Wright Building Demolished in Montana

12. 1月 2018
Photo: Matt Baldwin/Daily Inter Lake
In the overnight hours of January 10, demolition crews bulldozed the building at 341 Central Avenue in Whitefish, Montana, that Frank Lloyd Wright designed as a medical clinic in 1958.
The demolition was carried out by Mick Ruis, who bought the building in 2016 after its most recent occupants closed their business. Ruis plans on building a three-story commercial building in brick in place of the Wright building that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Register, as this act makes clear, does not prevent demolitions. Nevertheless, Chicago's Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and the Montana Preservation Alliance were attempting to save the building. January 10 was the deadline Ruis gave preservation groups to raise $1.7 million in cash. The Conservancy tried to negotiate "a more reasonable deal," per a Daily Inter Lake report, but Ruis turned down those offers and the cash could not be raised in time.
The Wright building in its most recent occupation, as law offices (Photo via Montana Preservation Alliance)
Originally designed for Drs. Lockridge, McIntyre, and Whalen for their large practice, the building was completed after Wright's death in 1959. The 5,000-sf building featured a double clerestory for the waiting room, concrete and wood fascias, and a circular garden on the front elevation that continued inside the building. As the photo above attests, this last piece was removed, and other interior renovations were carried out over the years as the building changed uses from the clinic to a bank to, most recently, law offices.

​Ruis's January 10 deadline came as a surprise to preservationists. The Conservancy's executive director, Barbara Gordon, explained to the Daily Inter Lake: "It was communicated to all of us through our local contact working to broker the deal that the developer would not move to demolish the building until late 2018, by which time we expected the intended buyer to have their financing and complete the purchase. None of us are aware of why the owner changed his mind and moved up his demolition plans. It left us all scrambling to find a new cash buyer at the last minute."

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