Hardy Homecomings

Two people who grew up in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine, and a man who had the house on his paper route in the 1970s visited the house in May 2021. These are their stories.

© Mark Hertzberg (2021) with black and white photographs by Dave Archer and Anne Sporer Ruetz, used with their permission. Most of the photos in this article are Archer’s. A wide selection of Ruetz’s photographs are in the preceding article, below this one, or at:


IMG_7194.jpegDave Archer greets Anne Sporer Ruetz who last saw Archer was he was 8.

Many people remember getting their first bicycle for Christmas. But unlike Dave Archer, few can say that momentous event happened in a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Archer was six years old when his parents became the third stewards of Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine, Wisconsin in 1947. Two years later the young boy became the proud owner of a blue Huffy bicycle in the Prairie-style house built into a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.

And, not many people can say that their future career – as a builder and developer in Florida – was inspired by listening as a youngster to Wright at the family dinner table as he told the story of his dendriform columns at the SC Johnson Administration Building. Wright was dining with the Archer family at the Hardy House, just blocks away from SC Johnson.

The Archers lived in the house until 1957, when they moved to Florida. Archer was back in Racine and visited the house May 28 for the first time in more than 40 years. He last saw the house, from outside, around 1980, on his way to Bozeman, Montana to go fishing. Archer was joined on his recent visit by Anne Sporer Ruetz, who grew up in the house from 1938-1947. Her parents had bought the house from the bank after Hardy lost the house in a court fight following its sale at sheriff’s auction in 1937. The last time she saw Dave, she said, he was just 8 years old. Our hosts were Curt and Mallory Szymczak who live there now. They were married in the house two years ago. Curt’s late uncle, Gene Szymczak, rehabilitated the house after buying it in 2012. 

Ruetz has visited the house more recently, so the morning was mostly Archer’s as they reminisced for three spell-binding hours. Before entering the house, Archer commented that there is no longer any evidence of window wells between the two entrances to the house. The window wells  are visible, along with what was likely a coal chute, in some of the photos young Anne took. Archer said the windows were in the sub-basement, or pantry level, below the kitchen level. There is no longer any evidence of the windows inside the house.

Sporer- Friends.jpg

Once inside, looking around the two-story living room, Archer first talked about bringing the family Christmas tree – the one the blue bicycle was under – in through the two story living room casement windows. He and Ruetz remembered decorating their family’s trees from the balcony above. Archer then talked about the two-story windows that look out on the lake. “These windows leaked when we had bad snowstorms. The windows bowed and we had snow on the seats. We had to get storm shutters.”

Archer tree.jpgArcher and Star, his beloved collie, by the family Christmas tree in the living room.

The pear trees that were in the north and south courtyards were so well known in the neighborhood that the Pfisterers, stewards from 1963-1968, once told me neighbors held a wake for one of the trees when it blew down in a storm. The trees were even with the upper level bedrooms. “I used to climb out the windows to get the pears,” remembered Archer. He also shimmied up one of them to get on the roof of the house to do mischief, mischief for which the statute of limitations has expired. Unlike Archer, Ruetz did not confess to any mischief on her watch.

Archer continued, “I crawled up (the pear tree) to the Shovers’ house next door. They had two windows there.” His friend Jimmy Shovers (and Anne’s friend, Suzy Shovers) lived there. I promised him I would not write about the mischief that ensued.

Pear Trees.jpgThe pear trees in the north courtyard are visible outside the upper bedroom windows in this photo that Dave Archer took of people watching the 4th of July parade passing the house, above, and in his photo of the south courtyard, below.

Pear trees 2.jpg

Then Archer said, still in wonderment at being back in his childhood home, “There are so many good memories of this house.” Ruetz agreed, “Me, too. I cried when we had to move.” Archer, replied, “I was too young to cry. The first time I cried, I saw Bambi.”

Archer snow gate 11.jpg

He remembered a big oil tank in the lower basement. “In heavy rains, water would raise up from the drain. My job was to clean the floor up.” He talked about an old gun he found in the basement and Ruetz mentioned that her father was a hunter. Said Archer, You didn’t have to go far to hunt. We had pheasants, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons (below the house)…What I loved was the kitchen. The kitchen windows opened up so they were pretty big. And I went down to make breakfast one morning and there was a rabbit that was trapped in the cul de sac (window well) and I fed him through the window. My mom came out and saved him and put him back in the wilderness behind us. I wanted to keep him.” 

