An Advance Peek at “Plagued by Fire”

© Mark Hertzberg 2019

Santa Claus brought Paul Hendrickson and Frank Lloyd Wright together in 1953 when he left a maroon J.C. Higgins 3-speed for nine-year-old Paul under the family Christmas tree in Kankakee, Illinois. The bike was not hidden under a blanket, Hendrickson recalls. It was uncovered, “dominating the spray of presents,” there for him to see as he came down the stairs in the morning.

It was chilly that day, with temperatures averaging 30-degrees, the wind gusting to almost 20 mph, hardly conducive to riding far (if at all) on his shiny new bike. When winter gave way to spring three months later, the boy hung his soft brown leather Spalding baseball mitt – he thinks maybe an Eddie Mathews model – on the handlebars of his bike and pedaled away, headed for the ball diamonds in nearby Riverview Park (now known as Cobb Park).

Five blocks south of Hendrickson’s boyhood home, just before he had to swing southeast to get to the park, well, there they were: Wright’s Bradley and Hickox houses. There were other nearby houses with Prairie-style elements (including his family’s rented house), but none as striking as the two Wright-designed homes. The boy often paused on his way to the park to take them in.

Bradley House 010.jpgFrank Lloyd Wright’s Bradley House, Kankakee, Illinois

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This October, almost 66 years after Santa delivered that new bike, Hendrickson’s latest book, a ground-breaking biography of the architect whose work impressed a little boy in ways he did not yet understand, will be published. Plagued by Fire: The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright tells Wright’s story like no other book has. Its genesis was simple, Hendrickson wrote me in an email, “This book started in my imagination…when I was riding past it [the Bradley House] on my J.C. Higgins 3-speed.” 

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I have just finished reading a bound proof of the book (disclaimer: Hendrickson and I have become friends since he began researching certain aspects of Wright’s life and career). I will write about the book in this essay without telling you anything specific about its revelations and interpretations of Wright’s life because that was the condition of my being able to write about it. 

Hendrickson’s goal was to humanize the often-demonized Wright. The book will not be out for another six months but it has rattled the sensibilities of a few Wright devotees, judging from their comments in “The Wright Attitude” Facebook group. They were reacting to the publisher’s advance blurb at:

Some commenters were upset by “And this, we see, is the Wright of many other neglected aspects of his story: his close, and perhaps romantic, relationship with friend and early mentor Cecil Corwin; the eerie, unmistakable role of fires in his life; the connection between the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 and the murder of his mistress, her two children, and four others at his beloved Wisconsin home by a black servant gone mad.”

Hendrickson does not stab wildly in the dark to reach his conclusions. His conclusions – and sometimes he writes that we will never know the answer to one particularly intriguing question or another – are not unsubstantiated. He meticulously outlines the facts he has uncovered (perhaps inconvenient facts for some people). His research is unimpeachable. I have already told you that I won’t spill the beans. You will have to wait until you are near the end of the book for some of the pieces of Hendrickson’s take on Wright’s life to fall in place for you, but they will. I smiled and nodded when I reached those points of understanding.

The colloquialism “gumshoe” refers to detectives, sometimes private eyes. Hendrickson does not wear a tan trench coat and fedora in the style of 1950s film noire detectives, but I thought of him as a gumshoe when I read how he left no stone unturned in his research. He outlines for his readers how he came to understand facts about Wright in his narrative, rather than forcing the reader constantly turn to cumbersome endnotes. Still, his 45-page “Essay on Sources” at the end of the book is as important as the narrative itself. Hendrickson drove untold hundreds (or even thousands) of miles, walked every inch of ground in places that were important to write Wright’s story, dug through voluminous archive files, often finding rare documents that no previous Wright scholar had seen. What was the weather like when Wright left Madison to announce himself to Chicago? Just ask Hendrickson. You get the idea.

Hendrickson was not content to parrot oft-repeated anecdotes about Wright’s life if  he was unable to verify them for himself. His research took him on multiple trips to Wisconsin, Illinois, Arizona, and New York. That was to be expected. It also took him to some unexpected places in those states, as well as to unexpected states that shall remain nameless in this essay.

Working in his third floor office at home, a baseball-style cap perched on his head, Hendrickson, a former writer for the Washington Post, has taken a clean sheet of drafting paper in his computer and redefined Wright as more layered and more human than many people have previously thought. Of course Hendrickson had to start from what Wright had written about himself and what others have written about him (Hendrickson’s bibliography is four pages of single-space type) just as Wright often drew from his work-to-date when he began a new commission. 

