Wright Honors Family with “Penwern” Name on Delavan Lake

Penwern

(c) 2015: Mark Hertzberg, Georgia Lloyd Jones Snoke, Kenneth Snoke, Unity Chapel, and Thomas A. Heinz, A.I.A. 

There has been much speculation about the origin of “Penwern,” the name given to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fred B. Jones house and estate on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin (1900-1903). The most popular thought, that “penwern” is Gaelic for “great house” is erroneous. The word is Welsh or Cornish, and does not mean “great house.” It can mean “at the head of the field” or “at the head of the alder tree.” But it is more likely, as Wright scholar John (Jack) Holzhueter points out, that Wright took the opportunity of having designed a home for an American client named Jones to honor his mother’s family, also named Jones, although not related to Fred B. Jones. Georgia Lloyd Jones Snoke, Wright’s first cousin, twice-removed, visited the (Wright) Jones family Pen-y-wern near Llandysul, Wales in 2004. She offers this lovely perspective on the connection between the two Penwerns. Many thanks to John (Jack) Holzhueter for the introduction to Mrs. Snoke.

Pen-y-wern  Llandysul, Wales-1.jp2

By Georgia Lloyd Jones Snoke, descended from Richard and Mallie’s seventh child, Jenkin.

Photos by Kenneth Snoke (Penwern – Wales cottage), Thomas A. Heinz, A.I.A. (plaque, courtesy of Unity Chapel (family portraits) and Mark Hertzberg (Penwern – Delavan Lake)

There is a “Penwern” on Lake Delavan in Wisconsin.  Elegant.  Exquisite.  Unmistakably luxurious.

There is a “Penwern” in Wales.  Sturdy.  Spare.  Uncompromisingly protective against time, the elements, the poverty of place.

Pen-y-wern  Llandysul, Wales-2.jp2

Could these two be connected by a grandson’s filial nod to a grandmother he barely remembered but whose impact he witnessed lifelong?

Plaque

The grandson was Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the greatest architects known to man.

The grandmother, was Mary (Mallie) Thomas James, born in 1807 at Penwern, Llandysul, Wales.  She lived at Penwern until her marriage to farmer, hatter, dreamer, dare-er Richard Jones.

Mary (Mallie) Thomas

Richard Lloyd Jones (Patriarch)

The young girl who grew up in Penwern lived a life with few options.  She was a farmer’s daughter, a Unitarian within the small circle of Unitarians that was known to the rest of Wales as “the Black Spot” of heresy.  On an adjacent farm a young man with a parallel upbringing cast his eye on the growing girl.  It was a surprise to no one when they wed, set up house together, became parents to an increasing brood of hungry children.

Times were hard.  Food was scarce.  Opportunities were limited.  In a far away land called America it seemed that things might be better—if not for them, then for their children.

Richard was in his mid-40’s and they were already parents of seven children, the last a babe in arms, when Richard decided to brave the waves and emigrate to America.  It was to be a total break.  There would be no return trip.  Their good-byes were forever.  Their future unknown.

Other siblings had gone before.  After a hazardous journey and the loss of one child to diphtheria, Richard’s bereaved family and his brother Jenkin were reunited in Wisconsin.  A year later, Jenkin died of malaria, leaving Richard’s family distraught and destitute, but in the America they had sought, an America where four more children were born and the family slowly, with great effort, endured, survived, and began in a small way to prosper.

Some 150 years later, on a gray rain-threatened day in Wales, my ankles deep in the muck of a cow path, I looked at the cold stone building before me, the Welsh Penwern of now, and imagined the emotions my great great grandmother “Mallie” must have felt, looking upon her ancestral home for the last time.

What courage it must have taken to leave the world and people she knew—no matter how hard the life—to embark on a journey into the unknown.

The story is told that their last evening at home Mallie went out and gathered flower seedlings.  When they settled in Wisconsin, the seeds were planted and, with each subsequent move, the progeny of those seeds moved with them.

It was from the gentle Mallie that the stories of Wales were imprinted on the children and grandchildren. There were the tales of the two oldest boys, then but small children, sent out to watch the flocks of sheep and protect them from the wolves that prowled the hillsides, and of Richard, the hat maker, whose production of the tall conical hats worn by Welsh women augmented their meager farming funds.

