In 1958, Frank Lloyd Wright broke a personal record with a cottage he designed for Seth Peterson, a longtime admirer of his work. At just 880 square feet, the home along Mirror Lake, in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, is the smallest residential building Wright ever touched. But it isn’t his smallest structure. Instead, that honor goes to a doghouse, which Wright conceived in the mid 1950s and is now on display at the Marin Civic Center, in San Rafael, California.
The story goes something like this: Robert and Gloria Berger commissioned Wright to design a Usonian home for them, and their 12-year-old son, Jim Berger, asked the architect to design a doghouse to match.
“I would appreciate it if you would design me a doghouse, which would be easy to build, but would go with our house,” young Berger wrote to Wright in 1956, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
Wright responded with plans for the doghouse, instructing Berger to build it on a concrete slab and use redwood boards for the walls. Despite receiving blueprints from the famed architect, Berger wasn’t able to build the house until 1963, after returning from an army tour. When his father died in 1970, the original shelter was sent to the dump.
The structure, dubbed “Eddie’s House” after the Berger family dog, was about four square feet and triangular in shape. Like many of the homes Wright designed, the doghouse features a low-pitched roof with a large overhang, which, also like many Wright roofs, leaked. Luckily, Eddie preferred the main house.
However, in 2010, Berger and his brother rebuilt the doghouse using the original plans, and donated it to the County of Marin, in Northern California, in 2016. It was on view at the library for a year; originally, it was only meant to be on display for two months, but the public’s overwhelming admiration changed the plans.
The library rotates exhibitions, so it was eventually put into storage, much to the dismay of many Wright fans. “We received calls and emails since 2016 from people who wanted to come see it,” said Libby Garrison, the head of marketing and communications for the County of Marin’s Department of Cultural Services. After being in storage for a few years, the doghouse is now back on display at the County of Marin’s Civic Center, which coincidentally enough, is the largest building Wright ever designed.