Archer 13 pilings.jpgStar explores the area below the house, an area with lots of wildlife.

Then he turned his attention to the living room balcony. “My dad and mom were entertainers. I would sneak up and lie above this closet and I would watch (the parties below).” Ruetz has also confessed to spying on her parents’ parties.

Archer Balcony.jpgArcher shows his hiding spot for spying on his parents’ parties…a crawl space above the bedroom closets whose backs form the side living room walls.

Archer admired Gene Szymczak’s rehabilitation of the house. “This is such a beautiful job. When I lived here it was getting a bit old at the edges. But Frank Lloyd Wright slept here one or two nights. He had dinner with us once.” Wright remembered having designed a dining room table for the house (the table was no longer in the house when Wright visited). Ruetz chimed in, “We used to put a ping pong net across the middle and play ping pong on it.” A photographer for the Racine newspaper took a picture of she and her friends at the table during her 14th birthday party.

Birthday party.jpgThis is the only known photo of the Wright-designed dining room table. It was taken at Anne’s golden birthday party in 1946.

The house was designed in 1904/05 before automobiles were part of everyday life, so there is no garage (Wright did not design carports until the mid-1930s). Archer said his father “thought about opening up the courtyard on this side (the north side) so he could pull his car in there, make it an open kind of spot.”

Garage Top darker.jpg

Garage Title.jpgThe Sporers also thought about having a garage in the north courtyard. Plans were drawn by Edgar Tafel August 1, 1941, before he left the Frank Lloyd Wright Fellowship after nine years. © 2021 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)

There used to be a public beach just south of the house. Both Archer and Ruetz remember people thinking the stucco Hardy House might be a bathhouse for the beach. Archer also remembers tour buses with Wright aficionados. “In summer sometimes buses would come.. People were get out and take pictures of the house. I came home one day and said, ‘Mom, I need some paper.’ She asked why. ‘I’m going to make some tickets.’ She turned him down. I said, ‘Damn! I could have made some good money!”

Terrace.jpgRobert Archer, Dave’s father, built wooden slats to go over the surface of the dining room terrace which was often too hot to walk on.

Dave, Mary, Star, terrace.jpgDave and Star with Mary Archer, Dave’s mother, on the dining room terrace.

Archer Mary Painting.jpgDave sits in the living room under a portrait by his mother. She was a well-known portrait painter in Racine.

St. Luke’s Hospital, a block from the Hardy House, was building an addition when Archer was young. “They had a workman’s shack they stored stuff in. They had a Coke machine, the kind you had put quarters in [Coca Cola was packaged only in bottles then]. One Sunday we went over there and decided we were going to get some Cokes. We got two pea shooters and a can opener.” He and his friends popped off the bottle caps and used the pea shooters at straws while the bottles were in the machine which had an open top.”  “They also had a big thing with wheels for carrying equipment on it. We took it and built a tank out of it. We used a baseball bat as a gun. We used it in the 4th of July parade.”

By 1957, Mrs. Archer had died and Mr. Archer wanted to start an airline and sell real estate in DelRay, Florida. He planned to buy a section of DelRay beach and develop it. He developed the Sherwood Park golf course, among others. Dave followed in his footsteps. “I started out digging ditches in construction. I got a carpenter’s license then foreman’s, then I took the Realtor’s and broker’s exams. My father built Lanikai (a housing development), with the first underground parking in DelRay Beach, Sherwood Park, Sherwood Forest, then he bought Sea Horse Bath and Tennis Club, then East Wind Beach Club. By then I had a broker’s license and designed and built Ocean Reach and two others. He helped build golf course at Quail Ridge and DelRay Dunes. He was pretty influential in a lot of places in DelRay.” Mr. Archer died in 2002 in North Carolina. 

“I got into designing and building because of Frank Lloyd Wright. I was so influenced by this house. He also fascinated me because when he was here (he talked about) how he designed the pillars at the Johnson Wax building and how he had to fight the city (for permission to use the dendriform columns). It got me interested in construction. I was probably 12 or 13.”

Archer added to the Hardy House lore with a new name for his upper level bedroom. Among all his designs, Wright unknowingly designed a penal institution at 1319 Main Street. As Archer related stories of his mischief and told about often being banished to his room, “I was up in jail again.”

He had one birthday story to relate. “My grandfather was in advertising and hired Buck Rogers and his cohort girl to come down for my 10th birthday party here. Boy, was I famous for awhile! I was looking so forward to my 10th because I would be a teenager. ‘No, son,’ my father said, ‘You aren’t a teenager yet.’  I was so peeved. What made up for it was when Buck Rogers came for my birthday!”

After listening to Archer and Ruetz, Curt chimed in about what the house means to him and Mallory. “It’s a whole other world being in here. The moment you are in here or out on the deck you are transported into a whole different world. It’s magic. You forget you are in Racine, in the Midwest, you are in a whole different world.”

Curt Archer Ruetz.jpgCurt Szymczak bids adieu to Archer and Ruetz in the front hallway.

I had stopped at the house one morning in early May when I saw Joan and Tom Szymczak, Curt’s parents, in front, doing yard work, when a man walked up and asked if we had any connection to the house. He explained that he is a Residential Designer/CAD Drafter/Estimator in Milwaukee, and that he was greatly influenced by the Hardy House when it was on his paper route when he was 12 – 16 years old. I asked him to email me his recollections of the house and how it influenced him. I have edited them for brevity. Paul Alan Perez’s story continues the tale that Dave Archer tells about Wright influencing his future career.

Perez Hardy.jpg

I had several paper routes (including the Racine and Milwaukee newspapers and the Chicago Tribune) from 1975 to 1979. One of my customers was the Hardy Residence on Main Street. I did not know much about the owners except that he was a nice middle aged man, (Jim Yoghourtjian), although I think he had black hair and glasses looked like a professor or an attorney who had two really big dogs that barked a lot when I came to collect at the residence semi-private front door entrance (Yoghourtjian was a famed classical guitarist). He liked his paper inside the screen door and not folded. He didn’t say much but tipped me well when I gave him the next years calendar at Christmas time. 

I finished delivering my routes everyday near Johnson Wax and back then in the Mid to late 1970s there was no gates surrounding the complex like there is today and I would enjoy riding my skate board thru the smooth pavement and very cool architecture of the Johnson Wax Parking Structure (carport) because it was always open. It was then and there that I feel in love with the wonderful art of architecture. 

Later in life as an adult when I was studying graduate architecture at UWM-SARUP (University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee) I saw the movie documentary about Louis Kahn’s life and career and his son told his father’s story as he roller blades thru all his famous works. I thought that was a very unique and special experience that I once shared as a young boy with Mr. Wright’s famous works in Racine.

So it was really that experience coupled with my 7th grade ‘World of Construction’ class where we saw a documentary of Eero Saarinen’s ‘Gateway Arch to the West’, the building of the St. Louis Arch, and me and my school buddy got to design and build our own house in class. I was hooked and madly in love with the architecture and building things like tree forts to hide out and play cowboys & Indians. We built one that was really big with 3 levels the city eventually came and demolished it. 

Once in high school I began taking more courses related to architecture and construction and excelling in architecture and mechanical drafting classes which gave me confidence and the curiosity to learn more and found a wealth of information on FLW at the Racine Public Library and then I remember my last paper route customer was Cong. Les Aspin whose office was at the Post Office. After him I usually went straight to the library to read FLW books cause they had lots on him and that is really what fascinated me so much about FLW was his art of architecture in all those books.

(Perez describes the intricacies of a private millwork commission which I have chosen not to identify) It is a typical example of architects designing things that physically can’t be done yet. FLW was the best at doing that and that’s why we LOVE him so much!

Over the course of my professional career in the construction industry I have become a highly conscientious, detailed minded architectural professional who has built an excellent reputation for quality and in-depth knowledge of all facets within the architectural and woodworking fields owing it all to the wonderful experiences I have been blessed with growing up in Racine on Park Avenue near all of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces.

— 30 —










Rainy Day Post #1: Hardy House Roof

All photos (c) Mark Hertzberg (2020), except as noted

Hardy Tafel photo.jpgEdgar Tafel, photographer, courtesy of John Clouse

It’s 84 degrees and sunny, but let’s pretend it’s raining out because this is a “rainy day projects” catch-up-on-loose-ends kind of day. I had a smattering of Frank Lloyd Wright files that have been sitting on my desktop in a couple of folders for up to two years, waiting for me to decide in what context to post them. Let’s have at it!

