Hardy House: Gene Szymczak + 10

© Mark Hertzberg (2022)

1319 Gene + 10 006.jpgSaturday’s afternoon sun projected the pattern of the entry hall windows onto the walls. Robert McCarter writes that the floor plan of the house is articulated in the windows.

Yesterday, September 17, marked the 10th anniversary of Eugene (Gene) Szymczak becoming the seventh steward of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House (1904-05) in Racine, Wisconsin. Gene fell ill and died December 3, 2016 after undertaking an extensive rehabilitation of the house. Its new stewards are Tom (one of Gene’s two brothers) and Joan Szymczak. Tom and Joan invited family to a low-key celebration of the anniversary on the dining room terrace yesterday. Anne Sporer Ruetz, who grew up in the house from 1938 – 1947 and two non-family couples were also invited.

Hardy Sale 022a.jpgGene signs papers transferring stewardship of the house to him, September 17, 2012.

I took Gene through the house, which was challenged, when he was considering buying it in 2012. As we left, he said to me, “I don’t have children. This is something I could do for Racine.” The late John G. Thorpe of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy advised me to step back and let professional appraisers and others take over. I understood, but I wanted Jim and Margaret Yoghourtjian, the longtime stewards of the house to first meet Gene. I told Gene what kind of pastry to bring Margaret (chocolate-covered marzipan loaves). He also brought them a Japanese print reminsicent of a famous drawing by Marion Mahony of their house. We were having lemonade and cashews in their new apartment when Gene surprised us and made them an offer for the house. There was a glitch though, or so I thought, when the week before the closing Gene emailed me that he was having second thoughts…it would make a good teardown and he could build something with a three car garage underneath. I held off calling the Yoghourtjians to cancel the sale so I could get hold of Gene. It was two days before he called me back, from Baltimore Washington Airport, on his way to visit Fallingwater, “Just kidding!”

Anne has often told me that it was like watching movies when the pattern of the leaded glass windows was projected onto her bedroom ceiling and walls by the headlights of passing cars at night. She was delighted that the “movies” were playing in full force in the entry way as we arrived at the celebration yesterday:

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Anne was a celebrity yesterday: one of the guests had brought a copy of my book about the Hardy House (Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hardy House, Pomegranate: 2006) and asked her to sign two pages with photos related to her:

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1319 Gene + 10 020.jpgThis photo of Anne’s 14th birthday party at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed dining room ensemble (which was lost after her parents sold the house) was in the Racine newspaper in 1946. She is holding the cake at the head of the table.

Coincidental with the celebration, a new Wright website, which I was not familiar with, pinged this morning to a piece I posted in 2014 about Gene’s work at the house:

https://wrightinracine.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/hardy-house-restoration/

The new website is:

https://franklloydwrightsites.com/hardyhouse/

Gene was honored with a Wright Spirit Award from the Building Conservancy in 2015, and the Kristin Visser Award for Historic Preservation in 2017.

I posted this piece a year ago when Anne and David Archer, who grew up in the house between 1947 – 1957 were reunited at the house:

https://wrightinracine.wordpress.com/2021/06/13/hardy-homecomings/

I challenge myself each time I visit a familiar Wright site to find something new to photograph. A week ago, before I was escorting my fourth Road Scholar tour of the summer, I told my wife that I was having trouble seeing anything new the first three tours of this year and was almost considering not even bringing a camera with me (these were my 10th – 13th tour with the same itinerary since 2017). I looked up as I was bringing our guests down to the dining room and looked at the bottom of the stairs to the living room for the first time. Out came the phone camera:

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The Road Scholar “Architectural Masterworks of Frank Lloyd Wright” tour is a week-long and begins in Chicago:

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

A Spring Evening at Penwern

© Mark Hertzberg

Fred B. Jones commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design Penwern, a magnificent estate on the South Shore of Delavan Lake, Wisconsin in 1900-1903. Wright designed five homes and a yacht club on the lake, but Penwern was his most expansive commission there: Wright designed not only the “cottage” (the main house), but also a boathouse, stable, and gate lodge.

