Text and photos (c) Mark Hertzberg
Work continues on the rehabilitation and restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine (1904/05) at a less frenetic pace than several months ago. The house was sold in September to Eugene Szymczak. Work through the fall, winter, and early spring ensured the stability of the house and saw the repair of most of the interior.
Painters Dennis and Daniel Bishop used the bottom layer of paint chips uncovered throughout the house to paint the interior in what are thought to be the original colors. The exterior will likely be similar to Graycliff’s color.
The second owners of the house – The Sporers, 1938-1947 – commissioned a recreation room to be built under the dining room terrace, adjacent to the basement, in 1941. The work was done after World War II. It included replacing the solid east stucco wall under the terrace with five full-length windows, one of which was a door opening to the hill above Lake Michigan. David Sinkler installed new energy-efficient windows in May.
The bathroom has both been restored and updated. It was restored in that Szymczak opened up the south wall so that there are once again doors on the north and south ends, giving a view of the leaded glass windows at either end of the house. The third owner of the house (1947-1957) had walled in the south end of the bathroom. A portion of the ceiling has been raised, enabling the installation of a shower stall in place of the former 1949 bathtub. Chad Nichols has meticulously tiled the bathroom:
The dining room was replastered, as needed, by Paul Lemke and painted by Daniel Bishop:
With the interior work almost complete, Lemke will soon turn his skills to fixing the exterior stucco. The courtyards are among the areas that need attention. The original courtyard walls had a pine basket-weave lathe:
Gordie Bishop built a new framework for Lemke’s nephew, Sean Doyle, to cover with board, rather than lathe, before Lemke plasters the courtyard walls:
The house originally had pocket, or sliding doors, as the two entry doors. They were removed by the third owner because the doors often stuck during winter. Szymczak commissioned new pocket doors. The new doors slide on a track, like patio doors, rather than being hinged by a cumbersome, out-dated heavy mechanism like the ones found in the entry way walls. The new doors have full length windows, which will enable Szymczak to look into the courtyards from the entry hallway:
The wood gates, which hung over the entry ways, were also removed by the third owner. The Sporer’s daughter, Anne Ruetz, took pictures of the gates as a child, and they will be reproduced by Nichols after the stucco work is completed.
A wood construction shelter has covered the front of the house since winter because the seven windows in the hallway had to be removed during construction. The original leaded glass windows were deemed too damaged to reinstall by Oakbrook Esser glass studios. They will be preserved, but reproduction windows will be installed in their place. Bishop installed a sample new window in the center position a week ago. Six plate glass windows were installed in the other window frames until the other reproductions are ready. Bishop expects to remove the wood shelter in a week. He says many passersby have asked when the shelter will come down…and he says it will be like unwrapping a Christmas present.
The rest of summer and fall will likely see stucco and wood repair work outside and then, finally, a new coat of paint for Wright’s wonderful house on the bluff above Lake Michigan.