Randall Fawcett House, 1955
Of all the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures in California, the Randall Fawcett House is in one of the most improbable locations.
It's not in a city or even a town. Instead, it's situated in the middle of farmland outside the town of Los Banos, CA. You might think that its original owners heeded Wright's advice about choosing a location to go as far away from cities as they could - and then go 10 miles farther, but the reason it's there is simpler than that.
Randall "Buck" Fawcett was a star college football player, drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1944. When his father became ill, he changed his plans and moved back home to California's Central Valley to run the family farm. He met Frank Lloyd Wright while he and his wife Harriett were taking an architecture course at Stanford University.
Wright designed the Fawcett House in 1955 and construction was completed in 1961, two years after Wright's death. It was the third-to-last California residence created by the famous architect.
The house has six bedrooms and 4.5 baths and is a spacious 3,800 square feet of living space sitting in the middle of 80 acres of farmland. It's constructed using battered concrete block, a technique that creates a wall that slopes inward as it rises.
It's a long, flat house that mimics its surrounding landscape. The layout includes a midsection with two wings at 60/120-degree angles. Inside, the concrete floor is inscribed with triangles, a geometric feature that also appears in cut-out wood screens, lighting fixtures, and the fascia of the roof.
The living room fireplace is a massive affair, 12 feet wide. The living area is an open-plan room, but the house has a formal dining room.
Outside is a Koi pond and swimming pool
After the Fawcetts died, the house was listed for sale (and removed from the market) several times.
The house sold in 2012 for an undisclosed amount. Fresno architect Arthur Dyson led an extensive, award-winning renovation project for its new owner. The work included realizing some of the original plan details which were left out during construction to save money: a spiral caldron in the living room’s massive fireplace, a fireplace in the master bedroom, and a fountain with a waterfall.
More About the Fawcett House - and More of California's Wright Sites
After Harriet Fawcett died, Randall remarried. His second wife thought the house too masculine and had the exterior concrete walls painted pink. That's how it looked when I took these photographs. After a renovation in 2012-13, it was restored to the original golden tan color.
If you want to know more about Usonian architecture, try this article that explains it - or read Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian Houses by Carla Lind.
What You Need to Know About the Fawcett House
The Fawcett House is at:
21200 Center Ave
Los Banos, CA
The house is a private residence, with no public tours. It's seven miles away from the town of Los Banos, just off I-5. From Mervel Avenue nearby, you can see the house surrounded by trees, but it's too far away to see much. Turn onto Center Avenue to drive beside the house. It's a dirt road that looks more like a driveway than a street but is accessible to most vehicles.
More of the Wright Sites
Wright's Usonian houses were designed for middle-income families. They featured indoor-outdoor connections and were often built in an "L" shape. California examples include the Hanna House (which is based on an octagon), Sydney Bazett House, Buehler House, Randall Sturges House, Arthur Mathews House, and the Kundert Medical Clinic in San Luis Obispo (which is based on a Usonian House design).
The Fawcett House isn't the only Wright site outside California's metro areas. You'll also find several houses, a church, and a medical clinic in some of the most unexpected places. Here's where to find Wright sites in the rest of California. You can also see Wright Sites in Los Angeles and in the San Francisco area.