The owner of a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Whitefish has agreed not to demolish it if a buyer can be found by Wednesday. This would be the first usable Wright building to be torn down in more than four decades.
The current owner of the Wright-designed Lockridge Medical Clinic says he didn’t know the building’s significance when he proposed to replace it with a three-story multi-use facility two years ago. Mick Ruis agreed to sell for $100,000 more than what he bought it for if a buyer can put $1.7 million in his hand by Wednesday.
Barbara Gordon heads the Chicago-based Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, one of several groups scrambling to find a buyer. She says losing the Whitefish building would be losing a connection to American history.
"People are drawn to these buildings, and the way that they're designed is such an interesting human experience of a work of art that you can't replicate today," Gordon said.
Gordon says the Conservancy has been working alongside local groups like the Montana Preservation Alliance for the past year to save the building, one of three Wright designs in Montana. She says they thought they had until later this year, but last week, owner Mick Ruis gave them a deadline of this Wednesday.
"We are doing the best we can," Gordon said. "We are going to take this to the very end and find a solution that works for both parties."
Asbestos removal is already underway in preparation for the building’s demolition.
The Lockridge Medical Clinic was built in 1958, one year before Wright died. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, but the title carries no legal protections. Whitefish city code does not require a demolition permit.