What is in your basement?

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2020

In the case of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hillside Theatre at Taliesin, there are some Pyrex-glass window tubes and thousands of roof tiles. The window tubes are thought to be related to the SC Johnson Research Tower, designed in 1943/44 and constructed 1947-1950, according to Kyle Dockery, Collections Coordinator for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. The Tower has 17.5 miles of the tube windows (the Administration Building, designed in 1936 has 43 miles of the window tubes).

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Dockery says there are between 30,000-50,000 clay roof tiles which were made by Ludowici Roof Tiles for the Theatre.

Hillside Theater 2018 016.jpg“They were removed and replaced with the rolled rubber roofing in 1968 after a stack of extra tiles which had been set aside to repair the roof fell over and damaged a truck. The structure of the roof meant that the tiles needed constant maintenance and replacement so plenty of extras were kept on hand.” 

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I unexpectedly got to see these generally unseen artifacts in the basement when I was working with Dockery to photograph the newly-restored curtain in the Hillside Theatre in June. A shortcut to the dining room to photograph the curtain from the dining room balcony took us through the basement.

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SC Johnson Buildings

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2020

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There is something indescribable for me in Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs of the SC Johnson Administration Building (1936) and SC Johnson Research Tower (1943/44) in Racine, Wisconsin. I gaze at them every day during my daily bike ride.

I found the lighting particularly soft and nice the evening of June 16, riding after spending the day photographing the newly restored curtain at Hillside Theatre and the desolate empty drafting room at Hillside (the two previous posts on this website).

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The pictures were taken through the fence at the Golden Rondelle guest relations center which cannot reopen until the COVID-19 crisis passes. This is the first view that visitors have of the buildings, as they come onto campus at 14th Street. LR SC Johnson Admin Building Tower 6.16.20 005.jpg

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I look forward to being able to once again get past the fence and enjoy – and photograph – the wonderful interior spaces again.

 

Hillside’s Restored Theatre Curtain

All photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2020

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One of the most fascinating things to see at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin is the stunning curtain in Hillside Theatre. It is dazzling to see, but it really comes alive when docents like the incomparable Cate Boldt describe its intricacies and symbolism to tour guests. I had the privilege of photographing the newly-restored curtain a week ago, at the request of Stuart Graff, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. I worked with Kyle Dockery, Collections Coordinator for the Foundation, and Ryan Hewson, Director of Preservation. Dockery gets credit for lighting the curtain perfectly for me!

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I photographed the curtain over two hours, seemingly inside and out…even from the rear, a view few people see. I boiled the take down to 119 images, some of which are below. The description of the work is culled from information from Dockery.

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The curtain was designed by Wright in 1952 following the fire which destroyed the first Hillside Theatre and its own Wright-designed curtain. It was restored in early June by a team of three conservators led by Harold Mailand. The work included stabilizing the existing gold lamé and installing new lamé on top of it, restoring the original shimmering appearance while preserving the original material in place.

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The conservators also addressed such issues as detached felt sections, damaged yarn swags, and water stains. The entire curtain was also vacuumed, in front and back to remove built up dust and dirt, restoring its original coloration, which results in it looking much brighter. 

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Original pencil marks by the apprentices who made the curtain are still visible:

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The view from backstage: Some water stains are visible

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Although Wright designed the curtain, he did not know that apprentices were secretly making it. It was unveiled for his birthday in 1956. He made some alterations, most famously being seen atop a ladder dabbing the top of the white canvas with Nescafé instant coffee.  Mailand has worked with the curtain since 1988. Forthcoming restoration work in the theatre, through a Save America’s Treasures matching grant, will help reduce wear on the curtain, particularly on the left side where it has rubbed against the limestone wall on the side of the stage.

I was able to review photos as I shot them with Dockery, left, and Hewson:

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For more information and a video, visit the Foundation’s blog piece:

https://franklloydwright.org/hillside-theatre-curtain-restoration/

Finally, what’s a photo session at Taliesin without a “selfie,” this one in the mirror at the side of the stage?

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Technical information: Nikon D500 camera (crop sensor) with 17 – 55mm lens, and Nikon D850 (full frame) camera with 14 – 24mm and 70 – 200mm lenses.

 

 

Hillside Drafting Room, June 2020

(c) 2020 Mark Hertzberg

Hillside Home School 2018 Bike.jpgA student’s bicycle outside the Hillside Drafting Room, October, 2018

Thousands of words have been written on social media and in architecture journals about the end of the relationship between the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT), which was founded as the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. The School is moving to a new life on a new campus, and the Foundation is committed to new educational programming, bringing the historic drafting room back to life. In the meantime, it is empty, awaiting its next chapter. I photographed the drafting room June 16, 2020.

