(c) Mark Hertzberg
What does it take to be the steward – a better term than ‘owner’ – of a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright?
Last week I posted pictures which the late Eugene (Gene) Szymczak took in 1977 of what became his beloved Thomas P. Hardy House when he became its seventh steward in 2012. A few days later his family sent me a copy of an email Gene sent me in 2012, an email I had forgotten about. In it he describes his thoughts about his new stewardship of the house. His writing “I don’t know how long I’ll be there” is poignant and particularly moved his family because Gene fell ill and died unexpectedly December 3.
As you read the email, remember that when I showed Gene the house, which was distressed, he told me, “I don’t have children, this (buying it and rehabilitating it) is something I could do for Racine.”
His note is particularly apt this week as the stewards of dozens of Wright-designed buildings gather in New York City for the annual conference of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.
Date: September 14, 2012 7:19:57 AM EDT
To: Mark Hertzberg
I have been born and raised in Racine. I come from a working class family. Racine has a reputation in history for doing the right thing. It could be from fighting against slavery to having the first high school in the state to trying to rejuvenate River Bend. We do the right thing. We put others first and give back. I am part of that heritage. I think that it was time for someone to assume stewardship of the house from Jim and Margaret. The Youghourtjians have been good stewards for more than fourty years. I don’t know how long I’ll be there. It’s my turn to take care of the Hardy house. It is a Racine and even a world landmark.
The Hardy house is a home that most Racinians would recognize. It evokes different reactions. In 1905 it was called “kooky”. To me it’s a song. Wright was a middleman between humans and nature. He asks us where to we fit in nature? How do we interact with living creatures? What can we learn? Do we enhance one another’s lives and the landscape?
Interest in Wright
I find that Wright looks a little deeper into life and introduces more questions than answers. A little more understanding than strong judgement calls. God (being Nature), has all the answers to what being here is all about. To me he says be part of it all and share it unselfishly.
The black and white photo of the house were taken in 1978 [the prints indicate 1977] About when I bought a fancy camera. I took pictures of my parents, the lake, and the Hardy house. To me significant things. I ended up returning the camera because I felt it was too expensive…lucky for you it was the end of my “career” in photography.