FBJ @ Penwern 1.jpegThis is the only known photo of Jones at Penwern. He is thought to be about 65 years old when it was taken, around 1923. Courtesy Sue and John Major

Entertaining friends is the theme that unites all of Penwern’s stewards. Jones was a Chicago business executive. He enjoyed entertaining at his summer home until he died in 1933 at age 75. Boating is an obvious form of recreation, but one of the signature features of Penwern is the tower at one end of the porte-cochère. The room at the end of the walkway from the main house, a walkway above the porte-cochère, was the room where Jones and friends played poker.

Enertaining Main House Major 014.jpgSue and John Major host a party every July 4.

Entertaining Burr R white coat 002.jpgBurr Robbins, in white suit, often hosted business clients. He and his wife, Peg, became the second stewards of Penwern in 1939. Courtesy Ross Robbins

O'Shea Luau Party 1.jpgJohn O’Shea hosted an “Aloha! Party” in 1994 when he sold Penwern to the Majors. Photo courtesy of John O’Shea.

Sue and John Major became the stewards of Penwern in 1994. Their rehabilitation of the estate is well known in Wright circles: they removed the two unsightly 1909 and 1910 non-Wright additions that Jones commissioned; in 2005 they rebuilt the boathouse which had burned down in 1978 in an arson fire, working from a single sheet of Wright’s plans; they finished John O’Shea’s project to have the three main porches have round outer walls, per Wright’s plans; they overhauled the stable and gate lodge…and anything else dilapidated or altered. Let’s consider the boathouse:

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Boathouse ruins 4.15.jpgThis is how the foundation of the boathouse looked until 2005. Courtesy Bill Orkild

Boathouse.jpgThis is the sheet of drawings that Bill Orkild and architects had to work from. © 2022 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)

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When wizard contractor Bill Orkild was asked by the Majors to look at a small project shortly after they bought Penwern, he says, his father warned him that this small project might become a full time career. His father was prescient. As if the work outlined above weren’t accomplishments enough, and as if routine maintenance of the estate isn’t enough, the Majors came up with yet another restoration challenge in 2020, which brings us to a spring evening at Penwern in 2022. Jones loved growing roses, and Wright gave him a commercially-built greenhouse attached to the gate lodge water tower, right:

Gate Lodge 1st floor, Greenhouse, Curved Wall.jpg© 2022 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)

Historic_Scan_10aa.jpgMembers of the caretakers’ family are shown near the greenhouse, in a photo taken ca. 1935. Photo courtesy of Betty Schacht.

The greenhouse had deteriorated by the 1970s and was replaced with a carport by Terry Canty, the Robbins’ daughter:

Canty Carport removal.jpgPhoto courtesy of Bill Orkild

The Majors had Orkild remove the carport, but for years the space looked like a Jack o-lantern with a missing tooth:

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There was, of course, only one Major / Orkild solution, and that was to rebuild the greenhouse in 2020. Plans were drawn by DePietro Associates:

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The Majors made one significant change. Rather than use the greenhouse as, literally, a greenhouse, it would be a place to entertain friends. Work started before, and continued through the early days of the Pandemic. Finally, in 2022 it was time for the new greenhouse to shine, and shine it did on June 4 when the Majors hosted a benefit evening for the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy:

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Guests at the benefit came from across the country. The evening started with a boat tour on the lake, giving guests a lake-side view of the five Wright homes including the A.P. Johnson House:

Penwern Party 2022 012.jpgKimberly Valentine, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, left; Debi and Ted Muntz, Loveness House, Stillwater, Minnesota.

Penwern Party 2022 011.jpgBarbara Gordon, Executive Director, Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, left; Paul May and Heidi Ruehle (Ruehle is Executive Director Unity Temple Restoration Foundation); Chuck Henderson, Walker House, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California; Steve and Debra Poe, William E. Martin House, Oak Park.

