MurrayWhen David Murray — the first Murray of the Princess Anne County, Virginia, Murrays — arrived in the colonies in 1622, he was an indentured servant. But the 650 acres he eventually earned became the seat for a generation of Murrays, including Thomas Murray, whose father Isaac built him a brick gambrel-roofed Dutch Colonia home on the Elizabeth River in 1791.

In fact, he built all three of his sons’ homes on the land that would eventually be part of what would become Virginia Beach, Virginia, likely pressing his initials into a brick in the chimneys of each home, just as he did in the Thomas Murray House. That’s just a guess, though, because of the three homes, Thomas’ is the only one to survive the centuries that grew America.


Oh my, now Jupiter Island is lovely, and I could tan myself into some basal cells on that private beach, but this is the place Elin should make Tiger pony up for her and the kids: the Cooke House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Virginia Beach, VA. See, everyone dreams of having perfect homes. And everyone who has ever built a home since the dawn of time has gone over-budget and square footage. The rich today and 50 years ago are no different from you and I in that regard except that they can, ah, afford them!

In the early 1950’s, Maude and Andrew Cooke had a dream: live in a house designed by the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.  Mrs. Cooke wrote Mr. Wright in 1951: “Dear Mr. Wright, Will you please help us get the beautiful house we have dreamed of for so long?”

A rendering was not up until 1953, which means a lot of planning and research must have been going on. Plans were delivered in 1957.  Construction was begun in 1959, two weeks before Wright’s death.  The home is a hemicycle design of soft yellow brick built into a sand dune. An arcing wall of windows faces south to soak up light and heat and look over Crystal Lake, a deep-water lake that feeds into Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. A copper, cantilevered roof tops the home, which follows the shape of a question mark.  The 70 foot long Great Room still has Wright’s originally designed furniture, cypress beams, a heated Cherokee red concrete floor, and huge hearth cleaved into the masonry. Typical of Wright’s linear design, a long wing off of one side holds four bedrooms three bathrooms. After Wright’s death, the home was completed six years after its design. The total square footage is about 3000.

The house was completed in 1960, and it was completely Wright’s rendering save for the pool surrounding the patio, rightfully thought to be a hazard to the couple’s three young children. Besides, they wanted to see the lake.

Here’s a shocker: the Cook’s original building budget of $40,000 had grown to over four times that amount; they actually asked Wright’s firm for a smaller re-vision of the home, but ended up building the larger, original design. Great lesson: the Cooke family lived in their dream house for 23 years and loved every  minute of it.

In 1983, Maude sold the home — it must have killed her, my mother also sold our family home in the mid 1980’s — to a Daniel and Jane Duhl.  The house needed TLC, and this couple dug right it. The restoration was stunning and received an award for preservation from the AIA of Hampton Roads.  They undertook a green construction with passive solar design. Since air conditioning was not standard in fifties era homes (nor in Wright’s — can you feel him rolling in his grave?), the Duhls added two central air conditioning systems, ostensibly to protect the house from damage of heat and humidity. A/C preserves homes and helps them last longer.

This time, a A 14 foot swim spa was installed in a terrace overlooking Crystal Lake.  In order to accommodate the mechanisms needed to operate the swim spa, a large underground bunker was built into the dune above the lake.  This included a sauna and an exercise room.   Also at lakeside are two docks; one floating for launching small boats and a larger dock which can accommodate two large yachts.

I mean, it doesn’t get much better than this:$4,513,783 including half a million for Wrights’ artistic value, and $150,000 for his furniture, which is a steal. STEAL.

Ask Santa to put the deed under your tree.