Shiprock in the Desert

Last week I wrote about the potential destruction of the David Wright home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and I mentioned another Frank Lloyd Wright house that was essentially a ruin.  Several people inquired about that house.  It was originally built for artist Rose Pauson in 1939 and destroyed by fire in 1942.  It came to be known as Shiprock and the ruins remained for over 40 years.  Today you can see the remains of the fireplace on 32nd Street.

The home was a desert masonry structure with lapped redwood siding.  It had a studio-living room, kitchen, dining & servants quarters on the lower level with bedrooms and a balcony overlooking the living room above.  It has been suggested that it  could be the inspiration for the home on Mt Rushmore in the Alfred Hitchcock film North by  Northwest.  There is even a book about the construction of this home “Building the Pauson House: The Letters of Frank Lloyd Wright and Rose Pauson” by Allen Wright Green.

Three years after construction was completed embers in the fireplace ignited some curtains and it burned to the ground leaving the masonry & stone portions of the house.

Thus it remained for almost 40 years until the City of Phoenix wanted to run 32nd St. through the site and there was a public outcry.  Architect Eddie Jones relocated the 70 ton chimney mass 200 yards south to the entrance of Alta Vista Park where it remains today.

At the time I knew it I was captivated by the stark sadness of the ruin and I always wondered why it was never rebuilt.

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The Pauson House when it was completed.

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Diana Vreeland editor of Vogue Magazine at Shiprock before the fire.

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Floor plan of the Pauson House.  By today’s standards it was quite small.

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The study-living room.  Probably the curtains that started the fire.

Looking down from the balcony into the study-living room.

The ruins as I remember them in the 1970’s.

The chimney today at the entrance of Alta Vista Parkon 32nd Street south of Lincoln Drive.