Washington Life Magazine

Washington Life Magazine

Preservation ... The Wright Way

Jim Kimsey's never-before-photographed Frank Lloyd Wright house restored to its original splendor

DEBORAH GORE DEAN

PHOTOGRAPHY BY GARY LANDSMAN
BY CHRISTINA WILKIE
There has long been a sense among the collectors of artistic masterpieces that the paintings or sculptures they acquire never really "belong" to them in the traditional sense of the word. Great collectors are not owners, but rather stewards, entrusted with the preservation of a piece of history for the benefi t of future generations. Of course, this is easy to understand in the case of a Picasso or a Michelangelo...but what if the masterpiece were a house, on your property?

The restrained exterior features a flat copper roof

The restrained exterior features a flat copper roof

The half-moon space overlooking the Potomac

DEBORAH GORE DEAN

DEBORAH GORE DEAN

DEBORAH GORE DEAN
DEBORAH GORE DEAN
An iconic Arco floor lamp soars over the central living space toward a stone fireplace. Wright often described fireplaces as "the heart and soul of a house."

This was precisely the question that Washington philanthropist and AOL co-founder James V. Kimsey faced when, in 2000, he purchased the property adjacent to The Falls, his 21,000 sq. foot house overlooking the Potomac River in McLean. The masterpiece in this case was none other than a Frank Lloyd Wright house built in 1952 - one of only three properties that Wright designed in the Washington area. Known to Wright's disciples as the Marden House, this hemicycle design set into the rocky hillside was named after Luis and Ethel Marden, the photographer and mathematician couple for whom the home was designed. The Marden's occupied the residence until 2003. Presented with a choice, Kimsey decided to do what any steward of a masterpiece would, and he undertook its restoration to exactly what the artist intended it to be. Kimsey even visited Wright's archivists at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, housed at Taliesin West in Arizona, and in 2004, he began the $1 million-plus restoration. The result is pure F.L.W., a cinderblock work of minimalist genius suspended over a torrent of rapids half a mile south of the Key Bridge.



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