What Is Rosenbaum House?

Britt Archer

The Rosenbaum House is a city museum in Florence, Alabama, and it is notable for the fact it is the only building in the entire state that was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The Rosenbaum House is one of only 409 of the architect’s structures that remain in existence, out of a total of 532 that were built. The architect designed it in his simple Usonian style — no basement or attic and few ornamental details — and an eye was kept on cost control because at the time of its design, the Great Depression in America was going strong.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Usonian comes from the initials for for United States of North America. The style reflects Frank Lloyd Wright’s goal to make a building for the common man in his own unique American style. Houses in this style, like the Rosenbaum House, are one story tall, have flat roofs, and were designed for the middle class. The Rosenbaum House, sitting on 2 acres (8,093.7 square meters) of land near the Tennessee River, meets all these specifications.

When it was built in 1939 for Mildred and Stanley Rosenbaum, the house had 1,540 square feet (143.07 square meters) of living space, but a 1,084-square-foot (100.70-square-meter) addition in 1948 expanded the house to accommodate the Rosenbaums’ growing family. Mildred and Stanley Rosenbaum were the only private owners of the house. The city of Florence bought it in 1999 when it was in great need of maintenance. Termites were in the walls, and leaks allowed water to damage walls, ceilings, trim and joists. Following repairs that were funded by a new sales tax that was enacted in Florence, the house was restored.

Now a museum, the Rosenbaum House on Riverview Drive has been restored to its original state and is open to visitors. The successful renovation earned an award from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in 2004, and the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The house is shaped like an L, and the addition is another L shape. The house is made out of glass, brick and cypress wood. The design called for no garage, and instead features a carport.

The Rosenbaums originally asked another architect to design their house, but the design submitted was over their budget. The architect suggested the family consult Frank Lloyd Wright. His design incorporated all the specifications they wanted at an affordable cost. The addition commissioned in the late 1940s added not only more space, but also a lanai garden, which further enhanced the architect’s desire to incorporate nature in his structures.

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