The boat tour was followed by an elegant gourmet dinner in the dining room. Note the dining room sideboard which was painted white, as was all the dining room trim, in the photo of Burr Robbins. Orkild restored it:

DR Hutch Before .jpgCourtesy Bill Orkild

DR Hutch During.jpgCourtesy Bill Orkild

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Then it was off to the greenhouse for dessert:

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And so, through the Majors generous gesture for the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, ended another evening as Jones envisioned Penwern, friends gathered together on the shore of his beloved Delavan Lake.

Links:

Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy:

https://savewright.org

Penwern website:

https://penwern.com

Continue to scroll down to read previous articles on http://www.wrightinracine.com

 

 

 

 

A chair and a desk: A legacy design

Photos ©Mark Hertzberg 2022

Steelcase and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation announced a new collaboration a week ago, in advance of Wright’s 155th birthday (June 8). The famous desk and desk chairs that Wright designed for the SC Johnson Administration Building (1936) in Racine, Wisconsin will get new life as Steelcase will “revisit, reinterpret, and reintroduce Wright’s designs, as well as co-create novel concepts rooted in his principles to provide products that enhance how we live and work today.”

The desks evoke the streamlined building itself:

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Steelcase showed its appreciation for Wright giving them this commission during the Great Depression, when they were known as the American Metal Furniture Company, by purchasing and fully restoring Wright’s Meyer May House (1908) near their company headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The restoration, under the direction of Carla Lind, took from 1985-1987. Steelcase also bought the house next door and made it into the visitors’ center for the Meyer May House:

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I thank Don Dekker of the Meyer May House for allowing Patrick Mahoney and me to photograph the house without other guests in it, during the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy conference in Grand Rapids in 2013.

The announcement about the collaboration between Steelcase and the Foundation:

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/steelcase-and-frank-lloyd-wright-foundation-announce-new-creative-collaboration-301558528.html?utm_campaign=Wright%2BSociety&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Wright_Society_309

Meyer May House:

https://meyermayhouse.steelcase.com

Scroll down to see earlier blog posts or articles…

These Insects are Welcome

© Mark Hertzberg (2022)

If you thought that Taliesin wraps up your Frank Lloyd Wright and Spring Green experience, then you are missing a gem, just four miles on State Highway 23 from Taliesin.

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One of Wright’s last commissions, the Wyoming Valley School (1957) has vibrant new life under the leadership of David Zaleski, its new Executive Director. Rebranded as the Wyoming Valley Cultural Arts Center, there is just one more week to view “A is for Apple, B is for Bug, and C is for Cicada,” an art installation by Jennifer Angus.

Peter Rott, the principal at Isthmus Architects of Madison, shepherded an extensive restoration of the two-room schoolhouse. Significant work was done, most of it not visible. The obvious change is that the concrete blocks inside are no longer yellow, but, rather, a more natural color.

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Now, onto the fun…Angus’ art installation:

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In the Assembly Room, dollhouses covered in beeswax are elevated to simulate how an insect might view them:

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LR Wyoming Valley School 5.20.22 012.jpgRott found an old card catalogue cabinet.

The exhibit ends June 12, 2022, but it is a sign of the fun things that Zaleski will be doing in the school building. I am not a fan of people speculating what Wright might have thought, said, or done in a given situation, but I will take the liberty of thinking he would have been pleased with the school’s incarnation as a cultural center.

LR Wright Spirit Awards 2013 040.jpgRott has been honored in a number of Wright-related projects. He was honored with a Wright Spirit Award from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy at its 2013 conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

http://www.wyomingvalleyschool.org

Rott and his Wright-related projects:

http://www.is-arch.com/projects/

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Go to www.wrightinracine.com and keep scrolling down to see previous posts on this website…

 

I want to book a tour…

© Mark Hertzberg (2022)

You plan your Frank Lloyd Wright tour. You reserve tickets on-line. You tour. You shop for souvenirs in the gift shop. You post to social media. You go home. Then it’s on to planning the next Wright visit.