This post is visual only. I am not taking sides in the often acrimonious public debate about why the drafting room has no students this summer. I look at it, and miss the quiet intensity of the students I watched working in there. I look at it and think about the many wonderful buildings Wright and his apprentices and colleagues – and subsequent architects and students – designed here. I have photographed many of them. Now, there is silence. I invite you to study the photos, and reflect on the drafting room’s past and future.

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There is one photograph I saw in the drafting room last fall, which today I regret not taking. Remember that I am a photojournalist. While I have been granted (much appreciated) special permission for photography at Taliesin, I was helping lead a Road Scholar tour and the guests were not allowed to photograph the then-busy drafting room. I saw Aaron Betsky, then Dean of SoAT in a meeting in a conference room. The door was open. I had no inkling that in six months there would a split, but it felt like an important photograph to take. Today it would be an important one for this photo essay, but the photo exists only as a memory of something I saw.

The Coda to Penwern’s Rehabilitation

Text and greenhouse construction photos © Mark Hertzberg. Other photos courtesy of and © Emily Smith and Bill Orkild. Historic photos courtesy Betty Schacht, Sue and John Major and John Hime and ©  Frank Lloyd Wright gate lodge drawing: ©2020 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. All rights reserved. (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

The final significant stage of the rehabilitation of Penwern is now complete.

Roses will bloom again this summer at the gate lodge greenhouse at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fred B. Jones estate – Penwern – on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin, perhaps for the first time since Jones’s death in 1933. Jones loved growing roses, so Wright included a commercially built greenhouse for him in his design for the gate lodge. The gate lodge and greenhouse were constructed in 1903, two years after the main house or “cottage.” The greenhouse was tucked between the north side of the gate lodge water tower and a boulder wall:

Avery_FLW_4207_007.jpg©2020 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. All rights reserved. (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

Avery_FLW_4207_005.jpg©2020 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. All rights reserved. (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

Jones added a second greenhouse on the west side of the gate lodge at an undetermined date.

Historic_Scan_08a.jpgThe caretakers’ family near the second greenhouse, ca. 1935, courtesy Betty Schacht

The original greenhouse had deteriorated so badly by the 1970s that Terry Robbins Canty, whose parents Burr and Peg Robbins were the second stewards of Penwern, had it torn down and replaced by a carport when she lived in the gate lodge.

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Gatehouse Int. Yard View 004.jpgMark Hertzberg – 2014

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Penwern had been significantly altered by the time John and Sue Major became stewards of most of the estate in 1994. They immediately began what has become a decades-long quest to bring Penwern back to Jones’s and Wright’s vision. They acquired the last piece of the estate – the gate lodge – after Canty’s death in 2000. Canty had also replaced a dining room window overlooking the gate lodge patio with doors when she added a small TV room (right side of exterior photo of the gate lodge, below). The carport, and most of the other alterations to the gate lodge, were undone within the next few years.

Canty Greenhouse Carport .jpegBill Orkild

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The space where the original greenhouse stood has been like a missing tooth on a jack o’ lantern for almost 50 years. Could it be replicated? The Majors are not daunted by challenges. “No” is not in their vocabulary when it comes to the rehabilitation of Penwern. Didn’t they remove the large unsightly 1909 and 1910 additions that Jones had put on the main house? Didn’t they successfully fight for permission to rebuild the boathouse which had been destroyed by an arson fire in 1978? Why shouldn’t they rebuild the greenhouse, too?

Although the greenhouse is the most dramatic new addition to the estate, the 2020 summer season will now be remembered for the realization of a number of other projects around the gate lodge as well:

  1. A new stucco chimney, like the original one, replaces the brick chimney that has been atop the structure for years

20200403_142730.jpgBill Orkild – April 2020

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2) The doors leading from the gate lodge dining room to the patio have been replaced by the original window, below right:

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3) And, finally, but not least, the original semicircular boulder wall east of the water tower has been reconstructed. Architectural designer Robert Hartmann, who had meticulously studied Wright’s drawings, realized that much of the wall was missing. The semicircular design was important because it echoes the trio of semicircular porches at the main house and the great arches at the house and the boathouse.