This post is about last year’s project to replace the roof on Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House (1904/05) in Racine. The second Rainy Day Post, in a day or two, will be a smattering (there goes that word again!) of photos from different Wright sites.

Tom and Joan Szymczak are now the stewards of the Hardy House. Their late brother and brother-in-law Gene Szymczak rescued the house in 2012, but fell ill and died unexpectedly in December 2016. They decided to replace the roof last summer. Our scene setter photograph is an undated one by Edgar Tafel, a photo lent to me by fellow Wright photographer John Clouse.

Our only description of the original roof is in a June 1906 article about the house in House Beautiful magazine: “The roof is shingled, with braided hips, and stained a lighter brown.” However, the author of the article clearly relied on descriptions provided to him by Wright and never saw this house. The article describes details, some on drawings by Marion Mahony, which were never executed.

We start with photos of charred timbers found by the roofers. Racine Fire Department records indicate there was a roof fire in the 1930s, put out with just a single fire extinguisher:

image1.jpegPhoto above courtesy of and (c) Tom Szymczak

1930s roof fire 004.jpg

New Roof 6.4.19 002.jpg

New Roof 6.4.19 008.jpg

New Roof 6.4.19 001.jpg

The best descritption of the roofing job comes in an article in the May 2020 issue of Roofing Magazine. Note, though, that while they say the fire was in the 1960s, fire department records indicate it was in the 1930s. The article is illustrated with wonderful drone views of the house.

Maybe I was prescient in sitting on my photos of the roofing job from June 6, 2019 because I just knew that Tom was going to send me a link to an article about the work this past week! I would be remiss to not credit John Waters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy for his work with the Szymczaks as they planned the project.


Wingspread’s Swimming Pool

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2017Wingspread aerials 2009 009.jpg

The swimming pool at Wingspread (shown covered by a tarp in 2009) is an integral part of the grounds. It was filled with water, but was ornamental for many years, rather than being used, when it was drained after leaks were discovered more than 10 years ago.

Wingspread Pool 018.jpg

The fireplace on the pool deck:

Wingspread Pool 020.jpg

The pool is now being renovated, to be filled and again be a water feature of the house.

Wingspread Pool 009.jpg

The are two wonderful anecdotes about the pool. The first was told by the late Sam Johnson, whose father, H.F. Johnson Jr., commissioned the home by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1937. Sam Johnson in 2000:

Sam Johnson mh.jpg

The Johnsons would be moving more than five miles from their home on Racine’s south side, near the SC Johnson offices and factory, to their new home in Wind Point, beyond the city limits. Sam feared not seeing his friends anymore. He had no reason to worry: once his friends learned Sam’s new home had a swimming pool, they were anxious to bike out to visit him.

The second anecdote was told by Edgar Tafel, the young apprentice who was in his mid-20s when Wright trusted him to supervise construction of the SC Johnson Administration Building and then of Wingspread. Tafel, one of the original Taliesin Fellowship apprentices (1932-1941) recalled agreeing to a change in the location of some plumbing for the pool in consultation with contractor Ben Wilteschek while Wright was in the Soviet Union.

Tafel at this Greenwich Village townhouse in 2007:

Edgar Tafel 062.jpg

Wright was livid about the change when he visited the construction site after returning to the United States. Tafel kept backing up to get away from the angry architect, and fell into the excavation for the pool. He said Wright glared down at him and said, “That serves you right.”

Wingspread Pool 023.jpg

Scott Poritz, Utility and Grading Superintendent of Wanasek Contractors, moves concrete slabs from the pool Friday July 7, 2017:

Wingspread Pool 036.jpg

Wingspread Pool 031.jpgWingspread Pool 034.jpgWingspread Pool 043.jpg

The work is expected to be completed late this year by Riley Construction, the general contractor.

Wright and Like

(c) Mark Hertzberg

More than 400 people from across the country came to Racine a week ago for Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin’s annual Wright and Like tour. Ten sites were featured. Their architects included Wright, Edgar Tafel, Charles Montooth, John Randal McDonald, Hans Geyer, and Helmut Ajango.