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Photo (c) Cecilia Hendrickson

Take any story you have heard about Frank Lloyd Wright and cast it aside if it does not stand up to Hendrickson’s painstaking primary research. His word images (poetry-in-complete sentences) tumbled from the keyboard for his silver desktop Mac the way designs are said to have tumbled out of Wright’s sleeve.

Hendrickson built his narrative from both the 1933 and 1942 editions of Wright’s An Autobiography (among dozens of other books and interviews). It is well known that Wright did not get it right in many parts of his self-telling about himself. Hendrickson explains those failings, including writing about “the Wright who was haunted by his father, about whom he told the greatest lie of his life.” (from Hendrickson’s publisher’s advance publicity). What was that “greatest lie?” You will have to read the book to find out.

After Hendrickson returned from research trips he hunkered down in his third floor loft writing atelier, between the English classes he teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. He keeps folder files in a bookcase and in piles on the floor. “I try to keep things fairly clean and ordered,” he wrote me when I asked him to describe how he writes. He kept various biographies, including the two editions of An Autobiography on his large green-glass writing desk with a spiral-ringed index nearby. Two Wright placemats which he considers “talismans” are on the desk, as well. 

His screen saver is a picture of Fallingwater. There is Wright artwork on the walls, “including a photograph of the B. Harley Bradley in Kankakee.” Why that house? Because that is where Hendrickson’s Wright adventures started forming in his imagination 66 years ago as he rode past it on his way to the park and yet another game of catch. 

Note added April 11: A commenter on Facebook squirms at the mention of Wright’s affection to Cecil Corwin (and I am not divulging what conclusion, if any, Hendrickson reaches about that). I have asked him why a man’s affection for another man, or a woman’s affection for another woman, no matter what form that affection takes, should make us uncomfortable. Does that person squirm about Wright’s physical affection for Mamah Borthwick or for Olgivanna before their marriage? I think not.

Many people have pre-ordered Hendrickson’s book on-line from the Seattle behemoth that is Amazon. I urge you to instead order the book from your closest local bookshop. We have to do all we can to keep our local booksellers in business. If you don’t have a bookshop near you, you can pre-order from the publisher. That will do more to help authors than ordering from the Big A.

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Graff on Wright

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

Stuart Graff, President and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, speaks at the SC Johnson Golden Rondelle about “Organic Architecture and the Sustaining Ecosystem” Wednesday April 3 in Racine. Here is my visual interpretation of his engaging talk which he will present Thursday evening at Monona Terrace in Madison. When you see Stuart, ask him to tell you about the young man with intellectual challenges who said he found “peace” at Taliesin West!Stuart Graff SCJ 4.3.19 032.jpg

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In the World of Wright Books

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

News about three books:

Penwern: I have finished the final edits on “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Penwern: A Summer Estate.” It will be published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press in June. Kate Thompson has been a wonderful editor to work with. This was my “desk” at a coffee shop:



Research Tower:  The Chinese Architecture and Building Press in Beijing will be publishing an “omnibus edition” with my “Frank Lloyd Wright’s SC Johnson Research Tower” (Pomegranate: 2010) and Grant Hildebrand’s “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Palmer House” (University of Washington Press: 2005) translated into Mandarin. The target is for 2019 publication. The Mandarin edition is supposed to include a short text addendum and new photos reflecting the restoration of the Tower in 2013 and 2014 after the decision was made to open the Tower to public tours for the first time.

Wright’s life and career:

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Paul Hendrickson has a book coming out in October. I know Paul and have read three of his books. I recommend his work highly. He is a former writer (not reporter!) for the Washington Post. He teaches writing at the University of Pennsylvania. He has taken a unique approach to telling Wright’s story (I’m not spilling the beans here). He does meticulous research. He has done extensive research into Cecil Corwin and he was granted rare access to the SC Johnson archives. The book will be published in October. This is the publisher’s website link if you want to pre-order the book:




A Surviving Wright Tokyo Masterpiece

Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg (2018)

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The Imperial Hotel comes to mind for many people when they think of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work in Japan, particularly in Tokyo. But the hotel is no more. It was demolished in 1968. Only the lobby and entry way were saved, reconstructed closer to Kyoto than to Tokyo, in the Meiji Mura architectural theme park (see photos on the preceding post on this website). Although the hotel is gone, visitors to Tokyo still have a Wright masterpiece to see in a quiet residential neighborhood, just a short walk from the bustling Ikebukuro subway station.