For the remainder of her life, Mallie spoke only Welsh.  She was illiterate in writing—signing her marriage certificate with an “x”—and yet on her death bed she recited from memory her grandfather’s translation of Gray’s Elegy.

She, far more than Richard, kept the stream of “cumry” (cousinship) alive in the children’s minds—so much so that at least four of them made trips to Wales during their lifetimes.

Why did Frank Lloyd Wright suggest the name of Penwern for a Wisconsin home so elegant, so lavish, so unlike its Welsh predecessor?  I can only guess it was to honor his grandmother. He was but a toddler when Mallie died (1870) but throughout his growing years he would have heard her stories, lauded the bravery that brought her to these shores, witnessed the loving, aching sense of loss from those she left behind.

Had Mallie stayed in Wales, insisted on the known over the unknown, fled from the hardships she knew were ahead of her how different would have been the lives of those generations yet to come.  Would there, could there have been an architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, without her brave plunge into the future?  Instead, her legacy lives on in the lives of her American descendants and in the opportunities her sacrifices provided for those willing to experiment, dream, dare, create anew.  I like to think that the name “Penwern”, superimposed on an extraordinary American estate, is a bow of homage from a grateful grandson.

Sean Malone: A Retrospective

Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg

Sean Malone, the president and chief executive officer of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, will leave his position in February, after four years. He had been at least the sixth CEO in a decade when he began his tenure in 2012. His departure came as a surprise to outsiders.

Wright Birthday 2015

Malone at the annual Wright birthday dinner at Taliesin, June 6, 2012

     Malone and the Foundation said in a press release that the position requires someone at Taliesin West in Scottsdale full-time. Malone has been dividing his time between Scottsdale and his home near Milwaukee, and wants to stay in Wisconsin for family reasons. He told me in 2012 that he did not foresee problems operating from Milwaukee because he would be traveling widely raising money for the Foundation, something he could easily do from Milwaukee.

There are three parts to this retrospective: My photo history of Sean during his tenure, my April, 2012 profile of him, written as he began his stewardship of the Foundation, and then, after you read the profile, highlights of our conversation July 13, 2015 when I asked him to reflect on his stewardship of the Foundation. I chose to let his 2015 words speak for themselves, rather than interpret them. He used one phrase repeatedly during our conversation, that looking back at his stewardship was taking a view “from 30,000 feet.”

Sean Malone

Malone tours the Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine, March 21, 2012 before our conversation which led to this profile of him when he began working at the Foundation:

The black Toyota Prius quietly rolls to a stop. Sean Malone, 42, steps out, a white straw hat on his head, an iPhone in his hand. Meet the new president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Sean Malone, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Wednesday March 21, 2012 in the Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine Wis. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Malone, who comes from Ten Chimneys Foundation in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin, breaks the mold of what many people may have expected in the new head of the Foundation.

Architect? No. Professor of architecture of art history? No. Seen many Wright buildings before taking the position? No. Steeped in years of Frank Lloyd Wright? No. Lives at or near Taliesin? No. Lives at or near Taliesin West? No.

Bright? Yes. Affable? Yes. Thoughtful? Yes. Articulate? Yes. Successful record with Ten Chimneys? Yes. Enthusiastic about his new job? Yes. Confident that he is the right person to help the Foundation overcome its challenges and negative publicity? Yes.

It is clear why T-West would want Malone: he has a stellar record as a director of a non-profit organization. On the other hand, one might wonder why someone with no traditional background in the World of Wright would want to step into what has been somewhat of a revolving door at Taliesin West.

Malone tours Wright’s American System-Built homes on W. Burnham Street in Milwaukee with Robert Hartmann, then-president of Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin and board member Ron Scherubel April 18, 2012:

Malone Burnham Street

Malone Burnham Street

Malone Burnham Street

Sean Malone, CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, left, tours Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin's Burnham Street project, Wednesday April 18, 2012 with Robert Hartmann, president of the organization.  / © Mark Hertzberg

Malone talks about his interest in Wright, “I have always been moved by his body of work. Because I am not an architect, I was not in a position that I could explain what it was that moved me. I found it invigorating. It’s just beautiful, balanced, intentional work, and so I started from a point of engagement with his art. The other piece that really excited me and brought me into the organization was the potential for the body of work and the philosophy of Frank Lloyd Wright to inspire me.”

