News & Feature Articles Written About People & Places in Lake County, Ohio            

Penfield Project

Background:

The Penfield Estate is a 30-acre site in Willoughby Hills, Ohio. On the property, there is a Usonian style home which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1953 and built in 1956. The home is in excellent condition, and is rented for overnight stay, special events & retreats. Also on the property is the family’s historic, original structure; a farm house built in 1887.

Current Situation:

The Penfields have been considering a number of options for the future of the estate, with an ultimate goal of “transition” to retirement from the daily operational & financial burden at the estate - at the right time - and under the right conditions. For part of 2006 and in 2007 CatalystStrategies LLC (a business-strategy, convening & retreat-facilitation firm) has worked in a number of roles to help convene, coordinate & orchestrate “possible futures” for the preservation & expanded-use of the Penfield Estate. Currently, CatalystStrategies is focused on identifying and conducting exploratory meetings with potential partners and/or buyer(s).

Yet to be built: Near the time of Wright’s death, the Penfield family commissioned what many consider Frank Lloyd Wright’s last residential commission – currently being referred to as “Penfield2”. Unique is the fact that the designs for the second house, the originally-intended site and the descendants of the family all remain in place for this 2nd house. In fact, the design for the 2nd house is the only unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright design for which the original site is in tact. Ideal would be to break ground (if not build) this “last house”, by April 2009; on the 50-year anniversary of the commission.

An Integrated Picture:

Near-term goals are to build the 2nd house... preserve the legacy… and provide a vehicle for Paul & Donna Penfield’s retirement.

The ultimate vision would be to find a solution that combines and integrates the above goal(s) with the exciting Frank Lloyd Wright preservation aspect + leverage the “last house” + create programming & meaningful offerings. One could imagine a “mini Sundance”, “Aspen Institute”, “Johnson Foundation/Wingspread” and/or wellness center. All of these visions have been discussed in one way or another. Regardless of the ultimate approach taken, it is hopeful that the Penfield Estate can be a place of learning, discovery, and renewal.

How We Could Get There:                                          Expanded Use of Penfield1

  • Programming & Offerings; Seminars, discussions, special events, wellness programs and more could be considered
  • Enhanced lodging amenities; Accommodate a variety of discerning guests—whether they are significantly drawn to FLLW—or not
  • Expanded-use; Demonstrate self-sustaining revenue-streams & overall business viability
  • Preservation: Respect & preserve this historic architectural site & its landscape

Build Penfield2
Build Wright’s “Last House” - Penfield2
: Find the right long-term care-taker(s). This could be the identification & interview of potential “buyers” or, the creation of a unique capital-campaign where “donor-investors” are assembled. Donor-Investors could be Individuals, Institution(s) or a group of Investor(s) who become part of a team that sponsors and co-funds the project. They do it to “be part of something” as well as to receive marketing-coverage, access, financial return and other benefits.

One Potential Approach: An “Inspiration Centre”

The complete campus of Penfield 1, Penfield2, the natural setting on the Chagrin River, and perhaps other structures, will bring forth the true realization of a center for conversation, discovery, leadership & retreats — not to mention being an amazing escape to a beautiful, remote 30-acre estate only ~25 minutes from a major city; Cleveland, OH..

Alternatives:

Potential candidate partners, buyers and/or investors may have their own vision for how the Estate could become in increasingly meaningful place, and at the same time, preserve the Penfield family legacy & wishes. Suffice it to say; eyes & ears are open for creative suggestions & proposals.

Justification & Approach:

  • We believe Legacy + Preservation + Revenue-driving business model(s) are the elements that leverage the “Frank Lloyd Wright“ attraction and provide broad value
  • Such a one-two-three punch is a “win-win-win” for all parties; The Penfields, CatalystStrategies LLC, partners, donor-investors and/or buyers
  • It is a sustained model that leverages a historic asset in Northeast Ohio —benefits the region at-large — provides value to those who visit the estate - and continues the legacy of Louis Penfield & his family