THE ROSENBAUMS AND THEIR HOUSE
An American architectural treasure, the Rosenbaum House is the only structure designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the state of Alabama and the only such house in the southeast that is open to the public.
The Usonian designed house was offered by Wright as a low-cost home for middle income families. With Wright’s plans, a young family could build their own home, fulfilling the American dream of home ownership. Built for newlyweds Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum in 1939, the house originally contained 1,540 square feet, but when the household grew to include four sons, the family called upon Wright to design an addition. In 1948, 1,084 square feet were added. This seamless addition clearly shows Wright’s concept of a Usonian house that could grow with the family as it grew.
Considered by John Sergeant and others to be the purest example of Wright’s Usonian design, the Rosenbaums were the sole owners and occupants of the house until 1999, when the City of Florence acquired the house and developed a plan to restore the house using a capital improvements account funded by a one-cent sales tax. Dozens of volunteers and professionals contributed to the restoration, without which, the house may have been lost. This treasure, meticulously preserved, is now a city museum, open to the public.
Louis Rosenbaum was an immigrant who fled Poland as a child with his mother and younger brother. As an adult, he married and moved his wife, Anna, and only child Stanley, to Florence where he began establishing movie houses. At one time, Louis owned 12 movie theaters – the going entertainment of the day. Stanley spent most of his young life in Florence, attending Harvard University at aged 16 where he graduated with honors, followed by the University of Denver for his Master’s degree. An intellectual, Stanley spoke five languages and would become a professor of English at the local university. In 1938, he met and became engaged to Mildred Bookholtz, a native of NYC where she lived with her family. Mildred studied music and art at Hunter College and attended Columbia Teachers college during which time she worked as a model for the John Robert Powers Agency appearing in Vogue and other national magazines.
As a wedding present from Stanley’s parents, the young couple received $7,500 and a piece of property on which to build a house. They contacted their friend Aaron Green, an architectural student at Cooper Union in New York. Aaron is the one who suggested they contact Frank Lloyd Wright, aware of the new inexpensive Usonian house that Wright had designed for the Jacobs family three years earlier. He wrote the letter of commission to Wright on Stanley’s behalf and it was accepted. In subsequent years, Aaron Green became a valued apprentice and member of Wright’s team working with him until Wright’s death in 1959. The Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum House would be the second Usonian house built, one of only 25 pre-war Usonians.