Designed in 1906 and built in 1907 to 1908, the 4,435 square foot six bedroom house was a commission by Burton J. Westcott, a civic leader and industrialist most remembered for bringing the Westcott Motor Car Company to Springfield in 1916.
Across Greenmount Avenue on the east side of the house is a cemetery, which looks like a large city park and contributes to the beauty of the site. Its neighbor to the west is a large house of quite different, but attractive design.
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History and Alterations
The house was owned by Springfield book merchant Roscoe Pierce from 1926 until his death in 1941. During his ownership, the sleeping porches on both sides of the second floor were enclosed and access to the small terrace off Mr. Westcott's room above the entryway were eliminated. He also added a room to the rear of the house.
The most dramatic change came when Eva Linton purchased the house in 1944. She divided the house into five one-bedroom apartments. She also moved another entire house onto the property’s north side that was originally used as a riding area for the Westcott children. As part of the division, new interior walls were added and doorways were cut into original walls.
During her ownership, all of the walls were painted many times, the trim was painted over (including all of the wall tile in one of the bathrooms), some original walls were covered with with drywall or paneling, the tile roof was replaced with asphalt shingles, a layer of concrete was poured over the original walkway under the pergola (hiding the original patterns), the pergola was enclosed and converted to a set of storage sheds, the original set of garage doors on the carriage house were filled in and replaced with a small modern door, and almost every piece of the original Wright-designed furniture was removed.
Wright designed the foundation and framing with insufficient support for the load carried by the front wall, and it bowed and sank, causing extensive damage to the windows on the first and second floor. Although Wright followed the common building practices of the time, it is believed that he made changes to his original design without making the corresponding changes to the structure.
Dorothy Snyder inherited the property in 1981 and her son Ken and his wife Sherri Snyder became resident managers in 1984. They bought it from her in 1988. Since the main house had tenants, the Snyders lived in the carriage house and worked hard to repair and maintain the property. In 1991 Ken died suddenly in a car accident. Sherri tried to keep the house from deteriorating and packed away fixtures, hoping to restoring everything eventually. She spent all of the money she could to maintain and restore the house. She had a contractor jacked up the sinking front wall and make other repairs to the foundation and support beams. In the end, she just didn't have the resources to keep fixing things as fast as they were falling apart.
Snyder sold the house in 2000 to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in Chicago to ensure its preservation. The newly-formed Westcott House Foundation purchased it for $300,000 the following year and began to restore the house and grounds. An extensive collection of pre-restoration photos can be found at Peter Beers' web site.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Westcott House first opened to the public as a museum in October, 2005.