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Fay Jones’ Stoneflower

We’ve focused this week on the history of Eden Isle and the Red Apple Inn on the shores of Greers Ferry Lake near Heber Springs.

There’s a Fay Jones-designed cottage on Eden Isle. Here’s the good part: It can be rented out.

The Red Apple Inn website describes it this way: “Stay in a home designed by famous architect Fay Jones. Stoneflower/Shaheen/Goodfellow Weekend Cottage is now on our rental program. While incorporating many characteristic Jones features, Stoneflower was a milestone in the architect’s work.

“The vertical emphasis of the design, along with the dramatic contrast between an airy, wooden upper structure and a cave-like stone base, created a house strikingly different in appearance from Jones’ previous designs.

“The house features a cave-like den/grotto with stone tables and sofa bases and a stone-covered bathroom complete with a rock waterfall for a shower. Up the spiral staircase is the main floor with an efficient dining area/kitchen and living room with a sweeping ceiling line allowing a fabulous view of the 30-foot deck that extends into the trees toward the lake view (only winter view of the lake). Up another spiral staircase is a loft with a queen bed.”

Stoneflower doesn’t allow children. It rents for $200 per night.

There’s an interesting story behind the cottage. Jones designed it for Bob Shaheen and Curt Goodfellow, the landscape architects who had been hired by Herbert L. Thomas Sr. to make Eden Isle something special. One of the things Thomas offered the two men was a lot in his planned resort community.

“After Shaheen and Goodfellow secured the land in 1963, the two men decided to pool their limited resources and construct a weekend cottage that both families could share,” Rachel Silva writes for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. “In order to reduce construction costs, the two men provided boulders and two-by-four boards salvaged from other construction projects on Eden Isle. They also contributed physical labor, lifting stones into place for site and foundation construction. They hired architect Fay Jones to construct a house under a tight budget of $6,000 to $8,000.”

Stoneflower was completed in 1965 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. It was called Stoneflower because the upper story appears to grow out of a stone base. Jones’ design of the cottage would foreshadow the design of his most famous project, Thorncrown Chapel at Eureka Springs.

“The inspiration for Jones’ design of Stoneflower was simple necessity,” Silva writes. “The property owners were trying to build the home under a very tight budget. They wanted something unique, but money was in short supply. When Jones first visited the site, he did not have a specific design in mind. When he arrived, he found a pile of stone the men had gathered and a large number of two-by-fours of considerable length.

“‘What are we going to do with all of those two-by-fours?’ he asked the two owners.

“They told him they hoped he would use them for the house they wanted to build. Jones knew that there were far more boards than needed for a traditional framing job. So he had to be creative and devise a way to use all of the lumber provided him. What he finally came up with was the idea for the intersective beams supporting the ceiling. This was a radical new look in home design, but it allowed him to utilize the great quantity of lumber.

“Jones’ solution to this design problem represented a turning point in his style from a horizontal focus to a vertical focus. He used the stone to create a cave-like lower level, featuring indoor plants, a stone seating area and coffee table and a bathing grotto with a man-made waterfall as a shower. By making the upper story of the house narrower than the lower story, Jones was able to use fiberglass skylights to fill the gap and provide sunlight for the plants below.

“The side walls of the upper level are covered in redwood board-and-batten siding and are devoid of windows to provide privacy from neighbors. The gable ends are glass, and the rear gable end is screened with verticle battens to protect it from stray golf balls.”

The cottage has had a succession of owners. It was purchased by Bob and Lynn Mosesso in 2006, and they use the Red Apple Inn as a booking agent.

The Mosessos had a lot of work to do after purchasing the cottage. They refinished the wood and repainted the exterior. They rewired light fixtures and removed ivy from the rocks.

If you rent Stoneflower for an evening, Silva says you should notice these things:

— There’s a natural cooling system designed by Jones in which glass panes in the eaves are opened with a pully system. This allows cool air from the lower level to circulate through the living area and escape out the upper windows.

— Since Stoneflower was designed to be a summer cottage, there’s no heat except the downstairs fireplace.

— The closets and storage cabinets were all designed by Jones.

— The bathing grotto is concealed from the garden room only by sight lines. There’s a corrugated metal ceiling in the bathing area.

— The furniture and lighting fixtures were designed by Jones.

— The flooring in the sleeping loft is composed of two-by-fours laid on their sides.

Jones was born Jan. 31, 1921, in Pine Bluff. His family moved to Little Rock for a time and then settled in El Dorado in the late 1920s. His parents operated a restaurant, but Jones knew that wasn’t something he wanted to do.

“Even as a child, Jones’ teachers recognized his artistic talent,” Silva writes. “By the time he was in high school, Jones had constructed an elaborate tree house out of construction salvage and discarded fruit grates.”

Jones saw a short film at the Rialto Theater in El Dorado in 1938 about the headquarters building Frank Lloyd Wright had designed for S.C. Johnson Wax in Racine, Wis. The film inspired him to be an architect.

The Rialto, by the way, still stands in El Dorado’s wonderful downtown.

Following his graduation from El Dorado High School in 1938, Jones entered the University of Arkansas as a civil engineering major (there were only a handful of architecture classes offered at the time). He joined the Navy in 1941. Following his discharge in 1945, Jones returned to Fayetteville. In 1950, Jones was one of the first five graduates of a new architecture program started by architect John G. Williams.

Williams took Jones to Houston in 1949 for a meeting of the American Institute of Architects at the new Shamrock Hotel. Jones met Frank Lloyd Wright at that meeting.

“Jones and his friends bumped into Wright as he was sneaking out of an AIA cocktail party,” Silva writes. “Jones and his friends plastered themselves against a wall to let Wright walk past them, but he saw their fright and came over to introduce himself. After that, Wright showed Jones around the new hotel and discussed its architecture for 30 minutes.”

Wright made clear to Jones that he wasn’t a fan of the hotel’s design.

Jones later followed Wright’s advice by returning to the University of Arkansas to teach in the fall of 1953. He also started a small practice in Fayetteville.

“Jones was dedicated to his teaching position, and it kept him on his toes in private practice,” Silva writes.

Jones once said, “You felt the pressure of living up to your students’ expectations. You get to practice what you preach, so to speak. I don’t know how a guy could be luckier than that.”

Jones chaired the department from 1966-74, was the first dean of the School of Architecture from 1974-76, became a professor emeritus in 1988, received an honorary doctorate in 1990 and was awarded the AIA’s Gold Medal in 1990.

The AIA said it was honoring Jones for his “exquisite architecture of gentle beauty and quiet dignity that celebrates the land and embraces the American spirit. … He embodies everything that architecture can and should be.”

Jones died in August 2004 in Fayetteville. The School of Architecture was named after him in 2009.

If you’re a fan of Fay Jones and haven’t booked a night at Stoneflower, you should do so soon.

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