Vox: SCJ and Hardy

© Mark Hertzberg (2022)

Phil Edwards, who makes wonderful Wright multi-media pieces at Vox, contacted me this summer about a piece he was going to produce about the SC Johnson Administration Building in August. He asked about the Hardy House, which is just five blocks east of SC Johnson. Hardy House steward Tom Szymczak graciously gave me permission to take Edwards inside the house and film there when he came to Racine.

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The piece just went live and it has an interesting perspective at the end. I welcome your comments. You do have to bear with some ads…which pay the bill , making Edwards’ endeavors possible. It is very, very, very well produced as is a previous piece he did about the Pope-Leighy House. Here is a link to the SCJ / Hardy piece:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yb-kYt1lpnI

I leave you with a photo I took when we were in the Hardy House…a reflection of one of the front hall windows seen in one of the living room windows, across the house. What a brilliant detail!

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Hardy House: Gene Szymczak + 10

© Mark Hertzberg (2022)

1319 Gene + 10 006.jpgSaturday’s afternoon sun projected the pattern of the entry hall windows onto the walls. Robert McCarter writes that the floor plan of the house is articulated in the windows.

Yesterday, September 17, marked the 10th anniversary of Eugene (Gene) Szymczak becoming the seventh steward of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House (1904-05) in Racine, Wisconsin. Gene fell ill and died December 3, 2016 after undertaking an extensive rehabilitation of the house. Its new stewards are Tom (one of Gene’s two brothers) and Joan Szymczak. Tom and Joan invited family to a low-key celebration of the anniversary on the dining room terrace yesterday. Anne Sporer Ruetz, who grew up in the house from 1938 – 1947 and two non-family couples were also invited.

Hardy Sale 022a.jpgGene signs papers transferring stewardship of the house to him, September 17, 2012.

I took Gene through the house, which was challenged, when he was considering buying it in 2012. As we left, he said to me, “I don’t have children. This is something I could do for Racine.” The late John G. Thorpe of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy advised me to step back and let professional appraisers and others take over. I understood, but I wanted Jim and Margaret Yoghourtjian, the longtime stewards of the house to first meet Gene. I told Gene what kind of pastry to bring Margaret (chocolate-covered marzipan loaves). He also brought them a Japanese print reminsicent of a famous drawing by Marion Mahony of their house. We were having lemonade and cashews in their new apartment when Gene surprised us and made them an offer for the house. There was a glitch though, or so I thought, when the week before the closing Gene emailed me that he was having second thoughts…it would make a good teardown and he could build something with a three car garage underneath. I held off calling the Yoghourtjians to cancel the sale so I could get hold of Gene. It was two days before he called me back, from Baltimore Washington Airport, on his way to visit Fallingwater, “Just kidding!”

Anne has often told me that it was like watching movies when the pattern of the leaded glass windows was projected onto her bedroom ceiling and walls by the headlights of passing cars at night. She was delighted that the “movies” were playing in full force in the entry way as we arrived at the celebration yesterday:

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Anne was a celebrity yesterday: one of the guests had brought a copy of my book about the Hardy House (Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hardy House, Pomegranate: 2006) and asked her to sign two pages with photos related to her:

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1319 Gene + 10 020.jpgThis photo of Anne’s 14th birthday party at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed dining room ensemble (which was lost after her parents sold the house) was in the Racine newspaper in 1946. She is holding the cake at the head of the table.

Coincidental with the celebration, a new Wright website, which I was not familiar with, pinged this morning to a piece I posted in 2014 about Gene’s work at the house:

https://wrightinracine.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/hardy-house-restoration/

The new website is:

https://franklloydwrightsites.com/hardyhouse/

Gene was honored with a Wright Spirit Award from the Building Conservancy in 2015, and the Kristin Visser Award for Historic Preservation in 2017.

I posted this piece a year ago when Anne and David Archer, who grew up in the house between 1947 – 1957 were reunited at the house:

https://wrightinracine.wordpress.com/2021/06/13/hardy-homecomings/

I challenge myself each time I visit a familiar Wright site to find something new to photograph. A week ago, before I was escorting my fourth Road Scholar tour of the summer, I told my wife that I was having trouble seeing anything new the first three tours of this year and was almost considering not even bringing a camera with me (these were my 10th – 13th tour with the same itinerary since 2017). I looked up as I was bringing our guests down to the dining room and looked at the bottom of the stairs to the living room for the first time. Out came the phone camera:

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The Road Scholar “Architectural Masterworks of Frank Lloyd Wright” tour is a week-long and begins in Chicago:

https://www.roadscholar.org/find-an-adventure/22976/architectural-masterworks-of-frank-lloyd-wright

A Spring Evening at Penwern

© Mark Hertzberg

Fred B. Jones commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design Penwern, a magnificent estate on the South Shore of Delavan Lake, Wisconsin in 1900-1903. Wright designed five homes and a yacht club on the lake, but Penwern was his most expansive commission there: Wright designed not only the “cottage” (the main house), but also a boathouse, stable, and gate lodge.

FBJ @ Penwern 1.jpegThis is the only known photo of Jones at Penwern. He is thought to be about 65 years old when it was taken, around 1923. Courtesy Sue and John Major

Entertaining friends is the theme that unites all of Penwern’s stewards. Jones was a Chicago business executive. He enjoyed entertaining at his summer home until he died in 1933 at age 75. Boating is an obvious form of recreation, but one of the signature features of Penwern is the tower at one end of the porte-cochère. The room at the end of the walkway from the main house, a walkway above the porte-cochère, was the room where Jones and friends played poker.

Enertaining Main House Major 014.jpgSue and John Major host a party every July 4.

Entertaining Burr R white coat 002.jpgBurr Robbins, in white suit, often hosted business clients. He and his wife, Peg, became the second stewards of Penwern in 1939. Courtesy Ross Robbins

O'Shea Luau Party 1.jpgJohn O’Shea hosted an “Aloha! Party” in 1994 when he sold Penwern to the Majors. Photo courtesy of John O’Shea.

Sue and John Major became the stewards of Penwern in 1994. Their rehabilitation of the estate is well known in Wright circles: they removed the two unsightly 1909 and 1910 non-Wright additions that Jones commissioned; in 2005 they rebuilt the boathouse which had burned down in 1978 in an arson fire, working from a single sheet of Wright’s plans; they finished John O’Shea’s project to have the three main porches have round outer walls, per Wright’s plans; they overhauled the stable and gate lodge…and anything else dilapidated or altered. Let’s consider the boathouse:

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Boathouse ruins 4.15.jpgThis is how the foundation of the boathouse looked until 2005. Courtesy Bill Orkild

Boathouse.jpgThis is the sheet of drawings that Bill Orkild and architects had to work from. © 2022 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art / Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

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When wizard contractor Bill Orkild was asked by the Majors to look at a small project shortly after they bought Penwern, he says, his father warned him that this small project might become a full time career. His father was prescient. As if the work outlined above weren’t accomplishments enough, and as if routine maintenance of the estate isn’t enough, the Majors came up with yet another restoration challenge in 2020, which brings us to a spring evening at Penwern in 2022. Jones loved growing roses, and Wright gave him a commercially-built greenhouse attached to the gate lodge water tower, right:

Gate Lodge 1st floor, Greenhouse, Curved Wall.jpg© 2022 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art / Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

Historic_Scan_10aa.jpgMembers of the caretakers’ family are shown near the greenhouse, in a photo taken ca. 1935. Photo courtesy of Betty Schacht.

The greenhouse had deteriorated by the 1970s and was replaced with a carport by Terry Canty, the Robbins’ daughter:

Canty Carport removal.jpgPhoto courtesy of Bill Orkild

The Majors had Orkild remove the carport, but for years the space looked like a Jack o-lantern with a missing tooth:

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There was, of course, only one Major / Orkild solution, and that was to rebuild the greenhouse in 2020. Plans were drawn by DePietro Associates:

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The Majors made one significant change. Rather than use the greenhouse as, literally, a greenhouse, it would be a place to entertain friends. Work started before, and continued through the early days of the Pandemic. Finally, in 2022 it was time for the new greenhouse to shine, and shine it did on June 4 when the Majors hosted a benefit evening for the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy:

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Guests at the benefit came from across the country. The evening started with a boat tour on the lake, giving guests a lake-side view of the five Wright homes including the A.P. Johnson House:

Penwern Party 2022 012.jpgKimberly Valentine, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, left; Debi and Ted Muntz, Loveness House, Stillwater, Minnesota.

