An Architectural Treasure Built in 1953

Residence of Noted Iowa Architect, George R Laub

An architectural treasure the Laub House, built in 1953 the residence of noted Iowa architect, George R Laub, a pristine example of mid-century modern design in the manner of Frank Lloyd Wright. In October 1948 Laub acquired Lots 6, 7 and 8, Block 9 of the Beadle and Strong addition to the City of Cresco, Iowa, where stood the once-grand Farnsworth mansion, which by 1952 had become a decaying relic of a bygone era. But Laub, a conservationist as well as an Avant-guard modernist, spared the aged Victorian structure, surgically cutting it in two, moving one half a block west, and the other half a block north. With the building site cleared, Laub was now ready to transfer his masterpiece from the drafting table to terra firm.

Situated on 3 building lots, the house extends 92 feet from east to west on a 150’ X 150’ corner lot. Total heated square footage is 3122, with 2378 on the main level and a 744 sq.ft. loft over the carport, designed as a recreation room, but ideal as guest bedroom, an in-law suite or studio. The main floor consists of a foyer, den/office, living room, dining room, kitchen with breakfast nook, three bedrooms, laundry room, and bathrooms. Incorporated into the design, in every room, built-ins are the rule: bookshelves, radio, phonograph and record storage in living room; buffet and wall-mounted display case in the dining room; bookshelves, desk, filing cabinet, and safe in the den; dressers, vanities, even a display case in one bedroom, and a headboard in another; telephone desk in the kitchen; and a bench and storage cabinet for folding bidge chairs in the foyer.

The exterior is a marvelous mélange of materials: Mankato Marble, Norman brick and 12” cedar. The interior is even more fanciful, with marble and brick walls and columns, paneled and parqueted walls, with accents of quarry tile, wrought iron and decorative glass. The roof is an imaginative interplay of 5 gently sloping elevations, totaling 4,900 sq ft., supported by 2” X 12” rafters, and featuring wide upswept eaves. Nearly 70 years later, it is still intact, although the original tar surface has been replaced with rubber. Copper Gutters and downspouts feed into an underground drainage system.

Nine concealed steel I beams contribute to a spacious, open interior, and unsurpassed structural integrity. Laub kept the unsightly out of sight as is evident in his in-ceiling radiant hot water heating system. The system has 4 zones for tailored temperature control, The original boiler has been replaced by a high-efficiency, wall-mounted, gas -fired boiler.  The partial basement was designed as a fallout shelter, with poured concrete walls, pre-cast tile ceiling and sealed glass block windows. What was a fallout shelter is still a convenient and reliable storm shelter today.

The innovative architecture of the home is complemented today by imaginative landscaping. Some 4,000 tons of glacial rock, from multi-ton boulders to baseball-sized agates, are artistically arranged to form a spectacular rock sculpture with undulating elevations, replete with staircases and serpentine walkways, creating the impression that Laub’s modernism springs from Nature,s prehistoric materials. Further, the half-acre-plus lot has been cloaked in a tightly knit garment of green, with the plantation of 134 pyramidal arborvitaes, now 15 to 18 feet tall. A veritable forest surrounds the house on three sides, providing year-round greenery and unparalleled privacy. For inveterate lovers of rocks and persistent patrons of nature, this exotically landscaped corner of Cresco will seem like heaven on earth.

Laub’s pen and ink frontispiece renderings of the north, south and east elevations, along with the original building plans, including electrical and plumbing schematics, will convey to the Buyer, an unexpected and invaluable bonus.

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