Avery_FLW_4207_002.jpg© 2020 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. All rights reserved. (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

Orkild and Hartmann 001a.jpgHartmann, left, and Orkild look at Wright drawings – Mark Hertzberg -2017

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One can easily surmise why the Majors undertook the greenhouse project, but let John Major tell us. “At one level, we rebuilt the greenhouse to complete the last piece of the original design. But, as we got into it, we realized that the greenhouse is a quintessential example of FLW design. Small becomes large; large becomes small; a huge space that minimally impacts the landscape around it. It’s to us, what FLW was all about. We’re expecting that people will be shocked. I know we are as it is coming together.” Shocked? “People were when we showed them the entry leading to the dining room for the first time. This will be more show.”

Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 014.jpgMark Hertzberg – April 2020

Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 018.jpgTravis Orient places sklylight panels.  Mark Hertzberg – April 2020

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Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 025.jpgPaul Kenyon seals the panels. Mark Hertzberg – April 2020

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Emily Smith – April 2020

And what about the rest of the work at the gate lodge? “The dining room is now better balanced and the view of the lakeside of the gatehouse is much more balanced as it was intended to be. The doors were put in when the previous owner added a small TV room. When we removed the TV room, we put off replacing the doors.  Once we found the original window, we were ready to complete the work.

“The brick chimney is being replaced with a stucco chimney as the original drawings say it should be [indeed early historic photos show the stucco chimney]. The brick chimney was ugly. The stucco chimney will be much nicer.”

The greenhouse will be a place for the Majors to entertain, which is fitting, because entertaining friends is arguably Penwern’s historic raison d’être. It was important, first to Jones, and then to the subsequent stewards of the estate. A nearly full kitchen will be adjacent, inside the base of the water tower. The walled area will have a patio and roses will bloom there.

Design work for the greenhouse and surrounding boulder wall was by DePietro Design Associates. Bill Orkild, master of most of the work at Penwern since the Majors came to the lake in 1994, rebuilt the wall, did the dining room work, and supervised the other work. The greenhouse was built by Arcadia Glasshouse of Madison, Ohio.

Orkild, who knows the estate more intimately than probably anybody in its history, offers his perspective on the project. “The challenges of this project were no different than many of the projects at Penwern. It is always a challenge to weave together old and new, Wright’s vision and practical use. Hiding new technology from view was another significant obstacle. The physical challenge of outdoor work in the winter, wresting boulders in excess of 200 pounds, and wet clay clinging to boots was a daily battle.

“My greatest takeaway from the project was an overwhelming positive feeling I received from working with so many smart, strong and enthusiastic young people.  It was a pleasure to see there bright eyes and beaming smiles every day.  They were strong enough to make up for my weakness, enthusiastic enough to work through the rain, wind and cold, smart enough to laugh at my jokes.  All is good with the world. The young people have this.”

20200403_140929.jpgPaul Kenyon, left, Jason Janke, and Travis Orient built the greenhouse. Emily Smith – 2020

Visitors to Penwern likely take Orkild’s work for granted. They should not. He is the Wizard of Penwern, and much happens behing the scenes before Orkild work his magic for us to see: “Here’s how I made the greenhouse perfectly plumb and square for a snug glass house fit.  I built a platform on top of the coping stone.  This guaranteed me square without movement and something to stand on.  In my shop, I built a precise end wall form with knee wall height and roof pitch.  Bracing the end wall form to the platform assured me plum.  Then I was able to saw cut, grind and chip out the original tower stone to create a flat channel to accept the end of the glass house.  The process was repeated on the north end to form a concrete ledge.

20200117_134213.jpgBill Orkild – 2020

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Bill Orkild -April 2020

Now you know how to do it for your next project,” Orkild writes, certainly with a grin, as he finishes his email message!

School of Architecture at Taliesin Closing

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2020

The successor to Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1932 Fellowship program, the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) will close at the end of the spring semester, it was announced January 28, 2020. There have been efforts the last few years to find ways for the school to be accredited and to remain financially sustainable. Students spent spring and summer at Taliesin, and migrated to Taliesin West in Arizona in fall. This is a selection of related photos from my files.

Taliesin Architecture School Closing 001.jpgThe drafting room at Hillside School (at Taliesin).

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Student work is presented in the drafting room, September 2006.

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Aaron Betsky, President of SoAT, was a guest at the annual Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin. Here, in 2016 with Stuart Graff, President and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

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Aaron Betsky at the 2019 birthday celebration.

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A student’s bicycle rests outside the drafting studio at Hillside School, 2018.

Students presented the birthday cake for Wright at the annual celebration at Taliesin:

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Wright’s portrait hangs in the drafting room at Taliesin West, 2014.

Reading the only known Photograph of Julian Carlton

© Mark Hertzberg 2020

Look at the photo without reading the caption below it. It is a portrait of a young African-American man, seemingly deep in thought. He merited having his photo on the front page of the Dodgeville Chronicle on August 21, 1914, not a small accomplishment for an African-American man 106 years ago.

