2017 marks what would have been Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday, and Alexandria’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Pope-Leighey House is joining in on nationwide celebrations with some can’t-miss events happening throughout the summer. If you’re a Frank Lloyd Wright fan, an architecture fan, or are looking for something new and unique to do in the D.C. region, you don’t want to miss visiting Alexandria’s Pope-Leighey House, located just 10 miles from Old Town Alexandria. Keep reading for our top 5 reasons to visit this summer, with birthday-inspired programming happening all year long.
1. It’s the Only Frank Lloyd Wright House Open to the Public in the D.C. Region
Image Credit: Paul Burk for the National Trust for Historic Preservation
If you’re in the D.C. region and want to visit a Frank Lloyd Wright home, Pope-Leighey House is by far the closest home open to the public, located just 10 miles outside of Old Town Alexandria. While Frank Lloyd Wright is known as the famed architect behind sites like Fallingwater, a grand house in southwestern Pennsylvania, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, he was prolific with his designs and has many houses located across the country. Very few, like the Usonian-style Pope-Leighey House, are open to the public today and operate as museums. Getting to the house is easy along the picturesque George Washington Memorial Parkway, with plenty of free parking on site.
2. They’re Celebrating With Picnics and Parties
Image Credit: Pope-Leighey House
Did you know that Frank Lloyd Wright loved outdoor picnics? Celebrate his birthday in style with a series of events inspired by that love of picnics parties happening at Pope-Leighey House this summer. On Thursday, June 8, Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday, Pope-Leighey House will be open especially for public tours with younger visitors in mind, complete with a cupcake. That evening, the house holds a very special 150th Birthday Picnic & Party fundraiser. You bring the picnic, your mid-century style to go with it and they will provide birthday cake and other desserts, cocktails, a swing band, a unique picnic auction and more. Prizes will be given out for the best Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired picnic vignette!
On July 12, the hilarious cocktail theater troupe, Picnic Theater Company, will be presenting their version of Noel Coward’s “Hay Fever” in front of the house (picnic dinner available) and on August 27, the Pope-Leighey Picnic series ends with a mid-century modern, family-style Back-to-School picnic (Loren Pope was an education reporter and author) on the grounds of the house. Conjure up that favorite Jell-O salad! Insider tip: the picnics offer a unique opportunity to visit the house in the evening.
3. They’re Offering Special One-of-a-Kind Tours
Image Credit: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria
In addition to their regular tours offered Friday-Monday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. through December, Pope-Leighey House is also offering special in-depth Usonian Architecture tours on various Saturdays. Wright coined the term “Usonian” as a sort of utopian vision of affordable housing for middle-class families, and Pope-Leighey House is one of the best examples of the style open to the public. Look out for other events such as the Twilight & Tipple Tour with beverages and bites, and a slew of other exciting partner collaborations throughout the anniversary year.
4. You Can Visit Two Historic Sites at Once
Image Credit: Gordon Beall
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House and the iconic Woodlawn mansion share a 126-acre estate that was originally part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Visit Woodlawn, built in 1805, during your trip to the historic property and get a taste of two very different, iconic architectural styles and historical contexts. A combination ticket for tours of both houses is only $20 for adults, with each tour lasting about 30-40 minutes, making it a fun morning or afternoon activity.
5. It’s Not Your Average Frank Lloyd Wright Home
Image Credit: S. Stanton for Visit Alexandria
As mentioned above, Pope-Leighey House is a rare example in this area of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian architecture, designed as affordable housing for people of moderate means. The house was created after a couple with a modest budget read an article about Wright’s vision and wrote a letter asking him to build their dream home. He agreed. The house itself measures only 1,200 square feet total, but Wright’s skill for producing dramatic space in small areas, his love for bringing the outdoors in and an open floor plan all create the illusion that it is much larger than that. Many innovations Frank Lloyd Wright created within the Usonian series were quickly adapted across America including spacious, open interiors, corner windows, and a cantilevered roof. You can tour the entire property and learn more about the history of the house, the special secrets of small space-living that are embodied within, and Wright’s attention to detail Friday-Monday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. through December.
For more on Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday celebrations at the Pope-Leighey House, click here.
Header Image Credit: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria