Writing Wright With Light-Photo Adventures at two Wright sites in Milwaukee

© Mark Hertzberg

Something wasn’t right today. I was not committed to taking pictures as I accompanied my 11th Road Scholar Frank Lloyd Wright trip, my second in a month, to sites in Milwaukee today.* As I have written in past blogs, I try to see and photograph something new every time I visit a familiar Wright site, but I did not feel photographically inspired this trip. When I got to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block, our first stop, I thought I had seen all the pictures there were to take, on the trip in May:

https://wrightinracine.wordpress.com/2022/05/19/wright-tourism-is-back-bits-of-burnham/

So, I left my workhorse cameras on the bus and carried just my iPhone 11 Pro. Then I saw something that struck me. I gingerly took out my phone and snapped a picture:

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I put the phone back in my pocket, thinking it would be a “one and done” day. I took two photos of Road Scholars eager to enter the American System-Built B-1 Richards House, and again figured, that would be it for the day:

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Ah, but there was more to come, above me, and inside the house:

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Done for the day? Maybe, but I decided to bring the “real” cameras with me when we got to the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa. I was immediately struck by the cloudless and rich blue sky. It seemed in synch with the blue color scheme of much of the church building. First, was the obligatory “record” snapshot before pushing my eye:

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The “crown of thorns” below the domed roof presented myriad photos:

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Then I came to the entry way and its cantilevered canopy:

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There are thousands of two inch by two inch ceramic tiles above the roof of the canopy. Our docent, my friend Cathy Spyres, explained that these are the same tiles that were on the original roof of the church. The original tiles were not replaced after they started popping off the roof.

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Then, onto a quest to see something new inside the church:

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Spyres told the guests that blue (as well as gold) is one of the dominant colors inside and outside the church because it is part of the Byzantine heritage. So was the sky, I thought, as I heard her explanation.

I was in touch a few months ago with the director of a Wright site to take photos for a forthcoming Wright book by a university professor. The director was critical of one of my earlier photos from the site because it had an “on the spot look.” I asked for clarification: “On the spot means it looks like a hand-held shot. It isn’t carefully studied. It has a casual look.” I make no apologies for my style of working: “Casually,” and “hand-held.”

Photography literally means “writing with light.” Today the light was perfect for me to write Wright.

*The guests’ week-long itinerary begins in Chicago and Oak Park, continues to Racine, where I join them, then on to Milwaukee, Madison, and Spring Green. They see 12 Wright sites in Wisconsin during this deep immersion into the World of Wright:

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

Wright Tourism is Back: Bits of Burnham

© Mark Hertzberg (2022)

LR Burnham 2022 010.jpgSybil Knop talks to Road Scholar guests touring the Burnham Block May 19

The pandemic is far from over, but Wright tourism is ramping up again. I have helped lead the Wisconsin portion of Road Scholar’s week-long tour that starts in Chicago and ends in Spring Green since 2017 (a link to the itinerary is below). This week is our first of three tours for this year since 2019.. We have 16 guests from 10 states on this tour. Our first stop was the Burnham Block in Milwaukee which has six American System-Built homes, most owned by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block, Inc.

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I always challenge myself to see if I can find fresh photographs at Wright sites, no matter how often I have visited them. Here is what I saw on the Burnham Block after two years away from my Wright photo quests. I have two establishing shots showing signs of spring:

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I concentrated more on patterns or design elements that I saw, mostly at the duplexes (dupli?) at 2032 – 2034 W. Burnham Street, left, and 2028 – 2030 next door.

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LR Burnham 2022 018.jpgThis is not a version of the Frank Lloyd Wright signature tile…it is one of the faded red squares that have been used as social distancing markers on Burnham Street.

LR Burnham 2022 017.jpgI thought Frank Lloyd Wright hated basements.” They were not his favorite spaces, but he did not eschew them entirely. This is one of the vents from the basement at 2032 – 2034.

I told our guests that one of the great benefits of touring 2032 – 2034 is that while they generally see fully restored or rehabilitated Wright structures, this was an opportunity to see one in raw shape, as money from a Save America’s Treasures grants is used to bring it to house museum status like the Model B-1 down the block at 2714 W. Burnham St.

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LR Burnham 2022 066.jpgThis period stove is in a closet until the restoration is done.

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We then toured the Model B-1, one of the two single-family homes on the block. It was the first Burnham property acquired by what became the Burnham Block organization, in 2004. It has been fully restored with a Save America’s Treasures grant. It is a tribute to Mike Lilek and the organizations that have been the stewards of Burnham received not one, but two SAT grants.

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There are still two duplexes that will need restoration, including the world’s only Frank Lloyd Wright building clad in aluminum siding:

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I close this blog entry with a nod to my friend Cathy Spyres, docent extraordinaire at Wright’s Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church – her church – in Wauwatosa. The church is our second Wright stop on our Milwaukee itinerary:

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Tomorrow’s itinerary is another full day: We are overnighting in Madison tonight, after also seeing the Milwaukee Art Museum (Saarinen / Calatrava) and Monona Terrace. Tomorrow we start at Jacobs 1 and then go to the Unitarian Meeting House, Wyoming Valley School and have lunch at Riverview Terrace before our in-depth tours of Taliesin and Hillside. I can attest from our own trips with Road Scholar that you see so much and learn so much (education is a major component of their programming) that you need a vacation after your RS vacation! Wright tourism is, indeed back in full swing!

Links:

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block:

http://wrightinmilwaukee.com

This Road Scholar Trip Itinerary (we also have a full tour of the Hardy House in Racine and an exterior guided tour of Jacobs 1, although they are not listed in the advance itinerary):

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