(c) Mark Hertzberg 2018
June 9, 2018 – Photographed through the windows of the original drafting room.
(c) Mark Hertzberg 2018
June 9, 2018 – Photographed through the windows of the original drafting room.
Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2018
Much has been written about Frank Lloyd Wright’s reasons for building Taliesin after his return from Europe with Mamah Borthwick (Cheney). Perhaps Jamaal Allmond summed it up succinctly – without necessarily knowing the details of the turmoil in Wright’s life in 1911 – when I saw him at Taliesin Saturday several hours before the annual Wright birthday celebration. His answer when I asked him what I had just photographed him doing: “I was relaxing my soul.” Allmond, a first time visitor to Taliesin, is from Scottsdale, Arizona. He was visiting friends who are at Taliesin.
Now, onto the annual celebration of Wright’s birthday at Taliesin, hosted by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the School of Architecture at Taliesin, and Taliesin Preservation. Our hosts were the ever-ebuillent Minerva Montooth, Carrie Rodamaker, and Stuart Graff. There are more photos of Allmond “relaxing his soul” at the end of this post.
The birthday cake is presented.
Minerva Montooth greets guests at her home…Taliesin.
Stuart Graff, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, describes his concrete (really!) bowtie to guests.Jack Holzhueter, left, Mike Lilek (Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block, Inc.,) and Steve Sikora (Malcolm Willey House)
The tables are turned on the photographer.
Words and photographs (c) Mark Hertzberg 2018
The newly-rebuilt swimming pool at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wingspread (1937) is filled with water from a nearby fire hydrant Wednesday May 30, 2018. The pool, which holds an estimated 114,028 gallons of water, was an original water feature of the house. It had deteriorated, and was rebuilt because of its architectural significance to the house. It will remain as an architectural water feature, and will not be used for swimming. It measures 26’ wide and 96’ 4” at its longest dimension, and slopes to a depth of 12′. The original diving board will remain in storage because the ornate stand has been lost and there are no drawings from which to replicate it. The only known record of it is this undated low resolution photo, provided courtesy of The Johnson Foundation, and copyright by them:
The pool deck fireplace regains visual prominence as it is no longer obscured by vines:
New mechanical systems have been installed nearby, underground:
Wright designed Wingspread as a home for H.F. Johnson Jr. and his family in 1937, the year after Wright designed the landmark SC Johnson Administration Building in Racine, Wisconsin. Wingspread, situated in the nearby village of Wind Point, was given by the family to the newly-created Johnson Foundation in 1959. It is now a conference center. National Public Radio, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the International Court of Justice are among the notable entities that evolved from Wingspread conferences. One of the founding meetings of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy was held there, as well.
Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg, 2018
Frank Lloyd Wright’s drawings: © 2018 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)
A little-known, long-gone design by Frank Lloyd Wright will be rebuilt beginning in October.
Courtesy of John Hime
Fred B. Jones was passionate about growing roses, so Frank Lloyd Wright designed a greenhouse for him in 1903 as part of the gate lodge at Penwern, Jones’ summer cottage and estate on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin. The structure was on the north side of the gate lodge, between the water tower and a boulder wall. At an unknown date Jones had a second, non-Wright greenhouse built adjacent to the west side of the gate lodge.
There are several extant drawings of the gate lodge that include portions of Wright’s greenhouse, including these three views:
The only known photos of the Wright greenhouse are from about 1931. The photos are in an album we have courtesy of Betty Schacht, whose grandparents, Carl and Gerda Nelson, were caretakers of Penwern, and lived in the gate lodge. The greenhouse was picturesque enough to be the backdrop for several family photos.
The unidentified people in the historic photos are presumably relatives and family friends of Schacht’s grandparents. Jones is not in any of the photos.
Some of the upper windows have been opened, as seen in this photo.
The Wright greenhouse was apparently deteriorating when it was disassembled and replaced by a carport by a subsequent owner in the 1970s. Sue and John Major, who became stewards of most of Penwern in 1994 (and of the gate lodge in 2000), and who have worked tirelessly to restore the estate to Wright’s vision, had the carport removed.
The carport is removed after the Majors acquired the gate lodge in 2000. Photo courtesy of Bill Orkild.
The reconstruction of the greenhouse will be done by Bill Orkild of Copenhagen Construction, the Majors’ contractor. He will be guided by Wright’s plans and the historic photos. Orkild has worked on many projects at Penwern, perhaps most significantly in 2005 rebuilding the Wright-designed boathouse which had been destroyed in an arson fire in 1978. He had just a single sheet of Wright’s drawings to work from.
The foundation of the greenhouse was uncovered several months ago. Several irrigation pipes are evident in the footprint of the structure:
Until the foundation was uncovered the only physical evidence of the greenhouse were lines of the roof visible in a door to the greenhouse at the base of the water tower and in the boulder wall opposite:
Because the greenhouse was part of the gate lodge it has never been considered a separate Wright building, so it never merited its own Wright project number. Still, it is significant and the World of Wright should welcome its reconstruction. The project underscores, yet again, why Sue and John Major were honored with a Wright Spirit Award from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in 2005. I leave you with an abstract photo I took of the main house at Penwern through one of the gate lodge windows last week, after I photographed the foundation of the greenhouse:
Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg, 2018
Three dozen representatives of Wright sites, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, met at the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread in late March for a “Wright Site Directors Summit.” Topics included creating Wright mobile apps, presenting sites in 3-D on tablets, strategies for innovative branding and marketing, and accommodating guests with disabilities. The three-day meeting was sponsored by the two foundations and the Building Conservancy.Libby Garrison of the Marin County Civic Center tells how their mobile app was created.