Malone’s tour of the Grant House in Iowa during the 2012 Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy tour is interrupted by a phone call:

Malone Iowa

Malone Iowa

      There is much more substance to his vision about his new role than what some may fancy for him. His responsibilities are more than overseeing the preservation of Taliesin and Taliesin West, overseeing the Foundation’s architecture school, and racking in big bucks in donations, grants, and souvenir sales to fund the whole kit and caboodle.

Malone says that the Foundation’s “biggest challenge” is “to decide what the next decade or two will be about.” That is not a particularly startling answer. What is more interesting is the next series of questions he poses, and the way he answers those questions.

Malone welcomes conferees to Taliesin West October 29, 2014 during the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy annual conference:

Malone BC 2014

\

Malone BC 2014

      First, he asks, “Who do we exist to serve? That is a loaded question. It underlines my opinion that we exist to serve…it is something I believe all non-profits should do. That is what attracted me to the Foundation.

“Who do we serve directly? People who visit the two national landmarks we own, our publications…but also the people we exist to serve through indirect means. If we are inspiring people who are professionals who are part of the built environment, more than just architecture, our ability to inspire them, is not just about them, it is about what they then go and do.

“I am a real believer in both direct impact and indirect impact. Directly, I want to inspire architects and student architects, all people involved with the built environment (including writers, photographers, and city planners). All of them, if we inspire them, change peoples’ lives. If you take a look at the direct and indirect impact (of the Foundation on people), it’s global.

Then Malone asks, “What are the deep meaningful needs of those individuals and communities? Once we define who we exist to serve, what are their needs? Sometimes it is things they do not know they want yet. It is about needs, not wants. It has to be (something) unmet. If someone is doing it adequately, I don’t want to do it.”

Finally, Malone says he want to know, “Which of those needs do we agree we are uniquely positioned to meet, better than anyone in the world or that no one in the world can do at all?”

Malone signs the guest book at Burnham Street:Malone Burnham Street

Asking those questions, having “conversations” with people, is key to Malone’s approach to his new position. “That is the lens through which I look at the role of a non-profit. I don’t think that articulation is completely new or earth-shattering.”

While most non-profits might end up with a list of only two or three challenges that answer those questions, Malone has no illusion that there will not be many “opportunities” that the Foundation could take on. He has no doubt that there could be a daunting list of goals that some may offer as priorities. Malone wants to pare such a list down. “What is particularly exciting for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation…that is a big part of why I wanted to make this move and a big part of why I am so energized about the work that we are going to accomplish in the coming years.

Malone asks more questions. “Why do you think of his body of work and philosophies? Why do you think it is going to be relevant ten years from now. Why do you think it is going to be relevant a hundred years from now. Those are the questions I am asking people.”

He has a degree in business from the University of Wisconsin, but Malone sees his work as being more than just a dollars-and-cents guy charged with keeping the troubled Foundation solvent. “The idea of how we live our lives has been an important part of my career, because I think it matters. i think people find it relevant, and that we as humans have the opportunity to make that a decision…I think his (Wright’s) work has something very meaningful to say about our ability to choose the life we are going to live, to live an intentionally lived life, and that is a powerful thing. That is one of the handful of truly universal challenges…the sense that we don’t have to choose between being great one thing or another. We don’t have to choose between deep relationships with family and friends and connections with the nature around us. You can live an integrated life.”

Malone believes that one must do more than just read the plethora of biographies of Frank Lloyd Wright to understand him. One has to experience his work. “To get a sense of the universal truths, you don’t read a biography of Shakespeare, you read Shakespeare, and that is what draws me to the body of work of Frank Lloyd Wright. That is his legacy.”

It is surprising to some that Malone continues to live in Wauwatosa, a suburb of Milwaukee, rather than move to Scottsdale or even to Spring Green. “I think that it is reflective of an organization that is no longer Arizona-centric.” He has full confidence in the people who oversee Taliesin and Taliesin West, without feeling the need to be on site full-time.

