Usonia, New York: Building a Community with Frank Lloyd Wright

Sunday, May 7, 2017 | 8:15 a.m. - 4:15 p.m.
CM | 7
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You'll learn about:

  • The cooperative community of Usonia, New York. The community was a new concept in Westchester County, New York and was met by some opposition due to its new concepts. Participants will gain an understanding of Frank Lloyd Wright's concept and designs for the affordable home for Americans and about how the community continues to preserve their historic Frank Lloyd Wright design. 

  • The Bronx River Parkway - America's First Parkway and linear park. 

  • Historic TODs before the term TOD was coined.

Frank Lloyd Wright had a utopian vision for an affordable cooperative community of modern homes, where the land between the houses was open and accessible to everyone, and where the residents were actively engaged in a community.

In the 1940s, a group of young professionals from New York, led by David and Priscilla Henken, had a dream of a place where everyone would live together as a community. The original community organizers travelled up to Westchester County, purchased land outside of the Village of Pleasantville, and signed on Frank Lloyd Wright to prepare a master plan for their community vision. Wright created a unique master plan with circular lots, narrow winding roads, and open space that was designed with the natural site in mind. Ultimately, Wright designed 3 of the 47 houses and undertook the task of overseeing and approving plans for all of the houses. 

The 47 homes in a 100-acre community was named Usonia, in honor of Frank Lloyd Wright's Utopia movement. Carports - the word as well as the idea - were one of the low-cost innovations Wright contributed to his Usonian homes. In 2012, the Usonia Historic Districted was created and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Roland Reisley is an original homeowner, who, with his wife at the age of 26, retained Frank Lloyd Wright to design their dream home for their land in Usonia. The Reisley house is known as a particularly fine example. Mr. Reisley still lives in the house that Wright designed and is the author of Usonia, New York: Building a Community with Frank Lloyd Wright. Mr. Reisley is also the president of the Usonia Homeowner’s Association and the Usonian historian. Mr. Reisley will provide a tour of the community and of his house that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The workshop will include a ride on the Metro-North Harlem line, one of the train lines that served as a transportation vein linking the suburbs to New York City. The Harlem line passes through the communities of Bronxville, Scarsdale, and Valhalla that evolved around train stations – America’s first true TODs – before they were called TODs.

The Harlem line also travels through the Bronx River Parkway, Westchester County’s oldest park, an 807-acre paved linear park that was created as an adjunct to the Bronx River Parkway opened in 1925.

The reservation touts a number of “firsts.” It was the first linear park in Westchester, as well as one of the first in the country. Bronx River Parkway was also the first parkway in the nation. It extends 13.2 miles in Westchester from the New York City line north to the Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla. The Bronx River Parkway is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

The reservation holds the distinction of being the first official Westchester County park. The picturesque reservation, which runs through the heart of southern Westchester County, features ponds, wooden footbridges, and hundreds of varieties of native trees and shrubs. 

Speakers

Jeffrey Williams , AICP , , Kansas City , MO (see bio)
Tracey Corbitt , AICP , White Plains , NY (see bio)
Elizabeth Marrinan , AICP , Village of Scarsdale , Scarsdale , NY (see bio)