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Wright designed the Jiyu Gakuen School of the Free Spirit in 1921. Now known as Jiyu Gakuen Myonichikan (Myonichikan means “Hall of Tomorrow,” Japanese Wright scholar Karen Severns explains) it fortunately still survives even though the school moved to a new campus in 1934, just 10 years after the school opened. While the school community still used the building for different functions, it deteriorated physically and was threatened with demolition. In 1997 it was deemed an “Important Cultural Property.” Restoration began in 1999 and was completed by early 2002.

Come in the gate with me, and explore this lovely building, whose interior details sometimes reminded me of details in Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine (1904/1905).

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Two classroom wings flank the central part of the school. The leaded glass centerpiece of the school is in front of the two-story lounge hall and dining hall.

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One of the classrooms in the east wing:

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Then we approach the stairs to the dining room.

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I was particularly enchanted by the ceiling light fixtures in the dining room:

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Wright left Japan before the east classroom building was completed (the right-hand wing, as one faces the school). Arata Endo finished it, using Wright’s plan for the west wing. Endo also designed the two smaller dining areas which flank the main dining room:

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The lounge hall is on the main floor, just inside the wonderful two-story leaded-glass frontispiece of the school.

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Visitors can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee there:

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Students had painted a mural of The Exodus on one wall of the room:

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The lounge hall was used for many functions until Endo’s Assembly Hall was constructed across the street from the main building:

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We were leaving the school when I heard music coming from one of the classrooms. A sign on the classroom door admonished people not to enter during the class. No matter: a photo taken at a distance through a window shows that learning is still going on in Wright’s lovely little school building in busy Tokyo:

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I recommend Severns’ and Koichi Mori’s “Magnificent Obsession: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buildings and Legacy in Japan” DVD for an in-depth study of Wright’s built and unbuilt work in Japan. “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fifty Views of Japan: The 1905 Photo Album” was published by Pomegranate for the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Foundation in 1996. Julia Meech’s 2001 book “Frank Lloyd Wright and the Art of Japan: The Architect’s Other Passion” (Harry S. Abrams, publisher) is about Wright as a collector of, and dealer in, Japanese woodblock prints.


Imperial Hotel

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg (2018)

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel in Japan, designed in 1917, famously survived the great Kanto earthquake which struck Tokyo the day the hotel opened in 1923. But it could not survive the will of developers who determined that the air rights above the complex were more valuable than the architecture, and demolished it in 1968. The lobby and entry way were saved, and reconstructed at Meiji Mura, an architectural theme park in Inuyama, Japan.

There was robust debate at the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy’s 2010 conference in Cincinnati about the realities of trying to preserve the context for which Wright designed his work. The setting at Meiji Mura is lovely, but it is not the urban context the hotel was designed for.

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The Shinkansen, or bullet train, whisks visitors coming from Tokyo to Nagoya, where they board a local train to Inuyama, and then a bus to the park. We visited the park  in November. Though it was overcast, Japan’s fall colors were magnificent.

Are you unsure of where to stand to photograph the hotel? That’s no problem, there is signage to guide you:

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I was photographing the exterior when a kimono-clad woman walked into the frame. At least it wasn’t my Wright friend in his orange parka (this light-hearted reference is for friends in the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy which had its own tour in Japan concurrent with our trip). Kimonos are associated with geisha, but many people – especially tourists – rent kimonos to wear.

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In the door, up two steps, and one Japan goal has been realized (others included seeing a baseball game in the Tokyo Dome and feasting on Japanese food including the best tuna I have ever eaten).

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But, what about the rear of the structure? I had to look, but it was a bit like peeking behind the Wizard of Oz’s curtain.

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“Arigato” for joining me on my visit to the hotel:

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Noshing with Wright: Cooking 3 gourmet dinners in 3 Wright homes in 5 days

Photos and story (c) 2018 Mark Hertzberg

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It took Steven Freeman 18 years before he could prepare to make a gourmet dinner in the minuscule kitchen in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House (1904/05) in Racine in September. Still, he was unfazed by the challenge of cooking a memorable dinner for a dozen people he had never met, in a kitchen he had never worked in, in a city he had never visited. Oh, and by the way, he did it by chef’s instincts and from memory: no cook books or written recipes. How to top his coup de chef? By doing the same thing two more times, with different menus, in the Mollica (1958) and Keland (1954) houses, two other nearby Wright homes, days later. A bonus for him was that he was welcomed as an overnight guest in each house.

Dinner at the Hardy House, Sunday September 23.

Hardy Exteriors Post-Restoration 078.JPGFreeman worked out the menu with each homeowner, and posted it on the refrigerator:

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Below: preparing the appetizer: “Tamus with feta. I created the word as an amalgam of Taboulleh and Hummus. I spread beet hummus, dotted with olive oil, sumac and sea salt. Then I spread tabouleh, topped with olive oil, sumac and sea salt. Then I sprinkled feta (local from WI) chick peas and fresh parsley. move olive oil and salt.”

