For decades, countless visitors have toured The Price House, the Paradise Valley home that is Frank Lloyd Wright’s largest in Arizona.
As a former resident of that historic home, Stuart Shoen, was well aware of this. Sometimes too aware.
The executive vice president of U-Haul is the grandson of U-Haul founder L.S. “Sam” Shoen, who in 1964 purchased house that would remain in his family and the company he started. Shoen moved in while in high school and lived there off and on for about 10 years.
Before then, people who wanted to tour the home were at the mercy of whoever was available to be there. It was hit or miss. Shoen’s presence meant that tours became more of a regular thing.
“There’d be times when I’d be doing laundry, naked, and a bus full of tourists would pull up as I’m standing there,” he recalls while laughing.
It’s a real memory that reminds that the site was a real home before its current role on must-see lists, and venue for special events and fundraisers.
The home’s history is well known: Wright crafted the abode for Harold Price of H.C. Price Company and his wife, MaryLou, in 1955. Called “The Grandma House,” MaryLou worked with Wright to design the home to create a space that encouraged a large family to interact with each other and the desert around them.
The 5,500-sqaure-foot home anchors the nine-acre property. There are seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms. It’s designed with children in mind with a swimming pool, fountains, an outdoor fireplace, and a spacious yard that begs for play.
An atrium occupies 1,000 square feet, and is Shoen’s favorite amenity. It sits in the middle of all rooms and must be crossed to get to and from any part of the home.
“You feel like you’re outdoors with all the comforts of interior spaces. It’s a brilliant design feature,” he says.
A lesser-known detail is the story behind the purchase of the home that led to its current status.
As Shoen recalls, his grandfather and a top manager at U-Haul came to Phoenix for one day with the intention of buying a house where he could settle down with his big family. After being shown several homes that didn’t make the cut, the realtor made one more stop. It was the Price House, and it was real estate love at first sight. Sam declared it perfect to the degree that he wanted every single detail to remain as-is—not a pillow or bed sheet removed.
He offered $250,000 cash. The stunned realtor needed some time to confirm the prospective buyer could swing this. But Sam had a favor to ask.
“He gave him his banker’s business card (to verify his information) and said, ‘Meanwhile, I’m going to have a hamburger. But, I need to borrow 5 bucks so me and my buddy can get a burger…’ He makes this cash offer but needs money to get something to eat,” Shoen says, chuckling.
Before Shoen moved in, the home fell into what he calls “the worst disrepair” from being unoccupied for eight years. A conservation project brought it back to the life and The Price Foundation (https://pricehousefoundation.org) was established to ensure its maintenance.
The home flourishes when filled with activity. Stuart encourages visitors to look at the home in a childlike way for full appreciation.
“It’s easy to get lost in its aesthetic beauty. It was meant to have all the chaos of families and be the backdrop of all the good memories everyone is supposed to have as a family,” he says. “It needs to be lived in.”