Generally people who think of architecture in Racine tend to focus on Wright, Montooth, Tafel, and McDonald. But there is much more to Racine’s rich architectural heritage. Friday evening’s special presentation at Wingspread was the premiere presentation of an audio visual review of some twenty significant architects whose work is in Racine. Future presentations of the program will add Holabird and Root, Howard van Doren Shaw, and McKim, Mead, and White to the mix. These two photos show the line of people waiting to see Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House before the tour opened.

Next year’s Wright and Like will be Saturday June 3 in Milwaukee.

Hardy 2.jpg

Hardy 1.jpg

Tafels’ Albert House Inches Along to Completion; Court Imposes Fine

Photos and story (c) Mark Hertzberg

Edgar Tafel's Carl and Marie Albert House, 4945 N. Main Street, Wind Point, Wisconsin, Friday May 8, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

A $25 per day fine levied by Racine County Circuit Court Judge Faye Flancher on May 8 against the owners of Edgar Tafel’s Carl and Marie Albert House (1948) in Wind Point, Wisconsin, may spur them to quickly complete restoration of the house, thereby ending a legal battle that is more than three years old. The exterior of the house, above, is largely repaired, but not enough interior work has been done to allow the village to issue an occupancy permit.

The house was deemed uninhabitable in December, 2011.

The house was deemed uninhabitable in December, 2011.

The house, at 4945 N. Main Street, is on a prominent intersection in the wealthy suburb of Racine. Its location at the corner of N. Main Street and Four Mile Road has likely spurred greater concern on the part of the village than if it were in a less visible location.

Court hearing for Edgar Tafel's Carl and Marie Albert House, 4945 N. Main Street, Wind Point, Wisconsin, Friday May 8, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Village attorney Ed Bruner, left, and Peter Ludwig, the Schulz’s attorney, confer before the hearing.

The house fell into disrepair after Joan Shulz, who bought it in 1972 with her late husband, Dr. Gilbert Schulz, walked away from it more than seven years ago to care for an ill relative. The roof leaked and interior walls were covered with mold. A tarp covered the roof for a long time.

June 30, 2012: A tarp covers the roof and the front of the house is overgrown.

June 30, 2012: A tarp covers the roof and the front of the house is overgrown.

Court hearing for Edgar Tafel's Carl and Marie Albert House, 4945 N. Main Street, Wind Point, Wisconsin, Friday May 8, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Linden Schulz leans forward to confer with Ludwig while Joan Schulz, right, listens to Bruner’s arguments on behalf of the village.

The house was deemed uninhabitable, and village sought a raze order in 2013. While the house was architecturally significant — Tafel was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s original Taliesin Fellowship apprentices from 1932-1941 — the village considered it an “eyesore,” according to Todd Terry, the Schulz’s former attorney.

Bruner confers with village board member Karen Van Lone. Her husband, Richard Britton, is with her.

Bruner confers with village board member Karen Van Lone. Her husband, Richard Britton, is with her.

Mrs. Schulz paid $11,200 in ordinance fines in November, 2012 rather than demolish the house. The village had run out of patience in early 2013 according to its attorney, Ed Bruner, “There’s been a determination made by the building inspector that the cost to repair the house far exceeds 50% of its value, so that’s the problem.”

The Schulzes confer with attorney Ludwig after the hearing.

The Schulzes confer with attorney Ludwig after the hearing.

The house is eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. Recognizing its architectural significance, Judge John Jude, who originally heard the case, gave Schulz and her son Linden, who was going to do most of the restoration work, consideration rather than order the house razed. Although Schulz missed several court-imposed deadlines, he slowly made enough progress to get extensions from Jude.

Village Administrator Michael Hawes, Bruner, Van Lone, and Britton leave the courthouse after the hearing.

Village Administrator Michael Hawes, Bruner, Van Lone, and Britton leave the courthouse after the hearing.

The Schulz family was told in February that fines might be imposed at the May 8 hearing if there was no occupancy permit by then. While acknowledging that progress has been made, the house is unfinished inside, and Flancher granted the village’s request for fines to push the work to completion.

“This has gone on way too long,” argued Ed Bruner, the village attorney. Referring to the first court hearing in May, 2013, he added, “Several new homes could have been built (in the time it has taken to repair the Albert House).”

