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The Zimmerman House

By Julio A. Cedano

The Zimmerman House is one of two houses in the New England area designed by 20th century modern master Frank Lloyd Wright, and one of the only houses in New England by the architect that is open for tours.  The other house is located down the street.  The Zimmerman House is located in the north end of Manchester, New Hampshire, and uniquely angled on the corner of Heather Street and Union Street.  It was designed in 1950 for Dr. Zimmerman and his wife and the prairie-styled Usonian (a term Wright used meaning compact, efficient and economical) home takes in all it can from the surrounding landscape while also providing privacy and enclosure.

The 1,700 square foot single story home sits skewed so that the back of the house is facing southeast on the site.  Wright’s decision to position the house in this way allowed him to open the rear of the house to gardens located in the backyard and create a connection between the exterior and the interior allowing both plant life and natural light to enter the home.  This along with large roof overhangs provide passive solar heating and natural cooling were part of Wrights Usonian design.  On the front façade the use of square clerestory windows gave the Zimmerman’s the privacy they needed from the street, while at the same time providing an aperture to view and allow sunlight to penetrate into the interiors.  The need for a garage is unnecessary in a Usonian home.  Wright’s use of the overhang in the Zimmerman house is extended  beyond the homes initial spaces to create what he coined as a carport, an exterior covered space for vehicle parking.  The large overhangs also becomes a form of protection for the red clay bricks that cover the exterior and interior walls of the house.

Wright’s signature design is evident when entering the home.  At the entrance the seven-foot high ceilings welcome you into a cozy corridor that connects one end of the home to the other.  When entering you are instantaneously guided towards the living space which opens up to twenty-foot high ceilings.  It is in this main space where Wright connects the exterior with the interior by providing large awning windows along the extent of the living space to the rear of the house.  Along with the view to nature, Wright brings nature inside by providing vegetation along the awning windows, thus breaking the boundaries and definition of exterior and interior.  Located at the center of the home is the heart of the house, a brick fireplace that faces the living area and adds warmth to the Georgian cypress wood ceiling and red-tiled concrete poured radiant floor.  As with every Frank Lloyd Wright home, all the interior cabinetry and furniture as been designed by Mr. Wright himself.  No corner or nook is left to waste; a shelf or storage compartment inhabits every part of the home as to not waste a single square foot of space.  The textiles on the couch pillows were even handpicked by Wright, a request that was made by Mrs. Zimmerman herself.  Wright’s non use of doors throughout the house, other than the master bedroom, of course, allowed communal spaces such as the living, dining, kitchen and entry to flow without the interruption of thresholds.  The dining space sits between the kitchen and the living area and is defined by a Wright designed dining table that converts from a simple square to a larger polygon shape to accommodate more guests for dinner.  French doors extend along the dining space, again, opening your view to the outside and creating a transition between the interior space and the exterior terrace.

The Zimmerman house is currently owned by the Currier Museum of Art.  If you are interested in visiting the home and getting a tour of the only Frank Lloyd Wright home open to the public in New England, visit www.currier.org/collections/zimmerman-house for more information on this 20th century Wright masterpiece.