Penwern Party 2022 011.jpgBarbara Gordon, Executive Director, Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, left; Paul May and Heidi Ruehle (Ruehle is Executive Director Unity Temple Restoration Foundation); Chuck Henderson, Walker House, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California; Steve and Debra Poe, William E. Martin House, Oak Park.

The boat tour was followed by an elegant gourmet dinner in the dining room. Note the dining room sideboard which was painted white, as was all the dining room trim, in the photo of Burr Robbins. Orkild restored it:

DR Hutch Before .jpgCourtesy Bill Orkild

DR Hutch During.jpgCourtesy Bill Orkild

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Then it was off to the greenhouse for dessert:

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And so, through the Majors generous gesture for the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, ended another evening as Jones envisioned Penwern, friends gathered together on the shore of his beloved Delavan Lake.

Links:

Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy:

https://savewright.org

Penwern website:

https://penwern.com

Continue to scroll down to read previous articles on http://www.wrightinracine.com

 

 

 

 

Writing Wright with Light, Part Two

Photos © Mark Hertzberg

This is the last day of the Road Scholar Frank Lloyd Wright trip which I am accompanying. Today I found myself looking at shapes in the six Wright sites we visited. I relied on memory to try to not repeat photos I have taken in the past. I was challenged to turn this post into a “Where Was I When I Took This Photo?” game rather than caption photos as I normally would. The photos are presented in the order in which we visited the sites. The answers are at the bottom.

Site A:

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Site B:

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Site C:

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Site D:

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Site E:

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Site F:

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Answers:

A: Jacobs 1 House – The odd shaped bricks are attributed to Wright reportedly having his apprentices use bricks taken from the SC Johnson Administration Building. There are 200 shapes of bricks in the Administration Building. B: Unitarian Meeting House C: Wyoming Valley School D: Hillside School E: Hillside Drafting Room F: Taliesin

Thank you to Taliesin Preservation for greeting us at the Visitors Center with this sign:

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Scroll down to see yesterday’s “Writing Wright with Light” post, and previous blog articles.

Writing Wright With Light-Photo Adventures at two Wright sites in Milwaukee

© Mark Hertzberg

Something wasn’t right today. I was not committed to taking pictures as I accompanied my 11th Road Scholar Frank Lloyd Wright trip, my second in a month, to sites in Milwaukee today.* As I have written in past blogs, I try to see and photograph something new every time I visit a familiar Wright site, but I did not feel photographically inspired this trip. When I got to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block, our first stop, I thought I had seen all the pictures there were to take, on the trip in May:

https://wrightinracine.wordpress.com/2022/05/19/wright-tourism-is-back-bits-of-burnham/

So, I left my workhorse cameras on the bus and carried just my iPhone 11 Pro. Then I saw something that struck me. I gingerly took out my phone and snapped a picture:

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I put the phone back in my pocket, thinking it would be a “one and done” day. I took two photos of Road Scholars eager to enter the American System-Built B-1 Richards House, and again figured, that would be it for the day:

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Ah, but there was more to come, above me, and inside the house:

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Done for the day? Maybe, but I decided to bring the “real” cameras with me when we got to the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa. I was immediately struck by the cloudless and rich blue sky. It seemed in synch with the blue color scheme of much of the church building. First, was the obligatory “record” snapshot before pushing my eye:

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The “crown of thorns” below the domed roof presented myriad photos:

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Then I came to the entry way and its cantilevered canopy:

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There are thousands of two inch by two inch ceramic tiles above the roof of the canopy. Our docent, my friend Cathy Spyres, explained that these are the same tiles that were on the original roof of the church. The original tiles were not replaced after they started popping off the roof.