Michael Hawes, the village administrator, acknowledges “What’s going on now is better than where we were,” with respect to the condition of the house, but says the village wants the property to be able to pass inspection and have an occupancy permit issued. “It’s not just that it’s a matter of it being part of the community as an occupied home with people living there and people caring for the property, but also so this doesn’t happen again in the future.” The village also wants to be able to assess the house as a habitable property.

The Schulz’s attorney, Peter Ludwig, blamed an electrical contractor for the latest delay, asserting that he is three weeks late returning to the job. Final drywalling, insulation, flooring, and plumbing work will quickly follow, he said, then “it could be a matter of days.”

Tafel House Saved From Demolition

Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg

Wind Point (Racine), Wisconsin

Edgar Tafel’s Carl and Marie Albert House is officially saved from the threat of demolition, capping an almost two-year legal case.

Carl Marie AlbertCarl Marie Albert

The Carl and Marie Albert House, Monday November 10, 2014

The condition of the stone house, designed ca. 1949, deteriorated significantly after homeowner Joan Schulz left the house more than five years ago to care for a relative. Dishes were reportedly left in the sink. The roof leaked, and the abandoned house was filled with mold. The Village of Wind Point, north of Racine, posted a sign declaring the house uninhabitable, and sought a raze order.

The house, at the intersection of Four Mile Road and N. Main Street, is at a busy corner, and was an eyesore. Although Schulz and her sons were willing to rebuild the house, the village argued that because the cost of repairs exceeded the then-value of the house, it should be torn down.

Friday village attorney Ed Bruner said that while he was frustrated with the slow progress of repairs, the village would no longer seek a raze order. “Yes, if I wanted to be punitive, but the house has come along enough. We would like it completed. It is frustrating to not see anything going forward. Every village meeting I am asked for update.”

Carl Albert Nov 7 14

Village of Wind Point Attorney Ed Bruner, left, and Peter Ludwig, the Schulz’ attorney, confer before the court hearing. 

Bruner and Judge Faye Flancher pointed out that Schulz’ son, Linden Schulz, has been overseeing the repairs rather than Larry Ruka. Judge John Jude, who oversaw the case until the county’s judicial rotation in August, had appointed Ruka as construction manager. Ruka has not been on site since April.

Carl Albert Nov 7 14

Linden Schulz, left, listens as construction manager Larry Ruka addresses the court during the hearing

The Schulz’ attorney, Peter Ludwig, said that the house is “next in queue” for the electrician. Once he finishes his work, plumbing fixtures can be reinstalled and insulation and drywalling will be done.

The house was scheduled for completion in September at a hearing in the spring. Judge Flancher set the case for review February 6. “You can’t push them but I can. If there is no other progress, I will consider fines, daily, as an impetus to get this done. When we come back in three months we will be at the two year mark. It is unconscionably long given schedule Judge Jude gave. I expect the home to be completed in 90 days. It sounds like it can be done.”

Carl Albert Nov 7 14

Joan Schulz, left, Ludwig, Linden Schulz, and Larry Ruka talk after the hearing.

Another reprieve for Tafel house

Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg

Edgar Tafel’s Carl and Marie Albert House got another reprieve from a raze order Wednesday in court in Racine. Joan Schulz had walked out of the house about seven years ago to care for a grandchild. The house deteriorated as it sat empty and neglected, eventually under a failed roof. The Village of Wind Point declared the house uninhabitable, and sought a raze order.



Much of the front portion of the Albert House roof is still covered with plastic tarp Tuesday November 12, but Schulz’s attorney, Peter Ludwig, and structural engineer told Judge John Jude that 75% of the roof has been repaired.


A temporary bracing, left of center, shows the extent of structural work that had to be done before the roof could be replaced.

Although the Schulzes have not met court deadlines to complete the roof repair, Judge Jude decided Wednesday to let repairs continue, rather than order the house razed, provided that the roof, structural repairs, electrical and plumbing work are completed by December 20. He appointed Larry Ruka, the structural engineer hired by the Schulz family, as construction manager. Work had been supervised until then by Linden Schulz, one of Joan Schulz’ sons. Jude said he would manage the project with Ruka.