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Freeman, 48, is an architect from Manchester, New Hampshire who loves to cook. His Wright food road trip extraordinaire began in August, 2000 when he wrote 14 Wright homeowners in the Milwaukee area offering to cook “one of the best meals I can create” in exchange for the privilege of visiting their homes. None replied, likely because as in the case of Hardy they were besieged by requests to see their Wright homes. But in 2018, Tom and Joan Szymczak, the stewards of the Hardy House, learned of his offer to a previous owner and thought it might be the perfect way to host a family get-together. Sylvia Ashton and Nicholas Goodhue (the Mollica House) and Dr. William B. Boyd (the Keland House) also signed onto the architectural food adventure.

Steven has written a thoughtful, extensive reflection on this experience. I have broken it up into segments, in bold face, not to be confused with the bold faced italicized photo captions. An essay by Robert Hartmann, who helped arrange the dinner at the Mollica House, also in bold face, is also included in this post.

What the Wright week in Racine meant to me… Steven Freeman

“Planning my Wright week was one moments of joy, followed by excitement and nervousness. We were able to confirm Hardy house for cooking, then Mollica for a place to stay for the week, then the dinner at Keland was confirmed. The flights were booked and then I started to book the public Wright tours and started to search for local foods and farmers markets.

Walking off the plane was just like any, then I walked out to my Uber and the royal treatment began, being driven in a nice car and getting to see the landscape began to fill me with anticipation. The Wright influence is omnipresent from the sky touching down to the shores. such a presence of magnificence.

Southbound on Main St. (in Racine) and the Hardy appeared, as did sweat upon my shining brow, my driver pulled a “Uey” and pulled next to the curb at the south door to Hardy. This was it, I was on top of the world, at least the shores of Lake Michigan, high on the bluff, and  this was the first ever I was walking into a Wright house like I owned it. I could touch the door handle, wear my slippers and pajamas, sit on the furniture, open the windows, lie in bed and watch the art glass windows dazzle about the walls and ceilings, and I was welcomed from the kindest soul of all, Tom S. patient, gentle, kind, wonderful steward to welcome me in.

I think it meant more for me to actually experience the house than it was to cook in it. to see the bending light of dawn flood the living room whilst having coffee and listening to some classical bits on the house speakers. this home was mine for the duration, Tom was insistent that I live in the house, use anything needed, touch, smell, read the books, open the windows, cook up a storm!”

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Freeman grills chicken breasts stuffed with prosciutto and gruyere cheese on the dining room balcony. They were served with a dill and three-mustard sauce. One of the challenges for the chef was cooking on a grill he had never used before:

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Sundays were a special time at the Hardy House for the late Eugene (Gene) Szymczak and his family. Gene was also a gourmet cook. His brother, Tom, and sister-in-law, Joan, felt the same sense of family with the gathering of family and friends when Freeman cooked for them that September Sunday afternoon. Wrote Joan in an email, “How fortunate we were to  celebrate Ethan and Ashley’s post wedding celebrations with a Hardy House gathering. Steven’s visit and culinary talents made what Gene would have called  a win win! Dinners with Gene were always a unique experience. Steven’s dinner was unique and unforgettable as well!”

“My stay at the Hardy house was originally giving me  thoughts to be intimidating, the stewards were welcoming a total stranger to stay, cook and enjoy the jewel box they were preserving. What if they didn’t like me? What if my cooking bombed, What if the house didn’t feel Wright to me? The experience taught me more than I could have ever imagined, schemed or dreamed. After all, this is my life long dream coming true and I was living it. What meant the most to me after dinner is when Joan was cleaning up with me and she turned to me and said she wasn’t sure what the night and this whole thing would turn into, but she was delighted with a houseful of guests enjoying a meal, her children and friends all gathered and I was the catalyst that brought the spirit to the House and Gene (the late Gene Szymczak who bought the house in 2012 and saved it) back to life. “This was the first gathering since he left us.” To hear that and be told that, that blew my mind and made me feel like a very welcome spirit and was the most sincere and highest praise I have ever received and I am still beyond belief with that compliment. it was like Gene was there with us and he cooked the meal. I don’t think that compliment will be topped, no matter what my future of Wright in My Kitchen will bring me….