“My job is to make sure that both are able to be successful in their day-to-day operations, both in public programs, like the tours, and in education, like the school of architecture, but the mission of the organization is, at the very least, national, so I think it makes sense that the CEO isn’t the on-site person at either place. We have very talented staff members. We didn’t need another COO in Scottsdale.”

He spends a bit more than half his time traveling. He anticipates that he will be traveling less frequently to Taliesin West as time goes on, instead traveling more across the country to raise money for the Foundation, “Great things cost money, part of my job is to connect people with those activities. It’s the donors who make it really happen. It’s my job to steward that investment. It’s my job to make sure their donation is well spent and makes an impact.”

Malone finishes the interview with a reminder of who he believes the Foundation must not lose sight of,  “We exist to serve, and only succeed because of the public.” Some people will certainly deem Sean Malone’s tenure a success if he retains his position – he is at least the sixth CEO in a decade. Others will consider his tenure a success if the Foundation’s finances are stabilized. Malone himself has a broader goal. He drives a Prius. It is reasonable to think that he will be satisfied only with results that will be harder to measure: that he is able to bring stability to the Foundation so that Wright’s work can continue to influence people to live Wright’s architecture, to better their lives and their communities.

Malone and Minerva Montooth at the 2015 Wright birthday dinner at Taliesin:Wright Birthday 2015

Malone Reflects On His Stewardship, July 13, 2015:

A collaborative effort: I am extremely proud of what the Foundation has accomplished in this time. It’s the Foundation that has accomplished it. All great things happen because groups of civic volunteers and advocates get together and make it happen.

The very significant increase in contributions comes from people coming together with clarity about the mission. This is something that is very exciting to me. I hope everybody connected with the Foundation is proud of it. It is something in which I take great pride.

I asked him if there was anything he feels has been left undone: I don’t look at it that way.

This organization has grown in capacity and reach, and the number and quality of its advocates to be able to continue moving forward. What’s exciting when you look at it from 30,000 feet, the organization is going in a great direction in multiple fronts, in every aspect of what its supposed to do.

On the “uncertainty” about the future of the School of Architecture: I feel like we have multiple constituencies working together …

On the preservation of both Taliesin and Taliesin West:  We just competed the first ever in-depth comprehensive preservation master plan that talks about what needs to be restored, at what level, and why. That’s not easy…Sixteen months of impressive research (about Taliesin West) thoughtfully put together…the cornerstone is done and that’s very exciting. Similarly good, last year we spend three times as much on the preservation of the two Taliesins as the year before I came. We went from about $1million to $3 million, and that’s not because the needs went up, but because there was a real investment in making this happen. That’s the 30,000 foot view of preservation. This organization embracing its responsibility to preserve the two Taliesins for generations to come.

On the sale of the archives to the Avery Library and to the Museum of Modern Art: That collaboration has been extraordinarily successful. We are already seeing everything affiliated with those archives taking the next step in terms of the preservation of those archives, the access to scholars, the quality of digital capture and in terms of public access, not just scholarly access. There was a remarkably well received exhibit at MOMA in 2014 and in 2017 there will be a very large exhibition as part of a celebration of Wright’s sesquicentennial; that’s another bright spot.

On public tours of Taliesin West: We’ve really overhauled and significantly increased visitor satisfaction of that tour, reducing tour size, continuing education with docents, and the opportunity to purchase tickets in advance (Before) you would come and sit and hope you got in eventually. Now 50-90% of tours are purchased in advance, depending on the week.

We are also in the process of doing a comprehensive evaluation of the tours and interpretive planning projects. What people expect and what they are going away with. What is it we want people to take away with them?

If you have 100,000 people touring, it’s not having a cash cow, but an obligation, an opportunity to inspire. How are we connecting this experience to peoples’ lives?

Programmatically, those are the bright spots from 30,000 feet.

The organization: Then there is the capacity, the institutional side of things. I am proud of the board, staff, and donors about  the evolution of the Foundation as an increasingly world class non-profit.

