty and friends," Christian said.
Even retired and at age 94, Christian is still entertaining by sharing his home so we all can learn about it's history. Samara House offers tours and to visitors from all over the world walk though it year after year.
In fact, you can see if for yourself. The home is open to tours from April through November.
To make a reservation, visit the Samara House website . You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (765) 409-5522. Admission is $10 for adults, $3 for college students. Children under 17 are free.
The admission fee includes a guided house tour, lecture and demonstrations. The maximum group size is 50 and small groups may be combined with others.
Your home may not have been built by Frank Lloyd Wright, but we just bet there's something that makes your home unique and special. We're putting together a series of stories to air in a few weeks about "The Most Interesting Homes" in Lafayette. Click here to submit your house.
You'll be directed to an entry form where we'll ask you to tell us a little bit about your home and to attach a photo of the exterior of your house. Deadline for submissions is Friday, May 4. Then, beginning on Monday, May 7, we'll open all the submissions to an online vote.
The five homes which receive the most votes will be featured on NewsChannel 18 This Morning the week of May 14-18.
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