LR Touring Taliesin 001.jpgVisitors to Taliesin framed by the windows of the original drafting studio, 2018.

But a lot of strategizing and work behind the scenes went into your one or two-hour visit. It takes a lot of planning and, of course, money, to steward a public Wright site. Wright tourism has been redefined in the two years since the world and the World of Wright were enveloped by the pandemic. Virtual visits, something almost unheard of two years ago, are now common.

LR Wright tourists 006.jpgWright tourists are on a self-guided audio tour in Oak Park in 2005.

Are tours being monetized to pay staff and help maintain the property? What is the best way to enhance the visitors’ experiences while maintaining the integrity of the site? Is the site accessible to people with disabilities? If not, how can that be accomplished? What needs to done, now, to offer remote access to Wright sites?

LR Wright Tourism 014.jpgThe Hardy House, Racine, in 2013: weather can always be a wrinkle in travel plans.

The biennial Wright Sites Directors’ Summit co-sponsored by the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy addresses questions like that. The 2020 meeting was to be held at Wingspread March 16, just as the world shut down. It was, of course, canceled. The event returned to Wingspread on March 14 this year, with 32 organizations and sites represented in person, and two remotely. The theme was Building On Our Strengths(One of the participating organizations was the National Endowment for the Arts, founded at a Johnson Foundation conference at Wingspread).

This was the first Summit that Mary Beth Peterson, Board Vice President and Director of Tours and Volunteers at the Laurent House in Rockford, Illinois has attended in person. I asked her for her thoughts about the conference. Her enthusiastic review follows these photographs of one of the work sessions.

 

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Amanda Thurmann-Ward gives conferees a tour of Wingspread.

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LR 2022 Wright Sites Directors Conference 010.jpgAnna Kaplan, Graycliff, Derby (Buffalo), N.Y.

LR 2022 Wright Sites Directors Conference 013.jpgMike Lilek, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block, Milwaukee

LR 2022 Wright Sites Directors Conference 015.jpgDave Zaleski, Wyoming Valley School Cultural Center; Carrie Rodamaker, Taliesin

LR 2022 Wright Sites Directors Conference 016.jpgGregory Wittkopp from Cranbrook (Smith House), Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

LR 2022 Wright Sites Directors Conference 018.jpgKaren Ettelson, Glencoe, Illinois Historical Society (Sherman Booth Cottage)

LR 2022 Wright Sites Directors Conference 019.jpgAhnquajj Kahmanne, Frank Lloyd Wright Trust (Chicago, Oak Park)

LR 2022 Wright Sites Directors Conference 024.jpgLibby Jordan, Rosenbaum House, Florence, Alabama

LR 2022 Wright Sites Directors Conference 025.jpgMary Beth Peterson, Laurent House, Rockford, left; Libby Garrison, Marin County Civic Center; and Tami Stanko, Affleck House, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

LR 2022 Wright Sites Directors Conference 031.jpgKathryn Hund, Cedar Rock State Park, Lowell and Agnes Walter Estate, Quasqueton, Iowa, left; Peggy Bang, Wright on the Park, Mason City, Iowa; and Heidi Ruehle, Unity Temple Restoration Foundation, Oak Park

LR 2022 Wright Sites Directors Conference 036.jpgTiffany Wade, Price Tower, Bartlesville, Oklahoma

LR 2022 Wright Sites Directors Conference 041.jpgVivien Lasken from Fabyan Villa, Geneva, Illinois, left; Tiffany Wade, Price Tower; Kathryn Hund, Cedar Rock State Park, Lowell and Agnes Walter Estate, Quasqueton and, foreground, Ahnquajj Kahmanne, Frank Lloyd Wright Trust

LR 2022 Wright Sites Directors Conference 043.jpgStuart Graff, President and CEO, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

LR 2022 Wright Sites Directors Conference 046.jpgZaleski, left; Rodamaker; Graff; Don Dekker, Meyer May House, Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Marta Wojcik, Westcott House, Springfield, Ohio

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LR 2022 Wright Sites Directors Conference 051.jpgBob Bohlmann, Bradley House, Kankakee, Illinois, left; Justin Gunther, Fallingwater; Barbara Gordon, Executive Director, Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy; and March Schweitzer, Unitarian Meeting House, Madison

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LR W & L Jacobs 1 002.jpgVolunteer docent James Wardrip, center, tells visitors about Jacobs 1 in Madison.

Links for the sponsors of the Summit:

https://www.johnsonfdn.org

https://franklloydwright.org

https://savewright.org

This year was my first year to attend – in person – the Wright Site Directors Summit Meeting at Wingspread. I did have the opportunity to attend virtually in 2021. The meeting far exceeded my expectations on all accounts. It was my first time to stay at the retreat center at Wingspread. From the moment I arrived, I felt that I was at a 5-star resort. The rooms were large with a breathtaking view of the landscape, a comfy bed with the finest of linens, and a spotless bathroom filled with spa-like bath products. The staff were all friendly and accommodating and everywhere I looked I was greeted with surprising amenities such as a kitchenette full of complementary drinks and snacks of all kinds – yes to Oreos as a bedtime snack! The living room area of the retreat center offered a large fireplace with an evening fire, books of all genres to enjoy – if only there had been more time – a bar for evening socialization with new friends, and a beautiful eating area with three walls of windows looking out onto the serene landscape at Wingspread. This meeting was my first time to tour Wingspread and the opportunity to enjoy fine dining in its Great Hall each evening was a particular highlight of my stay with each meal being my favorite meal. For all these reasons, I left wishing for one more day to relax and enjoy it all.

Of course, the real reason I was there was to learn and to connect with others in the Frank Lloyd Wright world of public sites. This, too, exceeded my expectations. The theme of the Summit Meeting, “Building on Our Strengths,” offered in-depth presentations on board governance, fundraising, identifying government opportunities, programming, and preservation documentation. These are all topics of extreme interest and importance to all of us working as executive directors or lead volunteers for our own Frank Lloyd Wright public site. The material for each session was informative and well presented. In addition to all I learned, I enjoyed connecting in person with so many whom I had only met virtually during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. I immediately felt welcome and at home with these new friends.

As I left the Summit Meeting, I felt extreme gratitude for the opportunity to be there as a representative for the Laurent House and for the time I spent with other like-minded site leaders and friends. I also left in awe of the extreme generosity and hospitality of the Johnson Foundation in offering this tranquil place to the Frank Lloyd Wright public sites community for no cost. My only regret is that I must wait two years to do this again.

Mary Beth Peterson, Board Vice President and Director of Tours and Volunteers,

Laurent House – Rockford, IL

 

 

Bob McCoy – Giant of Wright in Mason City, with Addendum

© Mark Hertzberg (2021)

Dr. Robert McCoy, Bob to all of us in the World of Wright, died Sunday in Mason City, Iowa, his adopted hometown. He was 93. If you have visited the Frank Lloyd Wright – designed Historic Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank building in Mason City, Bob is one of the people to thank for it not having been demolished. If you have visited Wright’s Stockman House in Mason City, Bob is one of the people to thank for it not having been demolished. If… well, now you get an idea of why the architectural interpretive center near the Stockman House and the historic Rock Glen neighborhood was named in his honor.

Park Inn McCoy 08 002.jpgMay 16, 2008, Park Inn Hotel

Bob came to Mason City to join an orthopedic practice after school at Northwestern University in the 1950s. I do not recall what spurred his interest in architecture, but in 1968 he published a landmark history of Wright and Walter Burley Griffin’s work in Mason city in The Prairie School Review. Jonathan Lipman, an architect, Wright scholar, and a past board member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, emailed me, “He was a wonderful man, Utterly humble, very smart, and dedicated.” And of the Prairie School Review manuscript, “It was a work of enormous research from primary sources, including an interview with Barry Byrne and others who were still living. Thorough, readable, and full of surprises. The book simply could not have been written as completely had it been written years later. And at the time that he wrote it, the subject was not of interest to the world. Wholly a work of one man’s passion.” Pat Mahoney, an architect, Wright scholar from Buffalo, and Building Conservancy board member, wrote this about the article, on the Building Conservancy’s “Wright Chat” site overnight: “I have found Bob’s 1968 article to still be one of the most informative pieces written about Mason City architecture.”