It was a family business when it started…the Fellowship, him and his wife. It had its era, but the organization is really focused on what is its impact. It is focused on being a professional. organization, that we have the discipline to make sure that when donors contribute that their philanthropic investment yields the best public impact.

In Arizona it is rewarding to see the development of the Taliesin Board of Stewards, local leaders embracing the critical importance and impact of Taliesin West in a way that we’ve never had that community engagement. That’s certainly important in terms of contributions and support, but it’s also the best opportunity for us to make sure we are serving our community. Having this group of Arizona leaders talk to us about the needs of tourism and residents, and connecting this international icon to an understanding of what Phoenix and the Greater Valley community is…It’s very much a symbiotic relationship. We can’t accomplish what they point us toward without support.

He is excited about the solar energy at Taliesin West, but does not take credit for it: The ball started before I came in.

On fund raising: We are changing the philosophy of the gifts program, making sure we are interacting with donors the way they want to be interacted with. Donors don’t want perks, they believe in the organization in which (they are investing). Instead of you get this many mugs, tickets, t-shirts…it’s all about engagement…here are ways for you to have more insider opportunities…not us taking a chunk of the money you gave and giving you trinkets. We have had an increase in people giving and in the average. gift size. We nearly tripled annual giving. That is really powerful and really rewarding. I certainly believe that is not about me, that is about the importance of this organization and the mission. Nobody gives to something they don’t believe in. I am very proud of the increased level of giving. It speaks to the promising future of the organization. Our preservation needs are significant. There is more work to do, it is critical work…it is exciting work and rewarding work.

In closing: I will continue to be a huge advocate for and fan of this organization, and working toward its success.

Sun and Shadows at the Hardy House

(c) Mark Hertzberg

When I talk to school children about Frank Lloyd Wright’s work I sometimes tell them that the only “computer” he had to work with was the one between his ears. I try to explain that he had a gift for knowing what light would do at different times of the day and of the year to illuminate and help keep a room warm before the days of electricity as we know it.

Hardy Shadows

I stopped at the Hardy House late this afternoon and again saw his intuition projected on the stairs and entryway wall. The patterns are from the seven windows in the entryway. I credit Robert McCarter for pointing out that the floor plan of the house is articulated in these windows: the public spaces (two-story living room and the dining room below) are the square in the middle…bisected by a rectangle that includes the bedrooms at each end of the house (at left and right). He makes this point in “Frank Lloyd Wright” London: Phaidon Press, Ltd., 1997.

Hardy Shadows

Hardy Shadows

Genius, indeed!

Penwern – Wright’s Porch Design is Built

Text and photos (c) 2015 Mark Hertzberg, unless noted.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed semi-circular outer porch walls for Penwern, the Fred B. Jones House on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin (1900-1903), but the walls were either built straight or modified from his plans early in the life of the house. Jones is shown near the straight east porch wall in an undated photograph. The house was completed in 1901; he died in 1933.

FBJ @ Penwern 1

The east and west (side) porches now have semi-circular outer walls, as indicated on Wright’s drawings for the house. (The drawings can be viewed on Penwern’s magnificent website, www.penwern.com ) Sue and John Major, stewards of Penwern since 1994, commissioned master builder Bill Orkild to rebuild the side porches to Wright’s plan this spring. The work was completed just a week ago. The outer wall of the front porch, facing the lake, was changed from straight to semi-circular by John O’Shea, the fourth owner of the house, between 1989 and 1994. The front porch is on the right side of the first photo below:

Penwern Porches

The semi-circular design brings a unified design element back to the house because it echoes the dramatic arch over the front porch and the arched porte-cochere.

Penwern Porches

Penwern Porches

Penwern Porches

Penwern Porches

Penwern Porches

Orkild photographed the east porch during reconstruction:

porch wall 015

He also fashioned the diamond-shape accents shown on Wright’s drawings. Penwern Porches

Penwern Porches

Penwern Porches

The next question for the Majors to ponder with Orkild is whether the walls on the insides of the porch are load-bearing. The walls are not shown on Wright’s plans. Removing them would allow for more dramatic vistas to the east and west from the front porch. It is possible that the porches were screened in with these walls after Jones lived in the house to shelter himself and his visitors from mosquitoes.