Michael Ditmer (Still Bend) and Heather Sabin (Monona Terrace) confer. Ditmer is the new president of Wright in Wisconsin. Mike Lilek, left rear, of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block talks with John Waters Preservation Programs Manager of the Building Conservancy. Kathryn Burton (Gordon House) is also at the table.
Stuart Graff, President and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, contributes to the discussion after a presentation. Jim Ladwig, center, (SC Johnson and Son) and Don Dekker (Meyer May House) take notes and listen.
Jeffrey Herr (Hollyhock House) and Carrie Rodamaker (Taliesin Preservation)
Mike Lilek of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block in Milwaukee.
“The House,” built in the mid-1950s adjacent to Wingspread, became the home of Mr. and Mrs. H.F. Johnson Jr. before they donated Wingspread itself to the newly-created Johnson Foundation in 1959. It has more space for conferences than the Wright-designed Wingspread. It has been said that Mrs. (Irene Purcell) Johnson was never comfortable in Wingspread because it was designed for another woman…Johnson’s wife who died during construction. National Public Radio, the National Endowment for the Arts, the International Court of Justice – and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy – are among the entities that evolved from Johnson Foundation conferences.
Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg, 2018
There are numerous tributes to Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer who died yesterday in Scottsdale, Arizona. I am grateful to him for his friendship and for the Foreword he wrote for my book about the SC Johnson Research Tower in 2010.
His contributions to the World of Wright are well known. There is another part of Bruce’s story that few people know. In 2008 I befriended Marshall Jones, a young African-American man serving two consecutive life sentences in Wisconsin for a double homicide. I got to know Marshall when I interviewed him for a book about the criminal justice system. Circumstances led to my sending him my first two books about Wright’s work in Racine, a year apart. I was impressed by Marshall’s responses to the books and other Wright books I had people send him. I shared his insights with Bruce…who began corresponding regularly with him, as well. Marshall often mentioned how much he enjoyed hearing from Bruce. He was moved that such a giant would pay attention to him.
We had corresponded for many years and talked on the phone, but I did not get to meet Bruce and OsKar Munoz until February, 2011, when Bruce spoke at the opening of a Wright exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Bruce and OsKar Munoz at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Bruce greets Floyd and Caroline Hamblen.
Bruce and Keiran Murphy.
Bruce and OsKar returned to Wisconsin on April 27, 2011 for a Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation meeting for site owners at the Johnson Foundation. I was astounded to hear that Bruce had never been to Wingpsread before. I was pleased to be able to document his visit that raw April day.
Bruce is flanked by portraits of H.F. Johnson, Jr. and Frank Lloyd Wright before giving his remarks to the conferees.
Bruce signs books for Ann MacGregor from Wright on the Park (Mason City, Iowa), above, and Mike Lilek and Denise Hice from Wright in Wisconsin, below.
Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, 1930 – 2017.
Thank you, Bruce.
(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017
I pass Frank Lloyd Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine almost daily on my bike ride. Today was a poignant day, the first anniversary of the passing of Gene Szymczak, a dear friend who was the seventh steward of the house and the man who lovingly rehabilitated it after buying it in September, 2012. I wondered how to honor Gene today. As luck would have it, the light was right, and I took a photo with my phone as the sun cast a shadow from one of the entry hall windows on the wall next to the north door.
I surmised from the cars parked in front that his family was gathered in the house. We each got to honor Gene at the house in our own way.
You have probably heard the story, but if not, the house was distressed when I took Gene through it as a prospective buyer. He said to me, “I don’t have children, but this is something I could do for Racine.” You did, indeed, Gene, and we are indebted to you. Gene was honored with a Wright Spirit Award in 2015 from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and was honored posthumously last June with the Kristin Visser Award for Historical Preservation.
Racine and the Wright community miss you, my friend.
Text and photos © Mark Hertzberg 2017
Frank Lloyd Wright drawing of Henry Wallis Cottage scheme 1: © 1986 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. All rights reserved. (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) and used with permission.
Robert Hartmann describes himself professionally as an architectural designer. Based in Racine, Wisconsin, he has designed many of the city’s downtown storefronts. More important for me, has been as an architectural archaeologist as I work on my Frank Lloyd Wright books. This summer Hartmann — an avid baseball fan — hit one home run after another after I sent him high resolution copies of Wright’s drawings related to Penwern, the Fred B. Jones estate on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin (1900 – 1903) and we visited the estate twice.