Joan Schulz consults with her attorney, Peter Ludwig, before the court hearing Wednesday


Village president Pete Christensen, right, consults with village attorney Ed Bruner during the hearing. Bruner asserted that “Speaking on behalf of 1800 Wind Point residents, when I drove past the house today, it looked worse than it did in may at initial hearing.” Ruka disagreed, as he did when Bruner asked, “From the village point of view, what it looks like now, frankly, looks abandoned, does it not?” Bruner referred to the plywood covering the windows openings, among other things. He was told the windows had to be removed to complete structural repairs.


Bruner questions Ruka about data in the cost estimate provided by Linden Schulz


Linden Schulz, right, and Joan Schulz listen as Ludwig questions Ruka.



Holding Schulz’ cost estimates, Judge Jude appoints Ruka as construction manager of the project.


Ludwig reassures Joan Schulz as they leave the courtroom.

Judge Jude was concerned about having the roof completed by October 30, before the onset of winter. Although the roof is not quite finished, and there was a bit of snow Monday, warm temperatures are forecast into next week. Ruka expects that the roof will be finished in a few days.

Tafel house: two week reprieve

(c) Mark Hertzberg


The Carl and Marie Albert House, which was designed by Edgar Tafel, got a reprieve from a possible raze order when today’s court status hearing was postponed until November 13.

Judge John Jude had indicated in September that he wanted a new roof on the house by today’s court hearing, to ensure the work would be done before winter. Although significant structural progress has apparently been made, roof work has not begun.

Linden Schulz, the son of Joan Schulz, the homeowner, has a signed contract from a roofing contractor. He wrote me today in an email that he expects the roofers to begin work next Tuesday. He anticipates they will be done by the 13th. “That (the completed roof) is the primary thing the judge wanted to see,” says Ed Bruner, attorney for the Village of Wind Point. Both sides in the dispute agreed to reschedule today’s hearing.

Bruner would not predict if the house will definitely be saved if the roof work is done by the 13th. “The ball is in the judge’s court. It’s up to him. He asked for other things, such as estimates on costs from an engineer. Right now our priority is getting the roof done, because winter’s approaching. Hopefully it is going to be done by the next hearing.”

Tafel House: Raze order stayed until October 30

(c) Mark Hertzberg


Judge John S. Jude continued his stay of the raze order for Edgar Tafel’s Carl Albert House in Wind Point (Racine), Wis., after a two-hour evidentiary hearing in Racine County Circuit Court Friday September 13, 2013. 



Linden Schulz, the son of Joan Schulz, who owns the house, was closely questioned why he had not met deadlines set at a June court hearing for having a professional structural assessment of the house completed, and having the roof repaired. Judge Jude said, as he ruled, “My goal is to save the house, but I still have great reservations whether it is feasible.” The next court hearing was scheduled for October 30. Judge Jude will likely order the house razed then if  structural repairs have not been completed, and if the house has not been re-roofed. 


Joan Schulz, right, listens to testimony as her attorney Peter Ludwig, left, consults with her son, Linden Schulz. 


Ed Bruner, representing the Village of Wind Point, asks Linden Schulz why he has not complied with provisions of a previous court order.


Attorneys Ed Bruner, representing the Village of Wind Point, left, and Peter Ludwig, representing the Schulz family, meet after the conclusion of the hearing. 

Tafel home faces demolition

Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg
(Portions of this article are reprised from an article posted last summer, but no longer on-line.)

Carl Albert House 052a
This is one of Edgar Tafel’s drawings of the Carl Albert House

An architectural “Catch-22” sits at 4945 N. Main Street, awaiting a demolition order for February 28.

The Carl and Marie Albert House at 4945 N. Main Street, a piece of Racine’s rich architectural history, sits forgotten, in disrepair, and possibly soon to be demolished by the Village of Wind Point. The cypress and limestone house was built by Robert Albert and Edgar Tafel between 1948-1950. Tafel signed most of the architectural drawings. The house is unknown as a Tafel work, overlooked in published inventories of Tafel’s work in Racine.

Carl Albert House 076a

Carl Albert House 077aCarl Albert House 079aCarl Albert House 098a


These photos were taken of the front of the house in July.

Tafel was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s first Taliesin Fellowship apprentices (1932-1941). He designed a half dozen homes in Racine in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He had previously supervised construction of the SC Johnson Administration Building, Wingspread, the Bernard Schwartz House (in Two Rivers) and part of Fallingwater for Wright. He then had a distinguished career as an architect after World War II in his native New York City. He was almost 99 when he died January 18, 2011.