The Stockman House (1908) faced demolition in 1987 when the First United Methodist Church wanted the land it was built on for a parking lot. The River City Society for Historic Preservation was formed, and was able to purchase and move the house to its present location near Rock Glen. The New York Times ran a full picture page of the house move across town. It was restored and is now a house museum:

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Stockman House 2010 017.jpgBob at the Stockman House, September 11, 2010.

https://www.stockmanhouse.org/robert-e-mccoy

I met Bob in 2004 at the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy conference in Madison, his camera in hand, as usual.

Conservancy Madison004.jpgBob, left, October 13, 2004, at the Gilmore House, Madison

A year later Bob kindly extended an invitation to me to speak in Mason City after my first book, “Wright in Racine,” was published. The derelict City National Bank and Park Inn Hotel buildings were ripe for demolition. How ripe for demolition? The city of Mason City had put them up for sale on eBay a few years earlier. Bob was part of the against-all-odds civic effort to led to their being saved and rehabilitated. He took me through the hotel and bank buildings, at the beginning of their rehabilitation:

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Park Inn 2005 022.jpgBob chats with passersby outside the hotel, May 5, 2005.

My “digs” for my overnight stay? Bob and Bonnie McCoy’s home, the historic James Blythe House (Walter Burley Griffin, 1913) in Rock Glen. Blythe was one of the two men who commissioned Wright to design the hotel and bank buildings in 1908. One of the skylights from the hotel was in the house…unknown until Jonathan Lipman noticed it while staying in the house as a guest of the McCoys. The McCoys made sure it was returned to the hotel.

Rock Glen 013.jpgJames Blythe House, June 3, 2013.

Bob extended another invitation to me to speak in Mason city in 2008. This time we were joined on our tour of the hotel and bank building by Ann MacGregor, another important citizen in the grass roots effort to save the buildings. She was later the director of Wright on the Park, the organization which oversees the buildings:

MacGregor McCoy 08 004.jpgAnn and Bob in the lobby of the hotel, May 16, 2008.

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No detail escaped Bob’s camera:

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Ann and Bob were honored with prestigious Wright Spirit Awards by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy at its annual conference, in Mason City, October 13, 2012:

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Bob, and Ann, thank you to your gifts to the World of Wright and to Mason City:

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Bob’s beloved wife, Bonnie, died in 2016:

https://wrightinracine.wordpress.com/tag/mason-city/

Since this piece was published I have gotten more information about Bob:

His obituary in the Mason City Globe Gazette is at this link:

https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/globegazette/name/robert-mccoy-obituary?id=31119672

And, Wright on the Park, sent this:

Shortly after Mason City hosted the 1993 Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy annual conference, Dr. Robert McCoy, who had chaired that event to highlight the restoration of the Stockman House, was appointed to their Board of Directors. Their mission is to “facilitate the preservation and stewardship of the remaining built works designed by Frank Lloyd Wright through advocacy, education and technical services”. Bob was assigned the task to save the City National Bank and Park Inn Hotel from being demolished. Their hope was that the structure would be restored. Once assigned this task, Bob was diligent in working on solutions to save this structure. He was one of the founding Directors of Wright on the Park. It wasn’t until the Vision Iowa opportunity was presented that the combined resources from our community, state and federal levels made this dream became a reality. Bob would be the first to say he did not do this alone but certainly he was the leader of the effort to restore the Historic Park Inn Hotel. Written by Peggy Bang (Founding Board Member of Wright on the Park, past WOTP Board President, and current Board Member of WOTP) 

 

 

 

UNESCO Plaque Celebration

© Mark Hertzberg (2021)

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The early morning fog burned off in time for two ceremonies at Taliesin Wednesday September 15, one to cut a ribbon for the restored Tea Circle, the other to unveil two plaques marking Taliesin’s place in architectural history. One plaque notes Taliesin’s designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1976, the other notes it as one of eight Wright sites collectively named UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2019. The latter marked years of effort by many people with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in particular. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Anne Sayers, Wisconsin’s Secretary of Tourism headlined the event.

