Historic Whitefish building listed on National Register

Print Article

Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake Sharon Morrison and Sean Frampton pose in front of the massive fireplace that serves as the focal point of the interior of the Frank Lloyd Wright building in Whitefish. Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in Whitefish, Montana.

One of the last buildings designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright is located in Whitefish, and now it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Building at 341 Central Ave. was designed by Wright in 1958 as a medical clinic, but Wright died in 1959 before the 5,000-square-foot Lockridge Clinic was finished. Today the building is owned by Sharon Morrison and Sean and Diana Frampton and is used for their law offices and other professional office space.

It was Sharon Morrison and her late husband, Frank Morrison, who saw the value of the building.

“In the small town where we grew up there was a Frank Lloyd Wright building, so we knew who he was,” Sharon Morrison said about the couple’s upbringing in McCook, Neb. “It was needing some TLC, so we thought, ‘Why don’t we restore it as best we can?’”

While some of the original interior features have been eliminated by remodeling through the years, the massive brick fireplace that served as a focal point of the original medical clinic waiting room is still attractive, with two built-in curved banquettes flanking the hearth to form an inglenook.

Natural light filled the original interior through a double clerestory window and 64-feet-long wall of floor-to-ceiling glass facing west. Part of Wright’s original design called for a landscaped garden of low bushes and perennials where a parking area now is located.

A lapped-board parapet on the roof once held flowers and plants, but now conceals the building’s air-conditioning unit.

Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture was his claim to fame. His idea was to promote harmony between human habitation and the natural world.

“Wright believed that good architecture could bring dignity and joy to everyday life,” a Western Work article about the Whitefish Wright building noted. “For the clinic’s patients, he demonstrated that this could be accomplished in a medical setting. In an atmosphere more reminiscent of a domestic living room than a doctor’s office, Wright used warm colors and natural materials to impart a sense of serenity and comfort.”

Wright designed the brick building for the medical practices of Drs. Lockridge, McIntyre and Whalen.

As the story goes, the doctors first contacted a Great Falls architectural firm about designing their clinic, but the bid came back exorbitantly high.

“When Dr. Lockridge’s wife saw the estimate, she said, ‘My gosh, we may as well have Frank Lloyd Wright design it.’ And so they did,” Morrison said.

Examination rooms, nurses’ stations, an X-ray unit and other medical services were placed on both sides of the waiting area. The doctors maintained their offices and a space for minor surgery in the north wing. On the south side, the building widened to allow space for the nurses. Skylights brought in natural light.

“There was one intriguing element in the design that appears to be without precedent in Wright’s work: a seven-foot diameter plastic sphere pointed in the center of the glass wall facing the garden,” Western Work stated. “Half inside and half outside the glass wall, this voluptuous white orb was supported by a 25-foot-diameter brick planter, which also bisected the wall.

“Lit from below by floodlights, the glowing translucent bubble must have appeared almost otherworldly.”

The big white ball was used initially as a terrarium and perhaps was designed to emulate a full moon. When the clinic became First State Bank in 1964, the sphere and circular planter were removed to allow for a front entrance to the bank.

In 1980 the bank moved to a bigger building and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building was divided into professional offices. By mid-1998 the building housed the sales and administrative offices for the upscale Iron Horse subdivision development.

The Morrisons and Framptons bought the building in 2002. They tried to find the pieces of the white orb, but the remnants were long gone.

Some of the features remain, though. Wright chose bricks of a variegated orange-tan hue for the clinic, with mortar tinted tan to match. To emphasize the building’s horizontal thrust, he had the mortar raked a half-inch deep on the horizontal joints and left flush on the vertical.

A decorative white concrete fascia in a reverse curve pattern contrasts with the warm wood and brick tones.

It’s not a commercial building that stands out in any overt way, but then Wright’s philosophy was to blend into the environment.

“I can’t say I appreciate the beauty,” Morrison admitted. “But there is an aura about it; it feels like a special place.”

Frank Lloyd Wright fans have stopped by through the years to see it firsthand, and a guest book attests to visitors from around the country.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake The original floor plan of the Frank Lloyd Wright building in Whitefish. Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in Whitefish, Montana.

 

Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake To give emphasis to the horizontal lines of the building, Frank Lloyd Wright designed the brickwork so the mortar of vertical joints sit flush with bricks while the horizontal joints are recessed. Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in Whitefish, Montana.

 

Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake Skylights provide natural light in the Frank Lloyd Wright building in Whitefish. Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in Whitefish, Montana.

 

Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake Frank Lloyd Wright signed a small brick on the outside of his building in Whitefish. Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in Whitefish, Montana.

 

Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake Frank Lloyd Wright building in Whitefish. Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in Whitefish, Montana.

 

Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake Frank Lloyd Wright building in Whitefish. Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in Whitefish, Montana.

Print Article

Read More Local News

Fugitive jailed after Foy’s Lake area chase

December 14, 2018 at 6:21 pm | Daily Inter Lake A man who was on the Montana Department of Corrections’ most-wanted fugitives list earlier this fall is now sitting in the Flathead County Jail after he led law enforcement officers on a chase Monday...

Comments

Read More

C-Falls veteran admits benefits fraud

December 14, 2018 at 6:21 pm | Daily Inter Lake A Columbia Falls man accused of stealing government benefits by overstating his disabilities admitted fraud and theft charges in federal court Wednesday, according to, U.S. Attorney Kurt G. Alme sa...

Comments

Read More

Illegal alien found in Glacier jailed on federal charge

December 14, 2018 at 6:21 pm | Daily Inter Lake An illegal alien admitted Dec. 11 in federal court to being in the United States illegally after Glacier National Park personnel found him Sept. 24 walking while on patrol, according to the U.S. At...

Comments

Read More

Browning woman admits embezzlement of Blackfeet Head Start

December 14, 2018 at 6:21 pm | Daily Inter Lake Browning resident Denise L. Sharp, 60, who worked for the Blackfeet Tribe’s Head Start Program, admitted in federal court Tuesday to stealing money through an overall scheme involving others, in wh...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 755-7000
727 East Idaho
Kalispell, MT 59901

©2018 Daily Inter Lake Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X