I almost forgot, my 4 mentors-influences in life are Neil Young, F.Ll.W, Julia Child and Ralph Lauren. I forwent a weekend of Neil Young volunteering at Farm Aid, close to home, to make this trip happen. Saturday night settling into Hardy with Curtis (Szymczak), I asked to get the wifi signal, Curtis had forgotten the PW, so I continued to tear apart the kitchen while he sought for the password. finally I got wifi and at that moment i remembered I could stream Farm Aid live, so I did. at the moment I got connected Neil was walking on stage in a majestic moment, I walked out to the patio, plugged in my headphones and enjoyed the full moon rising over the lake while listening to such an influence on me while enjoying an even bigger influence in one of his earliest works. He opened with TELL ME WHY…. which is all I kept asking the stars… was I really in a Wright home streaming Neil, reading a cookbook by Julia, of course enrobed in Ralph? Yes I was, this life is mine, I’m living it, chasing dreams and having as much fun as any celebration. This night set the tone for the joy of the week, discovery, making friends, hearing stories and celebrating a life filled with passion.”

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Both Wright houses in Manchester meet with Freeman’s culinary approval because they have “great” kitchens. One of his favorite Wright kitchens is in the Allen-Lambe House in Wichita. “It was designed to work.” While the Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo is considered one of Wright’s greatest and most important Prairie-style homes, it doesn’t pass the test for Freeman. “I wouldn’t be excited to cook in that kitchen at all. It’s dark. It’s cramped even though it is decent-sized. It is way off from the areas where people eat. It was very poorly designed as a kitchen to produce good food. The house itself was absolutely mind blowing, but I’d rather cook in the Gardener’s Cottage on that property.”

Freeman reacts to seeing me take yet another picture of him as he emerges from the kitchen:

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For dessert: maple yogurt parfait with berries, chocolate nibs, and cinammon:

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At the end of the meal, Freeman, left, relaxed on the dining room terrace as an almost-full moon shone across Lake Michigan:

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“Next was a surprise (day) visit to Penwern, words, photos, film, media, animation, models cannot describe this house and how it feels to experience this house in person. I didn’t cook there, but when I do, I will write about that experience. Like most Wright houses I’ve studied by reading, studying the floor plans, looking at the pictures, to be able to experience the details, light, textures and scale of materials in person is a priceless experience.

This trip was 7 Wright places, Hardy, Wingspread, Penwern, Mollica, Keland, Burnham, SCJ and a drive by Bogk. and some Calatrava too. What was most learned is there is no mistaking a Wright design, each one of these structures is so wildly different from another, yet unmistakably Wright. There is no other medium like his Architecture, nothing even close.

Back to Hardy- upon a long study, that house is so wonderfully rich with simplicity that takes a while to appreciate. If you folded that whole house as a paper model in any direction, there are but a few lines and they follow each other front to back, side to side. Meaning you could draw 19 lines to make up the interior elevation of the North bedroom, and those 19 lines are on every wall on the North plane, mirror image and they parallel on the South planes. Likewise for east and west. A CGI model could show this and just amaze with delight at how simplistic design is such a challenge to achieve, strikingly rich upon observation, brilliantly masterful for Wright to create at such a young age.”

Dinner at the Mollica House, Wednesday September 26:

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From Robert Hartmann: “What could be more enjoyable than spending an evening with good friends at their Frank Lloyd Wright designed home? How about having architect and Master Chef Steven Freeman prepare a gourmet dinner for you while you are enjoying your visit. My wife Jill and I recently had the opportunity to savor Steven’s efforts while visiting good friends Nick Goodhue and Sylvia Ashton, owners of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mollica House in Bayside on the northside of Milwaukee. Steven was given a special challenge to prepare a meal that would work for my wife who has several food allergies and he was up to the task.

The kitchen in the Mollica house is large for a Frank Lloyd Wright house, in fact the Mollica house,designed by Wright in 1956, is the largest of the nine known Erdman prefab #1 homes to ever be built. It served as Freeman’s preparation area with room to spare. Steven served his creative efforts in the dining area just off the kitchen which has dramatic views of the massive Lannon stone fireplace, living room and upper terrace. But, it was Steven’s meal that took center stage. A beautifully presented salad of mixed greens was followed by a main course of grilled pork and vegetables, all perfectly prepared and beautifully presented.

Before the evening was over we discovered Steven’s interest in Wright’s architecture was driven by his seeing Wright’s Zimmerman house in Manchester, New Hampsire which is near his home. Nick Goodhue, the grandson of another one of America’s greatest architects, Bertram Goodhue, shared a color rendering of his grandfather’s award-winning design for the Nebraska State Capitol.”

