Westcott House to reopen Saturday after pandemic shutdown

One of Springfield’s most distinctive architectural landmarks will reopen to the public this weekend following a shutdown of nearly four months due to COVID-19 safety precautions.

The Westcott House, located at 1340 E. High St., will begin docent-guided tours at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, March 13. Tours the remainder of March will be 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 and 3 p.m. Sundays. Hours will expand starting next month.

This was the second time in the past year the Westcott House, which was designed in the early 20th Century by celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright, has been shut down. It was initially closed in mid-March 2020 and reopened on June 27, then again in November.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

“It will be nice to have the house open and get back to having visitors,” said Westcott House executive director Marta Wojcik. “The difference is now we’re experts on how to reopen safely. It’s not as stressful this time and we hope this will be the final reopening we have to do.”

House volunteers have spent much of the week cleaning and several have gotten vaccinations. Safety restrictions will continue including guests being asked to wear masks and the number of guests being limited to eight per tour. This allows more space for social distancing and gives the docents have better control.

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“We are trying to be as cautious as we can,” Wojcik said.

Pre-registration is suggested for tours. The Westcott store hours will be 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1-4:30 p.m. Sundays, no appointment necessary.

The shutdown allowed staff to do interior painting throughout the house. A recent grant will be used to purchase new furnishings along with other changes over the next year.

Although the house was shut down a majority of the past year, the Westcott Center for Architecture + Design remained active. It began virtual programs which helped reach new audiences nationally and internationally, with Westcott staff leading or participating in several architectural and Wright-related programs.

These will resume this spring starting with the return of the Westcott Lecture Series. “Five Women Architects,” a program highlighting some of the top female architects, to be presented 6-7 p.m. Tuesday, March 16 and will tie into Women’s History Month.

Springfield historian Kevin Rose will present “The Architect Who Defined the Champion City” at 6 p.m. April 6. Wojcik said the lectures are free and will likely be monthly and cover a variety of topics.

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For those who can’t make it to the Wescott House for a tour, the first live Westcott House tour will be noon to 1 p.m. Friday, March 26. The streaming tour costs $12 or free to Westcott House members.

“We’ve gotten a lot of interest from around the country in the Westcott House through our lectures,” Wojcik added. “We want to be active and engage people online. We don’t want to lose any of the people we’ve associated with.”

Westcott staff has also led online PechaKucha events with other Wright sights and will plan more of those. To register for the Lecture Series or Tour, go to the Westcott House’s events page on its website.

Wojcik is also hoping to bring back more live events as pandemic conditions improve such as the celebration of Wright’s birthday in June, along with a new version of the architecture tour series.

“We hope summer will be more active for us. We also hope we are on our way out of this (pandemic) and we will continue to put things in place as we go,” she said.

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