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Frank Lloyd Wright Structure Finds a Home and a Future in Westmoreland County

Plans were unveiled today for the Duncan House, a 1957 Usonian home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. In 2002, the structure was dismantled from its original location in Lisle, Ill., and moved to Johnstown, PA, where it has remained in storage. The structure is about to be resurrected, this time as a guest home for many visitors instead of as a single-family residence.

In 2005, Tom Papinchak, CEO of Polymath Park, and owner of Housemasters, Inc. worked together with the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, The Progress Fund and the State to put together a plan to reconstruct the Duncan House on the Westmoreland County property. With two structures already on the 125-acre site that were designed by Wright’s apprentice Peter Berndston in the 1960s, Polymath Park proved to be a natural fit for the Duncan House. The Park was designed to be a residential community, but only two of the planned 24 homes were actually built – The Balter House and the Blum House, both for Pittsburgh residents. The Park has been using these homes as annually leased rentals for the past several years.

Today’s groundbreaking marks the beginning of a new era for the Duncan House. Reconstruction will begin immediately at the renamed Polymath Park Resort as well as grounds and roadway improvements. The Duncan House will be used primarily for lodging and limited tours. Guests will be treated to a relaxing stay with plenty of outdoor activities. A proposed educational facility will provide a place for students to learn about American architecture and environmental preservation.

“This home will be one of only four Frank Lloyd Wright designs in the country where you can actually stay and experience the unique Wright lifestyle,” Papinchak said. “All three homes will be used for overnight lodging as well as for corporate retreats, meetings, school field trips, group tours, and social functions.”

Visitors of Polymath Park Resort will also have the opportunity to enjoy the reflecting pond, numerous hiking trails, an education center, house and grounds tours, a gift shop and café.

“We are fortunate to have the land to build and expand the resort for several uses, but all of our efforts will remain true to the architectural heritage of the Wright and Berndston structures. All of our activities will be culturally-focused with an emphasis on nature and improving the mind, body and spirit,” said Laura Nesmith, PR Director for Polymath Park Resort.

Once the core frame has been reassembled, the Duncan House will be rebuilt, decorated and furnished according to original blueprints and style of the 1950s era. The home was built by Erdman Builders of Madison, Wis. for Donald and Elizabeth Duncan. The Conservancy stepped in to save the home after Donald’s death in 2002 when the estate was sold to a developer who did not want the structure, but donated it the Conservancy to preserve its architectural value.

The floor plan includes three bedrooms, two baths, and Wright’s trademark open living/dining area with a natural stone fireplace as its focal point. Recessed lighting, built-in cabinetry and geometric styling are obvious throughout the home. Natural colors and fabrics will be used to reflect Wright’s dedication to the preservation of nature and its integration with indoor spaces.

Polymath Park Resort is within 30 miles of both Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, two popular and well-established Wright landmarks. “We anticipate that the option of overnight lodging at the Duncan House as well as the Berndston-designed homes will compliment both existing Wright properties and strengthen the tourism draw to the Laurel Highlands for visitors and Wright enthusiasts alike,” Nesmith said.

Polymath Park Resort featuring the Duncan House, the Balter House and the Blum House is expected to be open to the public in late Fall 2006. The development of Polymath Park Resort is expected to create eight local full-time jobs within three years. Reservation and tour information will be announced in August.

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