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Quasqueton-native Lowell and Agnes Walter wanted to build a house for their retirement overlooking the Wapsipinicon River, near his hometown. The Des Moines couple owned Iowa Road Building Company in Des Moines and a farm management business in Buchanan County that amassed around 5,000 acres.
They sent a letter to noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright asking him to design their retirement house and he accepted. The Walters followed up with a topography map and photos of the site that Wright used to design their home. Construction began in 1948 and was completed in 1950.
Wright built 530 structures and designed twice that many, said Katie Hund, park manager for the Iowa DNR at Cedar Rock State Park. There are 10 in Iowa, and three open to the public. The house was donated to the Iowa Conservation Commission in 1981. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s.
The structure was built out of brick, glass and concrete and like many Frank Lloyd Wright structures, it was built without an attic or a basement. Students studying landscape and interior design from Iowa State University, Kirkwood Community College and a college in Wisconsin use the house for education purposes. It’s also popular with art and design enthusiasts who visit the park to experience the architecture, landscape and design of the site.
“The property was a tourist destination when they began construction and the Walters wanted it to stay open to the public,” Hund said. Tours are available from May to the middle of October, Wednesdays through Sundays. There is no fee for the tour. Donations go to the Friends of Cedar Rock.
Hund said more than 10,000 people tour the home each year, coming from as far away as Germany, Japan, and all of Asia.
“The Walters had a strong connection to nature and rural Iowa, gifting their property created a legacy for the public to hunt, fish, recreate and enrich their lives with meaningful architecture and design,” she said.