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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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Herbert Jacobs House 1 (J. Draeger photo, 1995)

Herbert Jacobs House 1 (J. Draeger photo, 1995)

Herbert Jacobs House 1 (J. Draeger photo, 1995)

Jacobs, Herbert and Katherine, First House
441 Toepfer Avenue, Madison, Dane County
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
Date of Construction: 1937

In the late 1930s after concentrating on residences for the wealthy, renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright became committed to building high quality houses for the average person. The Jacobs' house, Wright's first built Usonian home, spurred Wright's dream that middle class Americans could afford to live in a beautiful and functional home. After designing this house, Wright designed more than 300 Usonians, which are aesthetically pleasing residences intended for the average person of modest means.

In an attempt to hold down costs, Wright experimented with many techniques that he later used in other houses. For example, the house was built on a concrete slab laid over sand; this eliminated the need for foundations, basements, flooring, and floor joists. Heating consisted of a series of pipes laid in the sand under the slab. Other revolutionary cost-saving techniques that Wright installed include thin sandwich walls which eliminated siding, painting, plastering, and wallpapering, a flat roof which did away with gutters and downspouts, and a carport which is cheaper than a garage. By saving on construction costs, the Jacobs could afford expensive artistic elements such as signature Wright windows and doors.

One of Wright's main architectural goals for all of his residences was to organically blend the house and the land so that the home seemed to "fit" in its environment. Therefore, to diminish the distinction between the inside and the outside, Wright incorporated natural building materials, irregularly shaped rooms, glass in the walls, and floor slabs and ceilings that continued beyond the walls of the house.

After moving into their house, Herbert, a reporter with the Capital Times Newspaper, and Katherine became close friends of Wright. The Jacobs frequently visited Taliesen and their daughter Susan even married into the Taliesen family and lived in the Wright compounds in Wisconsin and Arizona. The Jacobs later lived in another Wright home, Jacobs House II.

Chicago architect John Eiffler restored the house and added structural improvements. The First Jacobs Home is a private residence. Please respect the rights and privacy of the owners.

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