Still Bend Summer

Projects Help to Advance Wright’s Usonian Vision

By Brian R. Hannan

Some people who own Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes restore them as they were built. Others, like Michael Ditmer, help them become what they were meant to be.

“That’s my charge as steward of the house. I intend to leave this house being the shining example of what Frank Lloyd Wright intended,” said Ditmer, who co-owns the Bernard and Fern Schwartz House (1939), which Wright named Still Bend, with his brother, Gary.

“I will stand firmly in the corner of Wright,” Ditmer added. “I believe, if he were to come back to life and visit the house, he would be thrilled that it’s actually, finally emerging as the house he envisioned — and probably would say something like, ‘What took you so long?’”

The case in point is the sunken court that is accessible from the master bedroom and, via the French doors Ditmer expects to restore next spring, the living area. Wright specified privacy walls and built-in benches the Schwartzes had not completed when construction ended in the spring of 1940 — likely because the builder had run out of the required red tidewater cypress.

Ditmer completed the work this summer so the house would be ready for its closeup. A “major television network” was interested in profiling the house for a segment that is slated to air in the near future.

Seeing the privacy walls and banquette seating installed is “exhilarating,” Ditmer said, noting Wright left his clients with “finer details to finish the sunken court the way he wanted” after a visit to the home in 1941.

“This has been a long time coming,” Ditmer said.

Other projects also were completed this summer, including staining the riverside terrace concrete to match the Cherokee Red tinting in the sunken court. When a previous owner replaced the terrace’s original concrete in the 1970s, it was left plain.

Ditmer also repaired damaged wood cut-outs in the home’s clerestory windows and restored the finish on the banquette seating in the lounge and the built-in desks in both the lounge and the entry.

Looking ahead he plans to build a cushion cabinet Wright specified for the sunken court and clean and restore the original concrete.

Editor’s Note: More information about Still Bend and how to book an overnight stay is available at: Tours of the home have been temporarily halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.