First, I will show you two photos I took wandering through Taliesin before the event, showing the view of Tan-y-deri from Mr. Wright’s bedroom and studio and one I took in the Blue Loggia:

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Kimberley Valentine, left, Carrie Rodamaker and Stuart Graff, center, greet guests before the ceremony:

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Gov. Evers was introduced to Minerva Montooth shortly after his arrival (look for a profile story about Minerva and my history of photographs of her on this website soon):

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Carrie Rodamaker, CEO of Taliesin Preservation, led the ceremonies in front of the Belvedere:

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There was a break in the middle of the speeches for Phillis Schippers, left, Gail Fox, and Sid Robinson to cut a red ribbon at the Tea Circle:

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Then the two plaques on the crest of the hill were unveiled:

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Gov. Evers and Secretary Sayers then toured Taliesin:

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Sid Robinson and Minerva greeted each other:

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— 30 —

 

 

Taliesin West, Revisited

Photos © Mark Hertzberg 2021

Readers of “The Wright Attitude” Facebook group were challenged to post their favorite photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West earlier this year. I posted some of the photographs I took in October 2014 during the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy annual conference.

I have visited Taliesin in Spring Green countless times, but this was only my second visit to “T-West,” the first in 1992 before I became immersed in the World of Wright. I chose more abstract photos to post during the challenge rather than literal photos of buildings and the spaces therein. My personal Wright photo challenge is to find new photos on each visit. What will I see on my next visit to Scottsdale?

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Further Diminished: The Wright World, Journalism, and Chicago

(c) Mark Hertzberg

Yesterday Blair Kamin, the distinguished architecture critic of The Chicago Tribune, announced on Facebook that he is taking a buyout from the newspaper. This is a triple loss. First, let me copy his post:

“After 33 years at the Chicago Tribune, 28 as architecture critic, I’m taking a buyout and leaving the newspaper. It’s been an honor to cover and critique designs in the first city of American architecture and to continue the tradition begun by Paul Gapp, my Pulitzer Prize-winning predecessor.During these 28 years, I have chronicled an astonishing time of change, both in Chicago and around the world. From the horrors of 9/11 to the joy of Millennium Park, and from Frank Gehry to Jeanne Gang, I have never lacked for gripping subject matter. Whether or not you agreed with what I wrote was never the point. My aim was to open your eyes to, and raise your expectations for, the inescapable art of architecture, which does more than any other art to shape how we live.So I treated buildings not simply as architectural objects or technological marvels, but also as vessels of human possibility. Above all, my role was to serve as a watchdog, unafraid to bark — and, if necessary, bite — when developers and architects schemed to wreak havoc on the cityscape. I am deeply grateful to my newspaper, which has never asked me to pull punches. I have been incredibly fortunate to work with talented editors, reporters, photographers and graphic designers. They have been a huge help. Journalism, like architecture, is a team enterprise. What will I do next? I have no idea. After decades of stressful deadlines and rewriting paragraphs in my head at midnight, I’m ready for an extended break — and many long bike rides along Chicago’s lakefront.It’s essential that a new critic, with a fresh set of ideas, take up where Paul Gapp and I left off. Imagine Chicago without a full-time architecture critic. Schlock developers and hack architects would welcome the lack of scrutiny. -30-“

This is a Wright website, so I will first touch on that aspect of his announcement. Kamin mentioned that his predecessor was a Pulitzer Prize-winner. He did not mention his own Pulitzer, awarded in 1999. He has written distinguished commentary about architecture and development for 28 of his 33 years at the Trib. He often wrote about the World of Wright. He was dispassionate about the topic which so many Wrightians are emotional about. Indeed, at the 2007 annual conference of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in Northbrook, Illinois, he referred to those “who drink the Cherokee red Kool-Aid.”