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Nicholas Goodhue reflects on the evening: “We received an email from Bob Hartmann saying you had asked him to inquire if we would be interested in having Steven prepare a meal in our home in exchange for a tour. We told Steven that we would be glad to give him a tour even without the inducement of a meal prepared by a master chef, but he insisted that he wanted to prepare a dinner for the stewards of each of the Wisconsin Wright houses that he would be visiting. The prospect of enjoying an elegant dinner in our home certainly was an attractive one, so we accepted his offer without further ado. We were very pleased that you and Cindy, as well as Bob and Jill Hartmann, were able to join us for this memorable repast.

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And, once again, from Steven: “Tuesday night, onto Mollica for a few nights’ stay with more total strangers. We had a few phone calls before arrival. I remember while on phone, perusing my Wright books, Maps, Google earth, imagining what this house would feel like, the neighborhood, the stewards, the landscape. I felt like I would have a good understanding of the site and surrounding and I even found a topo map to help with the grading. nope, could not have imagined or envisioned arrival at this house or its siting.

Approaching this house was like the approach to the Boynton house in Rochester, surrounded by the melancholia of suburbia cookie cutters, we were rounding the circle and then she appeared, the jagged edge of the garage, whose stone was laid in Wrightian fashion, alternating courses, staggered, casting delightful shadows and light. I knew this was Mollica, from that first edge. Then Cindy turned into the generous drive and we approached the entry, That sense of royalty came back. This was my house for the next few days, what a spectacle. the large stone wing against the batten wood bedroom wing. The stewards were at the door to welcome us in. what a living room, this is a modular home? I don’t think so, this was a Wright home, every last detail, every piece of stone, every nook, every intersection of materials. Just Wright.”

The kitchen in the Mollica House, unlike the one in the Hardy House, had ample room for Freeman to work in:

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“We spent a few hours chatting, settling in, while my reality was catching up to me. We decided early in the day, with Penwern, I would not cook Tuesday night, so we went out.

Wednesday, Nick took me to breakfast and we talked about how he came to Bayside, his father being quite the architect, and planned out the menu and all the local foods we would search for. lucked out with a bounty at a farmers market, where I stocked up for the week. There is nothing like fresh local foods, so I seized the opportunity to gather my crop for the rest of the week.

Back to the kitchen, I began to tear that one up looking for the tools to make dinner for 7 of us. The day afforded me a wonderful experience and a new way to enjoy cooking and being in the kitchen all day.

They had a great double wall oven with four racks in each chamber, so I played around with all the veggies and herbs, their plethora of spices and made some magic. What was such a joy is knowing I had all day to cook and plenty of time to make it right! In between meals I would wander out and study the house, take pictures and enjoy the house and its stewards. Of course like any Wright home, there were plenty of Wright books to enjoy as well.”

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The main course: Moroccan Java-rubbed pork:

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“The weather was just perfect for a day of cooking with the windows open. the kitchen window faces West, so there was not much direct sun/heat, which is a welcome kitchen design. This kitchen was large and generous, spacious, wrapped in windows and just a joy to cook in with a unique island to work upon. I have the built in stereo playing music all day. Like Hardy this house and its stewards gave me a great sense of belonging, ownership and joy. I’ve cooked in many kitchens, many styles of homes, some really  great 6 figure kitchens, but none were as magical as Wright in my Kitchen and feeling like we belonged together.”

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Minted maple fruit with coconut yogurt for dessert:

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Dinner at the Keland House, Thursday September 27:

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“Onward to Keland, this house, was this really happening? Was I going to this Usonian Zimmerman on steroids? I woke early to make sure I had a long day at Keland. greeted by all the staff and Bill with a great welcoming feeling. this was my castle for the day and I was the Prince who would be putting the kitchen to good use and exploring another necklace of rich jewels.

As I settled in and got to work on upending this kitchen and developing the menu, the staff were more than eager to help the meal come to be, planning, decorating and setting the table. Mind you, the dining room has about 40’ of built ins filled with accessories for the dining table. What stood out for this meal was the two nurses digging through all the textiles to set the table and telling me how much they enjoyed this. Little did I know, for this table had not seen guests or meals since Karen (the late Karen Johnson Boyd, who, as Karen Johnson Keland, had commissioned the house in 1954) had left us (she died in January, 2016).

This created some great anxiety in me to make sure this meal did not disappoint. After learning about Bill’s life and how he came to Racine and his past and his years with Karen, this day was becoming more and more sentimental as the meal was coming together. This house meal came to be less and less about the meal and more about what it meant for Bill, his guests and the house. Me? I was the catalyst that brought Bill to come to the dining table again, as he had done for so many years and with so many worldly guests, yet he hadn’t dined here since  her passing. He enjoyed the Marsala, he was happy and bright, with a great bright dress shirt and great friends laughing around him.”