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Then, onto a quest to see something new inside the church:

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Spyres told the guests that blue (as well as gold) is one of the dominant colors inside and outside the church because it is part of the Byzantine heritage. So was the sky, I thought, as I heard her explanation.

I was in touch a few months ago with the director of a Wright site to take photos for a forthcoming Wright book by a university professor. The director was critical of one of my earlier photos from the site because it had an “on the spot look.” I asked for clarification: “On the spot means it looks like a hand-held shot. It isn’t carefully studied. It has a casual look.” I make no apologies for my style of working: “Casually,” and “hand-held.”

Photography literally means “writing with light.” Today the light was perfect for me to write Wright.

*The guests’ week-long itinerary begins in Chicago and Oak Park, continues to Racine, where I join them, then on to Milwaukee, Madison, and Spring Green. They see 12 Wright sites in Wisconsin during this deep immersion into the World of Wright:

https://www.roadscholar.org/find-an-adventure/22976/architectural-masterworks-of-frank-lloyd-wright

A chair and a desk: A legacy design

Photos ©Mark Hertzberg 2022

Steelcase and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation announced a new collaboration a week ago, in advance of Wright’s 155th birthday (June 8). The famous desk and desk chairs that Wright designed for the SC Johnson Administration Building (1936) in Racine, Wisconsin will get new life as Steelcase will “revisit, reinterpret, and reintroduce Wright’s designs, as well as co-create novel concepts rooted in his principles to provide products that enhance how we live and work today.”

The desks evoke the streamlined building itself:

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Steelcase showed its appreciation for Wright giving them this commission during the Great Depression, when they were known as the American Metal Furniture Company, by purchasing and fully restoring Wright’s Meyer May House (1908) near their company headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The restoration, under the direction of Carla Lind, took from 1985-1987. Steelcase also bought the house next door and made it into the visitors’ center for the Meyer May House:

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I thank Don Dekker of the Meyer May House for allowing Patrick Mahoney and me to photograph the house without other guests in it, during the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy conference in Grand Rapids in 2013.

The announcement about the collaboration between Steelcase and the Foundation:

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/steelcase-and-frank-lloyd-wright-foundation-announce-new-creative-collaboration-301558528.html?utm_campaign=Wright%2BSociety&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Wright_Society_309

Meyer May House:

https://meyermayhouse.steelcase.com

Scroll down to see earlier blog posts or articles…

These Insects are Welcome

© Mark Hertzberg (2022)

If you thought that Taliesin wraps up your Frank Lloyd Wright and Spring Green experience, then you are missing a gem, just four miles on State Highway 23 from Taliesin.

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One of Wright’s last commissions, the Wyoming Valley School (1957) has vibrant new life under the leadership of David Zaleski, its new Executive Director. Rebranded as the Wyoming Valley Cultural Arts Center, there is just one more week to view “A is for Apple, B is for Bug, and C is for Cicada,” an art installation by Jennifer Angus.

Peter Rott, the principal at Isthmus Architects of Madison, shepherded an extensive restoration of the two-room schoolhouse. Significant work was done, most of it not visible. The obvious change is that the concrete blocks inside are no longer yellow, but, rather, a more natural color.

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Now, onto the fun…Angus’ art installation:

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In the Assembly Room, dollhouses covered in beeswax are elevated to simulate how an insect might view them:

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LR Wyoming Valley School 5.20.22 012.jpgRott found an old card catalogue cabinet.

The exhibit ends June 12, 2022, but it is a sign of the fun things that Zaleski will be doing in the school building. I am not a fan of people speculating what Wright might have thought, said, or done in a given situation, but I will take the liberty of thinking he would have been pleased with the school’s incarnation as a cultural center.

LR Wright Spirit Awards 2013 040.jpgRott has been honored in a number of Wright-related projects. He was honored with a Wright Spirit Award from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy at its 2013 conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

http://www.wyomingvalleyschool.org

Rott and his Wright-related projects:

http://www.is-arch.com/projects/

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Go to www.wrightinracine.com and keep scrolling down to see previous posts on this website…

 

Hillside Geometry (& new Minerva Photo)

Photos © Mark Hertzberg

My cameras and I have been to Taliesin many times. My challenge at any Wright site is to photograph it with a fresh eye each visit. I was able to interpret the geometry of Wright’s “forest” in the drafting room at Hillside from a new perspective recently. I welcome your comments, unless they reopen the debate about the Foundation and the School. The treat at the end of this blog entry is my latest portrait of our dear friend Minerva, also taken Friday May 20.

