The Lockridge Medical Clinic in 2016. Photo: Adam Jeselnick.

Developer Razes Frank Lloyd Wright Building in Montana

A building in Whitefish, Montana, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright was bulldozed on January 10 by its owner, despite efforts to save the historic property by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, a Chicago-based nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of the architect’s work. The Lockridge Medical Clinic, which Wright designed in 1958, one year before his death, is the first building by the architect in more than forty years to be demolished.

After the nonprofit offered to pay developer Mick Ruis a refundable deposit and his full asking price of $1.7 million within sixty days, Ruis demanded a fifty percent increase on the deposit and the full $1.7 million by January 22. The clinic was destroyed less than two hours after final negotiations fell through between the nonprofit and Ruis, who bought the premises in 2016, unaware at the time of its cultural and historical status. The building, which also served as a bank and law offices, was one of three sites in Montana designed by Wright. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2012.

“The board of directors of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy agreed the owner’s proposals provided no realistic path to acquiring the building, short of an investor willing to put down $1.7 million cash without reasonable time to complete their own due diligence on the property,” said Barbara Gordon, the nonprofit’s executive director. “None of us are aware of why the owner changed his mind and moved up his demolition plans.”

“This devastating situation underscores the vulnerability of all Wright-designed buildings that don’t have some form of legal protection,” Gordon said. “Most preservation work happens on the local level. The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy encourages concerned citizens to advocate for strong local preservation protections in their respective communities.”