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“I was lucky enough to find a brand new copper fish pan that had never seen the light of day, tucked back in the closet, covered in cobwebs. as with so  many meals ive prepared and portioned, it was meant to be and was perfect size for cooking for 10 fo us. Happy to report this pan has become the new staff favorite to cook with. the meal was delightful but became quite tertiary for my well being. I was overjoyed to see Bill enjoying his house and life with friends and it created such a spirited and joyful feeling for me to be part of this event, part of the homes history and the reason why it had come to be. I couldn’t have been prepared for this emotive event and still delighted to be able to do that for one man. Honored. I hope we can do this again.”

The kitchen or “workspace” (in Wright’s term) is tucked into the “hinge” or junction of the public space wing and the wing with private spaces. It is smaller than the Mollica House kitchen, but larger than the one in the Hardy House:

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Dr. William B. Boyd was married to the late Karen Johnson (Keland)
Boyd who commissioned the house in 1954. This is one of the family pictures on the refrigerator. Freeman used Mrs. Boyd’s linens and dishes to serve his dinner.

“A few weeks before this trip I had been emailing (nurse) Ellen and working out details and plans etc. of course I said I would be delighted if I could spend the night as a guest, but certainly no expectations. midday after joking with staff and Bill and teasing them with snacks, I asked Ellen if there was a chance I could spend the night. “Bill would be delighted to have you be his guest tonight.” I have the best luck and stories regarding Wright. Bill had come to tell me himself I could spend the night and to be careful of my head in the bed. I wasn’t sure what he meant, but by morning I had hit my head twice on the built in bookshelves above the guest bed.

The guest wing of this house, I could happily live my life in. En suite bathroom, with my own balcony overlooking the Root River and the whole estate. A living room overlooking the great room and the stone slab where we had earlier enjoyed dinner, a ribbon of windows, woodwork light, artwork, this was the biggest treat for this trip. to be a welcomed overnight guest in the spacious guest suite, the only part of the house with a second floor. after dinner and cleanup, I was so wound to be staying here I didn’t think I would sleep, I was the only one up to the wee hours of morning, just taking it in.”

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The extent of the dining room is this two-ton Vermont marble table set against a side wall of the hearth (right), and at the edge of the living room, left:

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“Staying in a Wright home stops time, creates moments, fulfills dreams, creates the greatest joys, teaches, inspires, cultivates, erases all doubts of what man can achieve. I could stay a week at any of these Wright homes and never leave and never want for more of find boredom, ever. Everywhere you look is a design that is entirely intentional, masterful, brilliant, skillful, crafted with precision and purpose. with every visit to a Wright house, the appreciation that every square inch of every surface was conceived and drawn by the hands of man.  Take a look around any other home and see large canvases of blank walls, spend a day in the Hardy living room and study the lines of simplicity and intention, and see how they carry thru the floors below. Just When I thought I had absorbed the living room of Mollica, I change seats and see more details, connectivity, intention and simplicity. be it complex as it may appear, at its root, many of these structures are absolutely simplistic. Keland entry closet with its tall slender window providing natural light to a coat closet!! I’ve never seen that before, yet have suggested many designs of my own to have natural light in a closet. This was the first and only closet I’ve seen a window in. I will be adding it to my designs and will see it built soon.”

The entry way to the house is center, right, to the left of the distant table lamp. A sitting room, above, looks over the living room:

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Dinner finished with a surprise birthday celebration for one of the guests:


Freeman packs differently than most people who cross the country in search of Wright adventures. He has an early edition of William Allin Storrer’s Frank Lloyd Wright Companion, to be sure, but he also packs a checked bag with a knife, a small cutting board, a pepper mill, a pair of long-handled grill tongs, and his steel to sharpen his knife.

“For me this trip turned out to be so much more than anybody could have suggested it would be. I created memories for some very wonderful people who are lucky enough to Live in Wright, I made friends, shared stories imbibed with passion for architecture and food, and constantly reminded myself how lucky I was  to be experiencing this and how it came to be because I took a chance and wrote a few letters offering to cook a meal if you open your home to share with me.

There are many moments of my daily life and especially with cooking, that I think of things The Wright Way and whenever I feel a moment of creative genius I think of Wright and thank him for the influence and sending it to me. Every meal I make is made with passionate intention, when I dress a plate I think of Wright draughting a leaded window or a rug design – this has to be organic and in the nature of materials and the composition has to work well within itself and in the context of the materials – they all have to relate to each other. every day I live my life with the Wright intention and for fleeting moments, I do in fact feel Wright with one.

