Frank Lloyd Wright designed some of the United States’ most iconic structures, from Fallingwater to the Guggenheim Museum. But toward the end of his career, the architect sketched something decidedly more mundane: a four-square-foot doghouse.
In 1956, Wright drew up plans for “Eddie’s House,” now on permanent display at the Marin County Civic Center (which Wright also designed) in San Rafael, California. It is the smallest structure Wright ever designed—and coincidentally, it’s now kept at the architect’s largest existing building, notes a statement from the civic center.
Like many of Wright’s designs, the doghouse features a low, asymmetrical roof with a large overhang. Also like many of Wright’s larger structures, the doghouse roof leaks, per the civic center.
The story behind the doghouse is just as adorable as the structure itself. After Robert and Gloria Berger hired Wright to design their family home in Marin County, California, in the 1950s, the couple’s 12-year-old son, Jim, asked the architect to sketch out a matching doghouse for their Labrador retriever, Eddie. Jim even offered to pay for it with money he earned from his paper route.
“I would appreciate it if you would design me a doghouse, which would be easy to build, but would go with our house,” wrote Jim in a letter, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. “My dog’s name is Edward, but we call him Eddie. He is four years old or in dog life 28 years. He is a Labrador retriever. He is two and a half feet high and three feet long. The reasons I would like this doghouse is for the winters mainly.”
Wright wrote back, saying that when he was less busy, designing a house for Eddie would be an “opportunity.”
Eventually, at no charge, Wright sent the Bergers plans for a four-square-foot doghouse on the back of an envelope. He instructed the family to build it on a concrete slab, and he recommended that they use leftover materials from their own home’s construction. According to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, it was the only doghouse he ever designed.
Jim Berger never got around to building the doghouse himself. But when he joined the Army in 1963, his father and brother took it upon themselves to build it in his absence. (Eddie, who was not a fan of sleeping outside, refused to use it.)
In 1970, Gloria Berger threw out the structure. But 40 years later, in 2010, Jim and his brother rebuilt it from Wright’s original drawings for a documentary about the architect. They donated it to Marin County in 2016.
The county library originally planned to display the doghouse for two months, which turned into a full year due to popular demand, reports Architectural Digest’s Katherine McLaughlin. Eventually, the library put the doghouse in storage to make room for other exhibitions, but people who’d gotten a glimpse of it never forgot.
“We [have] received calls and emails since 2016 from people who wanted to come see it,” says Libby Garrison, a spokesperson for Marin County’s cultural services department, to Architectural Digest.
The civic center complex was not only Wright’s largest public project; it was also his last commission. Wright died in 1959, and the center is now a National Historic Landmark. Starting this month, visitors can see “Eddie’s House” in the center’s cafeteria.
“We are a pet-loving community, and I think it’s an intimate, kind of lovely building,” Garrison tells the Marin Independent Journal’s Giuseppe Ricapito. “I feel like it tells a bigger Frank Lloyd Wright story.”