The world’s only Frank Lloyd Wright–designed doghouse—a quirky footnote in the iconic architect’s seven-decade career— had a leaky roof and was snubbed by the dog it was intended to shelter. It does, however, have a charming origin story.
In the early 1950s, Robert Berger of San Anselmo, Calif., asked Wright to design a family home that was “expandable, inexpensive and easy for one person to build.” Wright agreed, drafting a set of plans for a prototype of what he came to call his Usonian homes.
In June 1956, Berger’s 12-yearold son, Jim, wrote to Wright with a similar request, this time for “a doghouse that would be easy to build, but would go with our house.” While the architect said he was too busy to take the commission (he was supervising construction of the Guggenheim Museum at the time), he suggested that the boy write again later in the year. Eventually, Wright sent Jim a full set of drawings for a small, triangular doghouse with an inconspicuous entrance and a low-pitched roof. It was 1963 before the Bergers got around to building the doghouse, and Eddie and his successors declined to use it; in 1973, it was dismantled and hauled off to the dump.
Years later, Jim Berger, by then a skilled cabinetmaker, used the plans to rebuild “Eddie’s House,” which he donated to Marin County. This year, as part of the 150th anniversary celebration of Wright’s birth, it was displayed inside the vast, blue-roofed Marin County Civic Center, the largest Wright-designed structure still in existence. A transcript of the letters exchanged between the boy and architect follows …
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June 19, 1956
Dear Mr. Wright
I am a boy of twelve years. My name is Jim Berger. You designed a house for my father whose name is Bob Berger. I have a paper route which I make a little bit of money for the bank, and for expenses. I would appreciate it if you would design me a dog house, which would be easy to build, but would go with our house. 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 dog house is for the winters mainly. My dad said if you design the dog house he will help me build it. But if you design the dog house I will pay you for the plans and materials out of the money I get from my route.
A house for Eddie is an opportunity. Someday I shall design one but just now I am too busy to concentrate on it. You write me next November to Phoenix, Arizona and I may have something then.
Frank Lloyd Wright
June 28th, 1956