Penwern Porches

Penwern Porches

Celebrating Wright’s Birthday

Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright’s 148th birthday was celebrated at a traditional gathering at Taliesin Saturday June 6 and a day later at SC Johnson in Racine, Wisconsin. Wright designed the company’s Administration Building in 1936 and Research Tower in 1943/44.

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark HertzbergSean Malone chats with Minerva Montooth during the reception at Taliesin.

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Ron McCrea enjoys playing the living room piano when he visits Taliesin.

The reception at Taliesin was followed by dinner – including a birthday cake – and music at Hillside School:

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Prairie 50th Graduation

SC Johnson’s celebration was held in Fortaleza Hall, designed by Lord Norman Foster and partners. There were two sheet cakes and a large cake modeled after Wright’s buildings. The base below the model building was made from compressed Rice Krispie treats and chocolate mix.

Children played with Lincoln Logs, a toy invented by John Lloyd Wright

Bob and Jeanne Maushammer wanted their picture taken with a life-size cutout photo of Wright. The Maushammers, who have seen several hundred of Wright’s buildings, were in their hometown of Racine to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

Newly Discovered Wright Home Near Milwaukee

Story and photos (c) Mark Hertzberg

The 2100 block of Newton Avenue in Shorewood, Wis., will no longer be a quiet street, as word spreads of the documentation there of a previously unidentified house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The home at 2106 Newton may not look like a Wright home at first glance, but underneath the modern siding, and above the garage which was added in 1976, is one of Wright’s stucco American System-Built homes.

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Many people think Wright designed homes only for wealthy clients, but he was keenly interested in affordable housing for the middle class. The American System-Built homes, designed as affordable housing, could be selected from a myriad of designs. The entrance to the house is on the right side (as one faces the house). The original open porch at the entrance was enclosed at an unknown date. It still has the original stucco finish and the leaded glass windows which apparently were the front windows of the house.

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The Newton Avenue house, built in 1917, joins six homes in the 2700 block of W. Burnham St. (two single-family homes and four duplexes) as examples of Wright’s American System-Built homes in the Milwaukee area. The two-bedroom Shorewood house is a Model A203. Four other Milwaukee American System-Built duplexes, the Arthur R. Munkwitz Duplex Apartments, were demolished in 1973 to widen a street.

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The first person to tell owners Roger and Pat Wisialowski that they may be living in a Wright home was the late Richard Johnson of Evanston, Illinois. Johnson had a passion for searching for previously unknown Wright works. However, none of the ones he believed Wright designed were documented and authenticated as Wright’s, until Mike Lilek researched the little house on Newton Avenue over the last year and found proof that it is, indeed, a Wright home. Lilek is nationally recognized as an expert on the subject of Wright’s American System-Built homes.

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Lilek, left, is interviewed by Jeff Rummage of the “Shorewood Now news site.

He has spearheaded the restoration of two of the Burnham Street houses for Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin. He extensively researched the Newton Avenue house and has presented his findings to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the organization which oversees all things Wright and was the former home of Wright’s archive. He announced his findings June 5, 2015 at a press event in front of the house. He has been transparent about his research, and has posted a link to it:

www.wrightinwisconsin.org

Link toMary Louise Schumacher’s feature story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

http://www.jsonline.com/entertainment/sleuthing-reveals-shorewood-home-was-

designed-by-frank-lloyd-wright-b99513440z1-306231261.html

Tafels’ Albert House Inches Along to Completion; Court Imposes Fine

Photos and story (c) Mark Hertzberg

Edgar Tafel's Carl and Marie Albert House, 4945 N. Main Street, Wind Point, Wisconsin, Friday May 8, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

A $25 per day fine levied by Racine County Circuit Court Judge Faye Flancher on May 8 against the owners of Edgar Tafel’s Carl and Marie Albert House (1948) in Wind Point, Wisconsin, may spur them to quickly complete restoration of the house, thereby ending a legal battle that is more than three years old. The exterior of the house, above, is largely repaired, but not enough interior work has been done to allow the village to issue an occupancy permit.

The house was deemed uninhabitable in December, 2011.

The house was deemed uninhabitable in December, 2011.