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Not a small accomplishment until one reads the caption below it: “Julian Carlton, Slayer of Seven.” This is not the photo of say, a self-effacing young man who the townspeople are rightfully proud of. It is a portrait of a man who has committed a monstrous act: he butchered seven people, including children, as he lay waste to Frank Lloyd Wright’s beloved home, Taliesin. It is surprising that the pejorative “Negro” as in “Negro Slayer of Seven” is missing from the photo caption, although he is described as “a negro chef” in the story, just above.

Various motives has been ascribed to his heinous act. Had he just been fired from his employ? Was he seeking revenge for racist statements leveled at him? We will never know, for he swallowed hydrochloric acid before he was found hiding in a boiler. He died 53 days later, before he could come to trial. He never revealed his motive.

I am a photojournalist, and I cannot look at the photo without thinking about the man – certainly not a woman, not in 1914 – who took the photo. I wonder about the circumstances under which it was taken. Carlton is seated in a high back chair. It looks like he is wearing a striped shirt: is it a jail uniform? We see someone over his right shoulder looking at him (or the photographer). This makes me think that Carlton is seated in the front of a courtroom in Dodgeville, the Iowa County seat, hearing the charges against him: seven murder charges, two of assault with intent to kill, and one of arson. Perhaps the courtroom was filled to capacity, and the crowd spilled into the hallway that summer day. Were there large ceiling fans whirring, were using handheld cardboard fans?

I wonder about what the photographer thought as he snapped the photo. Courtroom photography was my specialty in my 37-year newspaper career. I came face-to-face with probably more than 100 men and women accused of crimes serious enough to merit, like Carlton, a photo on the front page of the local newspaper. I photographed them at some of the most vulnerable times in their life. I knew some of them. It was not my place to speak to them. They generally ignored me. Only a handful tried to hide their face from me, usually unsuccessfully. One flipped me off. Another, a former co-worker, called me a “vulture.” I ignored him. His father told him to be quiet.

Who assigned the photograph of Carlton? What did the photographer think as he pressed the shutter? Who was he: Was he the editor of the newspaper? Was he an experienced photographer for whom this was another routine photo assignment, or was it a nervous cub reporter given an important assignment? Was he the owner of a local photo studio pressed into service for the newspaper, or was he a high school student known to own a camera and easily available on an August day? How many sheets of film or frames of roll film were exposed? Was this a one-shot-and-we’re-done photo, or was this the best of the lot? Did he realize the historic importance of this single image, that it would be important even a century later? Did Carlton try to evade the lens at any point? We will likely never know.

Photographic technology was quite different in 1914 than today. Many indoor photos were two dimensional, lit by the harsh light of flash powder (flash bulbs had yet to be invented). It is somewhat unusual to see an indoor photo from the time taken by natural light. The left side of Carlton’s face is lit, probably by window light. The films of the day were less suited for taking indoor pictures by natural light than they are today. The photographer who guessed what camera settings to use and the person who printed the photograph were skilled: the side of Carlton’s face is not washed out, and we have good detail in the shadow side, the front of his visage. We can read the face of the spectator over his shoulder.

A few weeks ago I was just a couple of feet away from a woman accused of a horrific murder in 1999, and then dumping her victim’s corpse on a rural road, as she was made her initial court appearance. We first encountered each other in the jail hallway. She looked at me, but did not react. We did not communicate. I did my job, to record this long-time fugitive, and went home to edit and send the pictures to my editors. It was over with – the waiting and the photography – in about a half hour. Is that how it was for a photographer for the Dodgeville Chronicle 106 years ago?

(Note: I wondered if the photo was originally taken for the larger Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, or possibly shared between the two newspapers, no matter who assigned it. After a search of the grainy State Journal archives it seems that the photo appeared only in the Dodgeville Chronicle. It is perhaps surprising that the State Journal did not use a photo: its editor and president, Richard Lloyd Jones, was Wright’s first cousin. Jones, a virulent racist, met Wright at the train station in Spring Green when Wright and Edwin Cheney arrived from Chicago after learning of the massacre at Taliesin. The photograph, a meticulously researched biography of Carlton, and Jones’s story and connection to the Tulsa race massacre of 1921 are in Paul Hendrickson’s 2019 book about Wright, Plagued by Fire.)

Ron McCrea, 1943 – 2019

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2019

2015 Wright Birthday Taliesin 038.jpgRon could not resist playing the piano in the living room at Taliesin each year when he helped celebrate Wright’s birthday in early June. This was in 2015.