I sometimes emailed and talked with Kamin as I worked on my Wright projects. I was flattered in 2006 when he included my book about Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House as one to put on holiday shopping lists. In 2008 when there was a controversy over the assertion that several dozen undocumented Wright homes had been found in River Forest, he quoted my on-line rebuttal in a follow-up news article.

He was an invaluable resource for many in the Wright community, including the Building Conservancy. We will miss his insight and thoughtful writing about all things Wright.

As a journalist, I understand Kamin’s decision to take a buyout. Alden Capital, a hedge fund company that has a reputation for buying newspapers and stripping them of staff and quality, is making a move to acquire Tribune Newspapers. I also worked for a chain of newspapers. The thought of our being acquired was an ugly monster constantly looking over our shoulders. In our case in Racine before I took my buyout in 2012, we worried about being swallowed up and decimated by the Gannett behemoth or by the Milwaukee newspaper (which is now part of Gannett). Many newspapers – including Milwaukee – have eliminated their critics’ jobs. The Tribune has shed job after job after job in the last 10 years. so I have remained pleased (yet frankly surprised) that Kamin still appeared in my daily Trib news feed and Sunday print edition this long. It is hard working while waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. You fear what the next call to see your editor (or someone in human resources) will mean. There comes a time when enough is enough.

Chicago will be diminished as developers and members of the City Council will no longer have Kamin looking over their shoulders. Daniel Burnham famously said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency.” There have been many “big plans” announced in recent Chicago history, but they were not necessarily the best plans. Kamin’s columns were Chicago’s conscience to praise worthy ones, and try to hold others in check.

Kamin ended his post with “-30-” which was the traditional symbol at the end of a newspaper story (submitted to the city desk on paper!) that the editor now had the whole piece to look at.

Thank you, Blair, for your service to architecture, to journalism, and to your community.

-30-

Wright on the Move, The Finale

All photos (c) Mark Hertzberg (2020)

Today was moving day – again – for Frank Lloyd Wright’s diminutive Sherman Booth Cottage (1913) in Glencoe, Illinois. The house was moved a tenth of a mile to its new site on July 21, and placed on a temporary foundation. Now it was time to nudge it onto its permanent foundation.

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The cottage was threatened with demolition by the new owners of the lot it had stood on since 1916. With the help of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, the nonprofit Glencoe Historical Society acquired the home to remodel it and turn it into a museum and research center. The diminutive home, built for Wright’s attorney Sherman Booth while his larger Wright home was being built nearby, is said by some Wright aficionados to be a precursor to his post-1936 Usonian home designs. Wright scholar William Allin Storrer believes the house was actually designed by Lloyd Wright. Whoever designed, it is a historical structure and it was imporatnt to save it.

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Sherman Booth Cottage Moved 066.jpgThe house was nudged by the forks of a John Deere track loader on these rollers on 50′ long steel girders.

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Sherman Booth Cottage Moved 109.jpgAn overhanging tree limb unexpectedly had to be cut down.

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Sherman Booth Cottage Moved 121.jpgMeasurements were taken throughout the morning…then it was time for a lunch break:Sherman Booth Cottage Moved 130.jpg

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Sherman Booth Cottage Moved 136.jpgThe house is finally in place and finish work is underway.

Sherman Booth Cottage Moved 103.jpgRon Scherubel, former executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, has documented the entire project. He showed me a fire pit designed by Jens Jensen, just outside the fence line:

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While the July move – documented in an earlier post on this website – attracted dozens of media outlets, none came today. https://wrightinracine.wordpress.com/?s=on+the+move

Oh, and as for the owners of the cottage who wanted to demolish it when they bought the former site, they have not had any work done there since the cottage was moved off their property July 21:

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