The house, at 4945 N. Main Street, is on a prominent intersection in the wealthy suburb of Racine. Its location at the corner of N. Main Street and Four Mile Road has likely spurred greater concern on the part of the village than if it were in a less visible location.

Court hearing for Edgar Tafel's Carl and Marie Albert House, 4945 N. Main Street, Wind Point, Wisconsin, Friday May 8, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Village attorney Ed Bruner, left, and Peter Ludwig, the Schulz’s attorney, confer before the hearing.

The house fell into disrepair after Joan Shulz, who bought it in 1972 with her late husband, Dr. Gilbert Schulz, walked away from it more than seven years ago to care for an ill relative. The roof leaked and interior walls were covered with mold. A tarp covered the roof for a long time.

June 30, 2012: A tarp covers the roof and the front of the house is overgrown.

June 30, 2012: A tarp covers the roof and the front of the house is overgrown.

Court hearing for Edgar Tafel's Carl and Marie Albert House, 4945 N. Main Street, Wind Point, Wisconsin, Friday May 8, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Linden Schulz leans forward to confer with Ludwig while Joan Schulz, right, listens to Bruner’s arguments on behalf of the village.

The house was deemed uninhabitable, and village sought a raze order in 2013. While the house was architecturally significant — Tafel was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s original Taliesin Fellowship apprentices from 1932-1941 — the village considered it an “eyesore,” according to Todd Terry, the Schulz’s former attorney.

Bruner confers with village board member Karen Van Lone. Her husband, Richard Britton, is with her.

Bruner confers with village board member Karen Van Lone. Her husband, Richard Britton, is with her.

Mrs. Schulz paid $11,200 in ordinance fines in November, 2012 rather than demolish the house. The village had run out of patience in early 2013 according to its attorney, Ed Bruner, “There’s been a determination made by the building inspector that the cost to repair the house far exceeds 50% of its value, so that’s the problem.”

The Schulzes confer with attorney Ludwig after the hearing.

The Schulzes confer with attorney Ludwig after the hearing.

The house is eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. Recognizing its architectural significance, Judge John Jude, who originally heard the case, gave Schulz and her son Linden, who was going to do most of the restoration work, consideration rather than order the house razed. Although Schulz missed several court-imposed deadlines, he slowly made enough progress to get extensions from Jude.

Village Administrator Michael Hawes, Bruner, Van Lone, and Britton leave the courthouse after the hearing.

Village Administrator Michael Hawes, Bruner, Van Lone, and Britton leave the courthouse after the hearing.

The Schulz family was told in February that fines might be imposed at the May 8 hearing if there was no occupancy permit by then. While acknowledging that progress has been made, the house is unfinished inside, and Flancher granted the village’s request for fines to push the work to completion.

“This has gone on way too long,” argued Ed Bruner, the village attorney. Referring to the first court hearing in May, 2013, he added, “Several new homes could have been built (in the time it has taken to repair the Albert House).”

Michael Hawes, the village administrator, acknowledges “What’s going on now is better than where we were,” with respect to the condition of the house, but says the village wants the property to be able to pass inspection and have an occupancy permit issued. “It’s not just that it’s a matter of it being part of the community as an occupied home with people living there and people caring for the property, but also so this doesn’t happen again in the future.” The village also wants to be able to assess the house as a habitable property.

The Schulz’s attorney, Peter Ludwig, blamed an electrical contractor for the latest delay, asserting that he is three weeks late returning to the job. Final drywalling, insulation, flooring, and plumbing work will quickly follow, he said, then “it could be a matter of days.”

Remembering Jim Yoghourtjian

(c) Mark Hertzberg

Jim Yoghourtjian, steward of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hardy House with his wife, Margaret, from 1968 – 2012 died April 26. He was 91.

Margaret and Jim Yoghourtjian in their living room in the Hardy house, 1319 S. Main St., Wednesday September 1, 2004.  (c) Mark Hertzberg

He was a well known classical guitarist, who traveled to Siena, Italy, to study with Andres Segovia. His friends knew him for his devotion to Margaret, for his warmth, for his apple pies, as well as for his music.

