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Dick Young of Young Construction talks about the blueprints of the Alvin Miller house Tuesday in Charles City. He's restoring the house with help from original blueprints from Frank Lloyd Wright.

CHARLES CITY — A home in Charles City designed by Frank Lloyd Wright had more than three feet of water inside it during the flood of 2008.

But unlike a number of other flood-damaged houses in the community, which are now being demolished, the house is being saved.  

Paul and Jeanette Griffin purchased the home this spring.

The couple, fans of Wright, are having the home restored.

“It’s certainly a labor of love,” said Paul.

The Griffins live in Washington state but plan to move to Charles City and live in the house once the restoration is complete. They estimate that won’t be until sometime next year.

The house at 1107 Court St. was designed in 1946 and built in 1950 for Alvin Miller, a Charles City dentist.

Wright never visited the site, but designed the house using site surveys and photographs.

The one-story, L-shaped house has had several owners over the years.

After veterinarian Bruce Dietrich purchased the home, an addition was constructed from plans originally drawn by Wright that the Millers never had built.

Dick Young, owner of Young Construction of Charles City, was the contractor for that project, so the Griffins hired him to restore the home.

“There was nobody else we even considered using,” Paul said.

Others who are familiar with Wright are acting as consultants, he said.

Young is working from Wright’s original blueprints while doing the restoration work.

“The focal point of his design was the river,” he said.

Glass doors open onto a patio which overlooks the Cedar River.

Dietrich, who died in March 2009, had the original windows replaced with more energy-efficient ones, but they were all made to Wright’s specifications, Young said. 

The limestone stonework in the original portion of the house is intact. The limestone for the addition Dietrich had built came from the same quarry.

The woodwork on the inside and outside is cypress, which is dense and water-resistant, according to Young.

He said when flooding was forecast for Charles City in June 2008, the Dietrichs had him remove all the interior doors and put them in storage before the water got into the house. 

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Wright drew plans for a third phase of the house that was never built. A vacant house which the Griffins also purchased, stands there now. 

It could be some time before that addition is built, according to Young.

The Griffins learned the house had been put on the market after the flood from a cousin of Jeanette’s who lives near Mason City.

They decided to go look at the home.

 “We fell in love with Charles City,” said Paul, a retired weekly newspaper publisher.

Reports on the Internet said the house was completely submerged “but that was not the case,” Paul said.

Although all the finish work needed to be redone, the main structure of the home was sound.

“It’s well preserved after all these years,” Paul said.

But there is still a substantial amount of work to be done  — work which requires a lot of research.

The Griffins are looking for old photographs of the interior of the house to help them out.

Anyone who has photos is asked to send them to info@alvinmillerhouse.com.

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