A Doghouse by Frank Lloyd Wright
Through a generous donation, the County of Marin has acquired a real doghouse designed by one of the best-known architects in American history, Frank Lloyd Wright. On Wednesday, May 26, 2022, the doghouse was put on permanent display in the building’s cafeteria (3501 Civic Center Drive, Room 233, San Rafael, CA 94903). The doghouse was donated to the County in 2016 by former Marin resident Jim Berger.
Berger grew up in San Anselmo in a Wright-designed home that today is known as the Berger House. His parents, Robert and Gloria Berger, commissioned Wright to design the Usonian-style house in 1950-51. In 1956, then 12-year-old Jim Berger wrote to Wright asking for plans for a compatible doghouse for his Labrador Retriever Eddie. Wright provided plans for the four-square-foot doghouse the next year, written on the back of an envelope and at no charge. The triangular structure was designed in keeping with the main house and included signature Wright details—the low-pitched roof with exaggerated overhang. Wright even suggested that Jim use scrap pieces of Philippine mahogany and cedar left over from the home’s original construction.
The original doghouse
When Jim Berger joined the army in 1963, his father and brother Eric finally built the doghouse affectionately known as “Eddie’s House.” Eddie refused to use it however, preferring to sleep in the warmth of the main house. In 1970, Gloria Berger sent the unused doghouse to the dump.
In 2010, Jim and Eric Berger rebuilt the doghouse from the original plans, for a documentary film about Wright. It had one flaw common to many of Wright’s buildings however, the roof leaked! The doghouse remains the smallest structure Frank Lloyd Wright ever designed and is now on permanent view at the Marin County Civic Center, Wright’s largest existing building.
Eddie in his doghouse
The curved plexiglass used to protect the doghouse, is fabricated from one of the original Marin County Civic Center skylights. There are no skylights in the original 1958 Civic Center model (located on the first floor of the building). Wright had intended that the mall space be open to the sky, allowing for natural light and natural air-conditioning. Within five months of Wright’s death in 1959, the design for skylights to shelter the public mall areas had been developed by William Wesley Peters and incorporated into the design of the building.
Jim Berger and the reconstructed doghouse
For families: Download “Design Your Own Animal House” a family activity inspired by the Frank Lloyd Wright doghouse.
Video: A Doghouse for Eddie
In 1952, after 69 years in architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright designed one of the most charming buildings of his entire career...a doghouse for Eddie.