The only house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Nebraska has ties to Gothenburg.
Patty Cordell, the great-granddaughter of Harvey P. and Eliza Sutton, told the story at the Alpha Delta Kappa’s annual guest night on Monday, Nov. 18. Cordell’s great-grandparents built the Sutton house in McCook designed by Wright in 1904, with her great-grandmother being the general contractor.
“I am proud to be from a long line of strong-willed women. The house would never have happened without Eliza. She wanted the house built next door so that she could keep an eye on it,” Cordell said.
The Barnes’, friends of the Suttons, saw homes designed by Wright in Ladies Home Journal and contacted him to design a home for them. Even though drawings were completed in 1903, the Barnes House was never built, but it did provide inspiration for Eliza.
She contacted Wright to design a home and began writing letters to him in Chicago discussing the plans, Cordell said. At first, she wanted to update and expand the Sutton’s existing home.
After receiving the first drawing, Eliza wasn’t happy with it and decided they wouldn’t be able to come to an agreement, Cordell said. That is when Eliza asked for a second plan that would build a new home in the vacant part of their land.
“Some of it won’t do,” was Eliza’s response to the second design, Cordell said. The letter writing continued in the development of the floor plans, but no rendering exists of the outside of the house’s final design.
The home was completed in 1908. Wright visited the house one time and traveled from Chicago on the Burlington Northern railroad.
Cordell said that he only stepped into the entrance of the home, discovered small changes that Eliza had made and left with a swoosh of his cape to never return again saying that his design had been ruined by changes in lights and corners of windows.
While the home is no longer owned by the Sutton family, Cordell and others continue to preserve the legacy while keeping the designs and letters within the family.
After visiting the Antiques Roadshow, Cordell learned that the drawings accompanied by the original letters could be worth as much as $175,000.
The current owners, Van and Janet Korell, renovated and restored the home in 1991 and further in 2001. Including the Suttons, the house has had five owners and has been used as a doctor’s office, boarding house, and private home.