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As we look at the drafting tables below, the unknowns, of course, are what renderings and plans were drawn at which table, and by whom. Among countless others, one of the architects (and students) who counted this as their office was Charles Montooth, Minerva’s late husband.

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Links:

https://www.taliesinpreservation.org

https://wrightinracine.wordpress.com/2021/09/29/the-marvelous-minerva-montooth/

Keep scrolling down to see earlier blog entries…

Wright Tourism is Back: Bits of Burnham

© Mark Hertzberg (2022)

LR Burnham 2022 010.jpgSybil Knop talks to Road Scholar guests touring the Burnham Block May 19

The pandemic is far from over, but Wright tourism is ramping up again. I have helped lead the Wisconsin portion of Road Scholar’s week-long tour that starts in Chicago and ends in Spring Green since 2017 (a link to the itinerary is below). This week is our first of three tours for this year since 2019.. We have 16 guests from 10 states on this tour. Our first stop was the Burnham Block in Milwaukee which has six American System-Built homes, most owned by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block, Inc.

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I always challenge myself to see if I can find fresh photographs at Wright sites, no matter how often I have visited them. Here is what I saw on the Burnham Block after two years away from my Wright photo quests. I have two establishing shots showing signs of spring:

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I concentrated more on patterns or design elements that I saw, mostly at the duplexes (dupli?) at 2032 – 2034 W. Burnham Street, left, and 2028 – 2030 next door.

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LR Burnham 2022 018.jpgThis is not a version of the Frank Lloyd Wright signature tile…it is one of the faded red squares that have been used as social distancing markers on Burnham Street.

LR Burnham 2022 017.jpgI thought Frank Lloyd Wright hated basements.” They were not his favorite spaces, but he did not eschew them entirely. This is one of the vents from the basement at 2032 – 2034.

I told our guests that one of the great benefits of touring 2032 – 2034 is that while they generally see fully restored or rehabilitated Wright structures, this was an opportunity to see one in raw shape, as money from a Save America’s Treasures grants is used to bring it to house museum status like the Model B-1 down the block at 2714 W. Burnham St.

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LR Burnham 2022 066.jpgThis period stove is in a closet until the restoration is done.

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We then toured the Model B-1, one of the two single-family homes on the block. It was the first Burnham property acquired by what became the Burnham Block organization, in 2004. It has been fully restored with a Save America’s Treasures grant. It is a tribute to Mike Lilek and the organizations that have been the stewards of Burnham received not one, but two SAT grants.

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There are still two duplexes that will need restoration, including the world’s only Frank Lloyd Wright building clad in aluminum siding:

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I close this blog entry with a nod to my friend Cathy Spyres, docent extraordinaire at Wright’s Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church – her church – in Wauwatosa. The church is our second Wright stop on our Milwaukee itinerary:

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Tomorrow’s itinerary is another full day: We are overnighting in Madison tonight, after also seeing the Milwaukee Art Museum (Saarinen / Calatrava) and Monona Terrace. Tomorrow we start at Jacobs 1 and then go to the Unitarian Meeting House, Wyoming Valley School and have lunch at Riverview Terrace before our in-depth tours of Taliesin and Hillside. I can attest from our own trips with Road Scholar that you see so much and learn so much (education is a major component of their programming) that you need a vacation after your RS vacation! Wright tourism is, indeed back in full swing!

Links:

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block:

http://wrightinmilwaukee.com

This Road Scholar Trip Itinerary (we also have a full tour of the Hardy House in Racine and an exterior guided tour of Jacobs 1, although they are not listed in the advance itinerary):

https://www.roadscholar.org/find-an-adventure/22976/architectural-masterworks-of-frank-lloyd-wright