My friend Ron McCrea died of cancer this afternoon – December 14, 2019. He was a great journalist – my profession – but I got to know him as a luminary in the world of Frank Lloyd Wright. Ron, the longtime survivor of a liver transplant, was in hospice care near his home in Madison. In late November he told his friends that he had decided to forego any further chemotherapy because of the low expectation of success. His goal was to finish his latest book about Wright in the 10 – 12 months he had been told was his life expectancy. The book would have been published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, publisher of his landmark 2012 study of Wright’s beloved home and his life with Mamah Borthwick, “Building Taliesin: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home of Love and Loss.”

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2008 at Taliesin garden.JPGI was honored that Ron included a photo I took of he and his beloved Elaine at Taliesin in 2008 in the book. I next photographed him when he presented his book in a talk at the Golden Rondelle at SC Johnson in Racine in December 2012:Ron McCrea SCJ 039.jpg

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Ron McCrea SCJ 060.jpgElaine’s son, Ben DeSmidt, center, joined us for dinner after.

2014 Bday Dinner.jpgRon and Elaine at the 2014 Wright birthday dinner at Taliesin.

Ron returned to Racine in September 2014 to give a talk about the book at the Racine Public Library for the Wisconsin Historical Society and Racine Heritage Museum:McCrea Racine WHS 001.jpg

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Ron at the 2015 and 2016  Wright birthday celebrations at Taliesin:2015 Wright Birthday Taliesin 010.jpg

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Cindy and I returned to our car at the 2011 birthday celebration to find flowers that Ron and Elaine had left for us:

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A month ago I asked Dave Zweifel, who was Ron’s editor at the (Madison) Capital Times to summarize Ron’s career in journalism for me. A portion of Dave’s email follows:

“He had been a copy editor at the Boston Globe, I believe, when he came to Madison for grad school at the UW in the mid-60s. He secured a part-time job as a copy editor with us while in school and then after graduation decided to stay, soon becoming the “wire editor,” responsible for all the news wire content of the daily paper. He, of course, was an active member of the Newspaper Guild, which represented the newsroom of The Capital Times, and when the printers struck Madison Newspapers in 1977, he was among the Guild leaders to call for the union to honor the strike.  Within a few weeks, he helped organize the strike paper, the Press Connection, and was named its editor. The paper survived for roughly three years, but then folded. He wound up taking a job with the San Jose Mercury-News, but when Tony Earl was elected governor, he came back to Madison to serve as his press secretary. When Earl lost to Tommy four years later, Ron got a job with the Long Island edition of Newsday, editing luminaries like Jimmy Breslin.

“When Newsday folded the edition in 1995, I made it clear to Ron that we’d welcome him back in our newsroom. He accepted and I named him the city editor. He was a damn good one, but started having health problems, including cancer of the liver. Fortunately, he became the beneficiary of a transplant, recovered, and continued to work until he took retirement when we went from daily print to digital back in 2008.

“He’s a terrific journalist and extremely talented. He became a FLW enthusiast, as you know, and is currently working on a book about Wright’s women., those who made and unmade him during his lifetime.”

Ron, rest in piece, my friend.

 

Hollyhock House

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2019

One of the highlights of the 2019 Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy annual conference in Los Angeles in October was the privilege of having an afternoon free to roam Hollyhock House and take photographs at will. Here is how I saw Aline Barnsdall’s dream house which she disliked and ultimately gave to the City of Los Angeles:

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(I saw on Facebook that my friend Steve Sikora was also taken with the trim in the living room ceiling):

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Thank you to Ginny (Virginia) Kazor and Jeffrey Herr for their stewardship of Hollyhock House on behalf of the City of Los Angeles, and thank you to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy for this special evening on Olive Hill.

 

 

 

Photographing Wright, redux

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

Note: My photos of Minerva and Charles Montooth are the post below this one.

This is the final installment of my 2019 quest to find new photos as I visit buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that are familiar to me. I visited them five times accompanying Road Scholar trips this year:

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

I have posted earlier photos on the website since May. Have a look, and let me know what you think!!! The photos are in the order in which we visited these sites…not all the sites visited are represented on this post.

Wingspread, Wind Point (Racine):

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Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa:

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Jacobs 1, Madison:

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The Unitarian Meeting House, Madison:

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Wyoming Valley School, Spring Green:

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Taliesin 3:

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The original drafting studio at Taliesin:

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Midway Barns:

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Hillside Home and School:

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Michael DiPadova continues reconstruction of the Tea Circle:

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And, finally, my friends, I leave you with two more “selfies,” one at Wingspread and one at Taliesin!

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