Twelve acres of rolling hills and forest along Oakland Avenue in Minnetonka became the site of the Birdwing house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. Plans were initiated in 1960 for Charles and Marjorie Pihl, a daughter of co-owner of the Holiday gas station chain.
Originally prepared for a location in Edina, it was determined that the site was too small and would not provide unobstructed views of the surrounding landscape, which was important to the design. In 1965, it was built in Minnetonka and purchased in 1976 by James Rupp, a past president of WCCO.
It is believed that Wright did not actually oversee the plan modifications or construction because Wright built his last house in 1963, thus reducing the home’s historical significance. The design of the home featured two wings with several of the rooms featuring floor-to-ceiling glass and overhanging soffits to control the light coming into the home, reminiscent of the prairie architecture style.
In 2019, the property was sold with plans to subdivide the acreage and demolish the home. However, Polymath Park, a Wright preservation organization, worked with the builder to deconstruct the home and move it to Pennsylvania, where it will be reconstructed and made available for tours.
Learn more about the Wright’s legacy in the Lake Minnetonka area with this story about Frank Lloyd Wright Sr.’s Little House in Deephaven.
Jan Cook serves as president of the City of Minnetonka Historical Society. Discover more at minnetonka-history.org.