April 29, 2012 § 6 Comments
When I told a reporter who interviewed me after the publication of Susan Lawrence: The Enigma in the Wright House that I found that some stories we interpreters have been presenting on tours are questionable, she called me a myth buster. One of those stories is the furniture sale story. For years we have told tourists that one reason we have so much original Frank Lloyd Wright furniture in the house is because no one in Springfield would buy it at the auction of Susan’s property in 1943. Then I found this paragraph in an article in the July 31, 1943, edition of the Illinois State Register:
Reports that the Lawrence home had been sold were denied today but it was revealed that the owners had a nibble. The interested party asked that the furniture of the home not be sold until a decision was made whether he would buy the structure. As a result, sale of the specially constructed furniture has been held up. In case no sale is made, it is expected that the property will be wrecked later and an apartment building constructed there at the conclusion of the war.
That “interested party” was Charles C. Thomas who was a great admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright long before it was fashionable. Thomas understood even then that every element in the house was essential to Wright’s total design. The furniture never went up for sale, and on April 2, 1944, Thomas bought the whole package. He not only saved the Lawrence House from the wrecking ball, but he adapted it to serve as corporate headquarters of the Charles C. Thomas Publishing Company, preserving and protecting the masterpiece for over 30 years. Those of us who love the house owe a huge debt to Charles C. Thomas!