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Broad Margin


Broad Margin, Historic American Buildings Survey [HABS SC-597], Jack Boucher, photographer, 1986, memory.loc.gov, accessed May, 2011.

Photo: Broad Margin, Historic American Buildings Survey [HABS SC-597], Jack Boucher, photographer, 1986, memory.loc.gov, accessed May, 2011.

Broad Margin (9 W. Avondale Dr.) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.

Description

Situated near downtown in Greenville, South Carolina, Broad Margin is a private residence designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Completed in 1954, the house was named "Broad Margin" by Wright.

The structure is located on a two-acre sloping lot which is heavily wooded and is bordered by two creeks. Mr. Wright so located the house that it cannot be seen from the street or any other residences in the area. The house is constructed into the slope of the property and the roofline begins at the ground level on the northern side. Hence, upon entering the property from the north, only the roofline is visible. Upon reaching the house level, it becomes evident that the house projects out of the earth and is about 20' above ground level (at the bottom of the slope).

The structure is built of 12" thick steel-reinforced concrete walls and cypress wood. Its roof has a low pitch and has up to an 8' overhang on all sides except the northern side (where there is only a 2' overhang). A wood molding with a type of "dentil" design, extends along the soffit. The structure has concrete and stone walls. Windows 48" high extend continuously along three sides of the house.

The entrance, located at the northeast corner, opens into a hall which serves as a "spine" to the house, from which rooms extend downhill (to the south). The entrance thus provides easy access to every part of the house, and each room is open to direct sunlight and an exterior view.

The floors are highly polished red-colored concrete slabs, with copper pipes running through them. Hot water is circulated through these pipes to provide heating. Cypress boards form the ceilings, and two-way lights are located in overhead decks. Cypress is also used for the walls.

The main area of the house features a large living area and a smaller dining area. There is a massive stone fireplace, and a built-in couch is also notable. Located adjacent to the dining area is a small kitchen with an 18' high ceiling which culminates in a skylight. These three rooms form the core of the house, while a wing which projects to the west contains two baths and three bedrooms.

Throughout the house almost all of the furniture is of cypress and was specifically designed for the house. All of the hardware throughout the house is solid brass, and all of the doors, windows, and light fixtures were made on the site out of heart cypress.

The structure has only been altered by the replacement of a portion of the kitchen cabinets (damaged by fire). Additionally, although Wright's plans called for a cedar shingle roof, it is covered by asphalt shingles. The owners hope to eventually roof the structure according to the original plans.

Significance

Broad Margin gains its primary significance from the fact that Frank Lloyd Wright was its architect. Designed in 1951 and completed in 1954, the house is a fine example of Wright's natural (or "Usonian") homes. This is one of less than 20 of Wright's buildings in the Southeast and one of only two in South Carolina. (The other Wright building in South Carolina is Auldbrass, Beaufort County, National Register of Historic Places, 1976).

The house is a case study for Wright's dictum: "Shelter should be the essential look of any dwelling."[1] Broad Margin's massive roof, native stone walls and massive stone chimney reflect this idea. Other construction techniques used in the structure include heated concrete floors and walls assembled with brass screws instead of nails. These unique residential building methods are exemplary of Wright's architectural philosophy as well as his attention to detail.

The heating system is provided by hot water circulated through copper pipes in the concrete floor. The heat warms objects rather than the air, eliminating heat loss through windows and other openings.

Broad Margin is the name given to the property by Wright. The term comes from Thoreau's Maiden in which he states, "I love a broad margin to my life." The structure consists of about 1900 square feet of living space in addition to a carport, tool storage area, and patio. Broad Margin exemplifies Wright's love for natural materials, his desire for open planning and his sense of the natural surroundings. His attempts to end the distinction between interior and exterior space and to create an architecture having integrity are visible in Broad Margin.

[1]"Three New Houses by Frank Lloyd Wright," House and Home Magazine, August 1958.

Major Bibliographical References

Greenville News/Piedmont, October 1958.

Kaufmann, Edgar and Ben Raeburn, eds. Frank Lloyd Wright: Writings and Buildings, New York: Horizon Press, 1960, pp. 334-335.

Storer, William A. The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, A Complete Catalog. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1974.

Taped interview with Misses Charlcy and Gabrielle Austin, 1977. In the possession of Roy A. Palmer.

"Three New Houses by Frank Lloyd Wright." House and Home Magazine. August 1958.

Wright, Frank Lloyd. "House for the Misses Charlcy V. and Gabrielle Austin," (architectural plans), 1951.

Wright, Frank Lloyd. The Natural House. New York: Horizon Press, 1954.

  1. Graham, Georgianna and Palmer, Roy, Broad Margin, nomination document, 1978, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Broad Margin Map

Street Names
Avondale Drive West

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