A week ago he hit a veritable grand slam home run in a late night email. He had greatly enlarged one of Wright’s drawings for the unrealized “scheme 1” cottage for Henry H. Wallis, designed in September, 1900, the month before Penwern would be designed for a nearby lot. Wallis, the premier land salesman on the south shore of Delavan Lake was an early client and patron of Wright. Wright proposed an arched porte-cochère for Wallis (drawing above). The house, as built, (below) differs in several details including the lack of the porte-cochère as well as the lack of stone piers at the corners of the house. Wallis sold the house at completion to the GoodSmith brothers and it is now known as the Wallis – GoodSmith House (the open porch facing the lake is a modern addition):
Hartmann was intrigued by faint pencil marks by Wright above and to the left of the proposed porte-cochère and brought them to a finished state. He discovered that Wright had drawn both a covered walkway above it and a tower to the left of it:
Interpretation of scheme 1 drawing © Robert Hartmann 2017 and used with permission.
All three of these unrealized details — the arched porte-cochère, the covered walkway above it, and the tower are prominent details at Penwern:
There are two possible explanations for the faint pencil sketches of the walkway and tower on Wallis scheme 1. Did Wright propose these features for Wallis before building them for Jones as Hartmann wonders? Or did he simply use a copy of the discarded Wallis plan on which to sketch ideas for the Jones house as Patrick Mahoney suggests, pointing out that Wright did just that using drawings for the Walter V. Davidson House in Buffalo (1908) when designing the Oscar M. Steffens House in Chicago a year later?
Hartmann made several other significant discoveries about Penwern this summer:
-Wright’s drawings for the gatehouse show a semi-circular wall east of the water tower. Today only half the wall stands. That discrepancy intrigued Hartmann enough to mention that to Sue and John Major, stewards of Penwern. They asked Bill Orkild, their contractor, to do some digging. He discovered the foundation of the missing portion of the wall as well as irrigation pipes from the 1903 greenhouse, which was torn down in the 1970s. There are now plans to make the wall whole again. The missing portion was apparently lost when strips of the east and west sides of the estate were sold in 1989 by a previous owner.
-Wright’s plan of the first floor of the main house shows curved walls for the large front porch (facing the lake) of the main house and the two side porches. Yet they were built straight. The Majors and John O’Shea, who was steward of Penwern from 1989 – 1994 had the porches rebuilt as shown on the drawings but the question remained why there was a discrepancy between the drawing and the walls as realized. Hartmann, again greatly enlarging the Wright drawings, found faint pencil lines bisecting the curved walls, with right angles connecting them to the porches. He surmises that Wright realized, or was convinced by his draftsmen or the contractor, that the curved walls would be difficult to build so he changed the final design to straight walls with the pencil marks, rather than make an entirely new drawing.
-Hartmann pointed out that there are fewer rows of boards and battens on the front of the stable than indicated on drawings of the structure. And, the drawing does not seem to take into account the gentle slope of the land in front of the stable. Does this mean that Wright had not seen the land for himself or that he did not supervise construction of the building? Hartmann also pointed out that whereas early photos of the front of the stable and the drawing show only two windows at each end, at some point it was determined that it was too dark inside the stable, and a second pair of windows was added just below.
Copies of Wright’s 17 surviving drawings for Penwern can be viewed at: www.penwern.com My book about Penwern will be published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press in the spring of 2019. The book could not be possible without the help of countless people including Hartmann, Mahoney, and Orkild. For that reason the Acknowledgments are one of the most important parts of the book for me to accurately write.
(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017
Frank Lloyd Wright designed a lovely home for the Walters on a riverside site in Quasqueton, Iowa in 1945. It is known as Cedar Rock, and is administered by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Construction began in 1948, and was completed by 1950. I had the pleasure of giving a talk about Wright’s Fred B. Jones estate (“Penwern”) for the Friends of Cedar Rock several weeks ago. The tie-in? Wright designed boathouses for both Cedar Rock and Penwern. I had hoped to photograph the boathouse from the Wapsipinicon River but the weather was prohibitive. I leave you with photos of some interior details that intrigued me. A panoramic photo gives you an idea of the central gathering space:
The first intriguing thing for me was the reflection in the mirror in the entry way:
I was also struck by the inward-facing mitered windows in the clerestory:
The house is closed for the season. I urge you to visit when it reopens in May. For information:
Randolph C. Henning is a prolific author as well as being an architect. He knows I am swimming in material for my Penwern book so I can’t do a proper book review, but I must call attention to his latest book, this one about Aaron G. Green, a member of the Taliesin Fellowship in the 1940s and then Wright’s West Coast representative.
The book is handsome. The book is extensive. The book is heavy (almost seven pounds!). Most important, the book is comprehensive…I would expect nothing less from Randy. His previous books include: “At Taliesin: Newspaper Columns by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship, 1934 – 1937” (1992); “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin: Illustrated by Vintage Postcards” (with Kathryn Smith, 2011); and “The Architecture of Alfred Browning Parker: Miami’s Maverick Modernist” (also 2011).
The book is available on-line, but first try to support your local bookseller and see if he/she can get it for you.
Randy was one of the founding members at OAD, the Organic Architecture and Design Archives, Inc. with Eric O’Malley and William Blair Scott: http://www.oadarchives.com