Jim’s father did not understand how he could make a living as a musician and urged him to take a shop job in the factory where he worked. In 1957, though, his father went to Chicago to hear Jim play in the Fullerton Auditorium at the Art Institute of Chicago in conjunction with an exhibition honoring Pablo Picasso. After listening to the applause at the end of the concert, his father asked the person next to him if everyone there had come to hear the music. Assured that they had, he proudly said, “That’s my son!” Jim wrote in a 1996 memoir.

Jim had a wry sense of humor. Jim and Margaret had welcomed visitors to the house for many years until after some negative experiences. The house then understandably became strictly their home, not a Wright tourist destination. He chuckled when he told me how he then deflected Wright-related questions from strangers who pestered him when he was doing yard work, “I don’t know, I’m just the caretaker.”

I remember seeing him outside the house soon after moving to Racine in 1978, quickly pulling over to the curb, and asking if I could see the inside of his Frank Lloyd Wright house. He declined to let me invade their privacy. I never faulted him for that, wondering how often that happened to him.

There are certainly Wright aficionados who would criticize Jim for playing the role of ignorant caretaker of the house. Those of us lucky to have counted him as a friend would instead smile and think, “Yup, that’s Jim for you!” Rather than dwell on the question of whether or not he should have answered every Wright question, I prefer to dwell on the memory of seeing him tenderly kiss Margaret’s hand one day before going back to bed when they shared a room during a short hospital stay in 2011. He had told me that he used to write her poems for her birthday. That was Jim. And that is part of what made him such a special person.

New Wright exhibition at SC Johnson opens

Photos by Mark Hertzberg (c) for SC Johnson

SCJ Wasmuth

Wright’s 1910 Wasmuth Portfolio is the theme of the fourth annual exhibition in the “At Home with Frank Lloyd Wright” gallery in Fortaleza Hall on the SC Johnson campus in Racine, Wis. Fifty lithographs from the portfolio and artifacts from the Dana House and the Heath House, among others, are exhibited:

SCJ Wasmuth SCJ Wasmuth

SCJ Wasmuth

Weekend tours now also include H.F. Johnson Jr.’s office in the Wright-designed Administration Building (1936). The office has been refurbished with period furniture and company artifacts for the tours. Johnson commissioned Wright to designed the Administration Building, the SC Johnson Research Tower (1943/44), Wingspread (his home, 1937), the unrealized Racine YWCA (1949/50), an unrealized remodeling at the Racine Airport (1941), and several unrealized buildings at Wingspread.

HF Office

HF Office

HF Office

Wright – and others close to Johnson – called him “Hib”.

SCJ Wasmuth

For information and required tour reservations go to: www.scjohnson.com/visit

Work Begins Anew at Hardy House

Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg

The Hardy House is a construction zone again after a two-year respite.

Lake Side Restoration

The east side of the house is sheathed in scaffolding, and scaffolding again fills the two-story living room as it did several years ago while plaster was repaired and the house was repainted.

Lake Side Restoration

Lake Side Restoration

     The living room and the dining room are walled-off in construction workers’ heavy plastic, diminishing the view of Lake Michigan from the living room balcony:

Lake Side Restoration

     The living room and dining room windows are being replaced, which may sound routine, but the work also entails rebuilding structural elements of the house above and below the windows. It will not be known how much needs to be rebuilt until workers begin the reconstruction. The center dining room windows lead to the dining room terrace, whose rubber membrane flooring (shown in a 2002 photo, below) needs to be replaced, as well.

LR Terrace, fall, 2

     The four square panels between the living room windows (above the panels) and the dining room windows (below the panels) were originally stucco, as shown in this 1906 photo taken as the house neared completion:

LR Terrace 0506.0004 final

(Photo courtesy of, and (c) Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation)

     It is believed that the stucco had cracked because the dining room windows leaked, and the panels were replaced by wood panels when Wright’s leaded glass living room windows were replaced with plate glass windows in 1947, concurrent with the rebuilding of the dining room terrace to create for a recreation room below.

     The dining room now serves as a construction office for the workers from Bane & Nelson contractors:

Lake Side Restoration

     It is impossible to estimate how long the work will take, but Bane & Nelson has a deadline of finishing in time for tours during the 2015 Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy meeting in Milwaukee and Racine in early October.