I have a few projects on my table I’m working on, kitchens no less, and every line I lay on paper, I shake from my sleeve in his spirit and amazingly they come to be when they feel Wright and flow naturally, its then I take a photo, send to client and gain their approval. This is Wright in my Kitchen and this is a blessing and joy to experience and I get to share that with my clients and friends and create a small tribute to Wright in all I create.

Thank You Frank Lloyd Wright!”

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Selfie Time

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2018

This light-hearted post was prompted by a comment about “Selfies” made in response to a post by fellow Wright photographer Andrew Pielage to “The Wright Attitude” Facebook group. I shot my first Wright selfie at the Willey House in January, 2006, 18 months before the introduction of the iPhone and the concurrent obsession on selfies. It is literal and admittedly boring. I started having more fun with the idea after this photo. Technical notes are at the end of the post. And, yes, my hair has gotten grayer since that first photo at the Willey House!

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I shoot them only when the opportunity presents itself, rather than compulsively at each Wright site I photograph. Enjoy the gallery:

Ennis 421.JPGWith Cindy, Ennis House, March, 2008

Price Tower Self Port. 001.JPGPrice Tower, April, 2011

Zimmerman House 025.JPGZimmerman House, June, 2012

Annuniciation Greek Orthodox Church 069.jpgAnnunciation Greek Orthodox Church, July 2012

Wingspread 2.JPGWingspread, October 2012

FUS 083.JPGUnitarian Meeting House, January, 2013

Mason City 2013 002.jpgCity National Bank, June, 2013

Penwern 009selfie.jpgPenwern (Fred B. Jones Summer Cottage), July, 2013

Penwern Snow 040.jpgPenwern, January, 2014

FSC.JPGFlorida Southern College, March, 2014

Taliesin West 516.JPG

Taliesin West 535.jpgTaliesin West 529.JPGTaliesin West, October, 2104

Bernard Schwartz House 002.JPG

Schwartz 016.JPGStill Bend (Bernard Schwartz House), March 2015

Berger House 024.jpgBerger House, November 2016

Walker House.JPGWalker House, November, 2016

Cedar Rock.jpgCedar Rock, October 2016

Turkel 2.jpgTurkel House, July, 2018

Hardy Selfie 9.23.18.jpgThomas P. Hardy House, September, 2018

Hillside  Selfie 2018 026.JPGHillside Theater, October, 2018

Technical notes: Camera brands are irrelevant to me. I shoot with Nikons because I am invested into their lens system. And, from my newspaper days, I prefer to shoot with a black long lens than Canon’s more obtrusive white lenses. I shoot with two digital bodies, a cropped frame or DX body (currently a Nikon D500) with a 17-55mm f2.8 lens, and a full frame or FX body (currently a Nikon D850) with a 14mm f2.8 lens and a 70-210mm f2.8 lens. The long lens sometimes goes on the DX body. I occasionally use a 16mm f2.8 fisheye and an iPhone 6 for panoramic photos.

A Fall Afternoon at Taliesin

All photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2018

Wednesday, October 10, 2018…the light and fall colors were magical after a morning of rain.Romeo and Juliet 2018 .jpgRomeo and Juliet Windmill

Midway.jpgMidway Barn, viewed from in front of Hillside Home and School

Taliesin fall 4.jpgThis and following photos: Taliesin III

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Unity Chapel viewed from Taliesin:

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A “selfie” at Hillside Theater:


Penwern Publication Progress

(c) 2018 Mark Hertzberg / Book cover (c) 2018 Brad Norr Design

Sue and John Major, stewards of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fred B. Jones estate (Penwern) on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin asked me to write and photograph a book about Jones and about Penwern in 2013. The book is now finished and in the design stage, with publication next spring by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. We now have a cover to show you!

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We never anticipated that this would be a five-year project, but it proved to be challenging to research the book, especially because there is no known extant correspondence between Jones and Wright. The book is based on as much original research as possible, and dispels a number of things that have been written about Penwern in the past (including the origin of the name of the estate). I found only a handful of photos of Jones, just one of him at Penwern likely taken when he was about 65, twenty-five years after Penwern was built. It was almost four years before I found any adjectives describing Jones’ affable personality, a quality I had guessed but could not document until Patrick J. Mahoney and Eric O’Malley unearthed obscure articles about Jones from 1888 and 1912 in a trade journal and in a newspaper article about his work.

Wisconsin Public Television videotaped an illustrated talk I give about Penwern at the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Wade House last spring. It is an hour long and can be viewed here:

But of course you need to buy the book to see many more contemporary and historic photographs and read much more about this wonderful estate and its stewards since 1900!