While the house is significant in terms of its architectural heritage, the village regards it as “an eyesore,” according to attorney Todd Terry, who represented Joan Schulz, the homeowner last summer. She dates the home’s problems to about five years ago, when she moved in with her daughter to care for her grandchildren, because her daughter worked a night shift. The house has been vacant since then. Terry said the Schulz family’s aim is simple, “We would like to get it (the house) back where it was.”

Schulz bought the house in 1972 with her late husband, Dr. Gilbert Schulz. He died just six months later. She hopes to stave off demolition, “First of all I hate to see it destroyed or razed, because of the design of the home, and the home itself.” Problems stemming from the damaged roof include widespread mold on the burlap which originally covered the dry wall, disintegrating dry wall, holes in some walls, and a rotted header. Much of the roof is covered by a black tarpaulin.

In July Terry said, “We are in municipal court on a nuisance matter, ordinance type of things, on habitability. My speculation is that in the very near future they probably will file with a circuit court judge asking them to allow them to tear it down or raze the property.” Until then, Schulz would be assessed a $50-a-day penalty, dating back to January, 2012.

Schulz paid the $11,200 ordinance fines in November, rather than demolish the house. She disputes the village’s contention that she had agreed to raze the home in November.

While she still hopes to save the house, the village has run out of patience according to its attorney, Ed Bruner. “There’s been a determination made by the building inspector that the cost to repair the house far exceeds 50% of its value, so that’s the problem.” He could not answer why that should matter if the homeowner was willing to spend the money for repairs.

Nor did he have an answer about Schulz’ “Catch-22”conundrum, that she was told that even though the house needs repairs, no building permits would be issued for those repairs. The village’s appraiser values the house at $25,000. An appraiser hired by Schulz valued the land and house at $115,000. The village would not let her sell the house to an immediate family member, which negated a possible sale to one of her sons, she says. She says she also had an offer to purchase for $61,000, contingent on the buyer getting the building permits that the village will not issue.

“That may have been the case (that the village would not issue the needed building permits)” says Bruner. “Now they (the village board) have made the determination that will not be an option anymore. They want it down. My guess is that it has lasted long enough. I know that there were neighbors complaining and that is what initiated the contact with her. Now they are to the point where it needs to come down.”

Carl Albert House 094a

Though in disrepair, the home has notable architectural features, says Joshua Drew who lives in a Tafel-designed home at 4001 Haven Ave., “You can see how Edgar merged many of the Usonian details (indirect lighting, built in cabinets, plywood materials, and several of the rooms have shelving identical to my house) with some Prairie-Style details in the ceilings of the main living space.  The kitchen…still has the original appliances, metal cabinets, and layout.”

Carl Albert House 068a

Carl Albert House 056a


Drew looks at the plans for the Albert House in his own Tafel-designed home.

There is yet another twist to the pedigree of the house, says Drew. “If someone took me into the Carl Albert house and asked me to guess the architect I would have initially have said John Randal McDonald. Some of the stone work details, stone shelves, and the art glass inserts in the stone work are almost identical to the JRMcD-2 house at 1001 Russet St.  However, the den has shelving EXACTLY like the ones in my [Tafel] house.”

McDonald, who was sometimes referred to as “the poor man’s Frank Lloyd Wright, designed 20 homes in Racine. He died in 2003. There is no documented record of collaboration between McDonald and Tafel, and Tafel expressed disdain for McDonald to me during a visit to Racine 10 years ago.

Bruner is clear about the village’s options, “If she does not comply with the raze order then the statute gives me two options: take the house down and put the cost on the tax roll, or take it to circuit court and get a court order which orders her to do that.”

Schulz acknowledges that the house is in disrepair, “I know we haven’t really done any work on it other than originally cleaning up the yard but we haven’t done anything to the building, because right from the beginning, village attorney Ed Bruner stated that no permits would be issued.” She quietly and sadly says she has one more hope, “I was thinking or hoping to take it into court to get a stay of that raze order.”

It seems that even if she gets a stay, the stand-off between Schulz and the village will continue: the house needs repairs, but no building permits will be issued. Demolition of the house seems inevitable.

Carl Albert House 065a

Edgar Tafel