Frank Lloyd Wright’s Cedar Rock Boathouse Gets Some Much Needed Love

The perfect Mid-Century man-cave has been due for a renovation.

By Annette Barlow September 12, 2016
Photo courtesy of

Frank Lloyd Wright was a rock star. If architects could have groupies and sold-out stadium shows, he’d have been all over that. In his pre-hipster pork-pie hat, the man was a legend during his time—and his legacy endures. Nowadays, you can’t swing a cat without bumping into a FLW restoration project. But just when you thought all his buildings were known, up pops another.

This latest find, however, is a little different from many, as it’s one of FLW’s few small built spaces. The Cedar Rock Pavilion, overlooking the Wapsipinicon River in Quasqueton, Iowa, was designed in the 1940’s by Wright as part of an 11-acre estate for retired couple Lowell and Agnes Walter.

Related: Your Dreams Are Not For Sale, But Maybe They’re For Rent: Five Frank Lloyd Wright Houses You Can Rent

Completed in 1950, Cedar Rock House—as the main house was known—was true to Wright’s enduring vision, melding the man-made with the natural, and maximizing exposure to the buildings’ landscape. When Lowell passed away, Agnes entrusted the iconic home to the Department of Natural Resources, along with a trust to help with repair and maintenance of the property.

But when base-level repairs were undertaken, including the installation of a new roof, the fund ran dry, and a full restoration of the estate and its outbuildings ground to a halt. Which is where Friends of Cedar Rock, a local non-profit, stepped in, managing the fundraising effort which would grant a full makeover to the property‘s boathouse.

By 2010, the group had raised enough money to begin the project, and the completed building is due to be revealed sometime in late September or October. Costing a modest $220,000, the scope of work is mainly directed at protecting against flood damage, repointing the brick work and restoring the dated interiors.

The two-story building, located 100 yards from the main house on a rocky outcrop overlooking the river, has previously been labelled a “man-cave”, designed as it was for Lowell’s personal use. The lower level housed his custom motorboat and canoes, while the upper levels provided sanctuary, with a bed area, a desk and a large fireplace with built-in reading bench. In fact, this was less a boat house and more a crash pad, as the structure also features a screened-in second floor porch, perfect for sun-soaking.

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

It’s a rare beast, because although FLW designed other boathouses in his time, Cedar Rock Pavilion is both the only boathouse he designed in tandem with the main house, and the only one still standing, despite recent flooding. It’s testament to how much the owners loved their home, that it’s still around, and in such good condition over 60 years later.
And while the house is open to the public from May through to October, you’ll likely have to wait until next year to see the restored boathouse in its all its glory.


In the meantime, you’ll have to make do with the Walter’s home: a unique, Usonian building, replete with trademark FLW brick lines, garden wall with three walls of windows, offering wide-angle views of the surrounding greenery and beautiful period furnishings, selected by FLW himself.

Annette Barlow



Annette is freelance editor, sub-editor, journalist and proofreader with a fierce love of all things feminist, food and music. She is a regular fixture on the arts, culture and feature desks at The Guardian, and her words have appeared on NME, Great British Chefs, The Fly, The Line of Best Fit and Australian Times.

    Stefano Boeri, the architect mastermind behind the famous plant-covered skyscrapers, is now designing Forest Cities in Liuzhou, China. #ForestCity #China
    Auction is the second scheduled in a month for a One57 unit and it could set a NYC foreclosure record. #BillionairesRow #Foreclosures
    Once a couch-surfing website, Airbnb moves on to luxury properties, further disrupting hospitality industry. #Airbnb #Luxury
Four Countries To Retire In With $200K In Savings—And How Much Real Estate Costs There
Ever dreamed of retiring abroad? You know, affordable healthcare, better climate, more positive news—becoming an expat seems like an enticing option, especially one you no…
While Other Real Estate Platforms Start Charging Agents $3-Per-Day Exposure Fee, Agorafy Remains Accessible To All
Real Estate searching platform are always finding news ways to diversify their revenues models. Case in point—on Tuesday July 18, Streeteasy, one of New York…
Is Real Estate Crowdfunding The Fix That Urban Housing In America Really Needs?
Saving money for a down payment? One can only hope. Most millennial in their twenties or thirties are mortified that they might never be able…
Brooklyn And Queens’ Real Estate Sub-Markets Continue Their Ascent To The New Heights
So, the sales prices in Brooklyn and Queens hit record highs. Again. Just like they did in December 2016 and at the end of this…
The Economy Of Car Services And Delivery Apps Might Be Making NYC Less Eco-Friendly
Living in an eco-friendly neighborhood is a good thing. And, as it always the case with the good things, it also costs more. High rents…
Building Communities: What The U.S. Developers Should Learn From Soho China
As our world emerges into the new period of globalization and technology, some of the most important by-products of this process are buildings that have…
Five Reasons Why All Entrepreneurs Must Keep Their Eyes On China
It is hard to overestimate the importance of Chinese influence on the modern global economy. Carving out a place in Chinese market and winning over…
Airbnb Up Their Game With A New Luxury Tier Featuring Mansions And Villas
Airbnb is about to seriously up their game. First, the company started testing a new service called Select in an attempt to push accommodation listings…