The Oregon Trail

Midway between Waterloo and Dyersville, the tiny town of Quasqueton (pop. 544) holds Cedar Rock, a wonderful riverside house completed in 1950 by architect Frank Lloyd Wright for local-boy-done-good businessman Lowell Walter, who got rich by developing and patenting a method of sealing highway surfaces. Walter died in 1981, and his wife, Agnes, donated it to the state. It is now a state park. Cedar Rock is one of 10 houses Wright built in Iowa, and one of only 17 of the 1,000-plus houses Wright built that he signed with a signature tile. Cedar Rock is an excellent and complete example of his “Usonian” ideals, and everything in the house—from the soaring roof, the smooth flow of interior space, and the signature hearth, right down to the designs of the carpets and cutlery—embodies Wright’s idealized vision of middle-class American houses, designed for simple and stylish living in close accord with nature.

Carved into a limestone ridge overlooking a bend in the Wapsipinicon River, Cedar Rock is five miles south of US-20 and surrounded by acres of rolling woodland. The house and grounds are now owned and managed by the state of Iowa and are open for guided tours (319/934-3572, Thurs.-Sun. summer only, $5).