Hardy House Honors

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

Eugene (Gene) Szymczak was posthumously honored Sunday as recipient of the 2017 Kristin Visser Award for Historic Preservation for his rehabilitation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine. Szymczak, who died December 3, arguably saved the house for another 100 years when he bought it in September, 2012 and began four years of repairs. Gene Szymczak 002.jpg

The house was distressed when I showed it to him earlier that year on behalf of the owners. He said to me, “I don’t have children; this is something I could do for Racine.” The photos below are from November, 2012 and May, 2017:

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The award is presented by directors of the Seth Peterson Cottage Conservancy at the diminutive (but stunning) Wright-designed cottage on Mirror Lake. It is presented every other year to an individual or organization in recognition of past work in historical preservation of a Wright or Prairie School building in Wisconsin or a contiguous state. Buildings constructed between 1900 and 1925 are given preference, and the restoration work shall have been substantially completed within the two calendar years previous to the year of application.

The award is named in honor of Kristin Visser, who was instrumental in the restoration of the Seth Peterson Cottage and a tireless worker in its behalf. She is the author of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School in Wisconsin, and, with John Eifler, A.I.A., Frank Lloyd Wright’s Seth Peterson Cottage: Rescuing a Lost Masterwork. Visser, who was a planner for the Wisconsin State Department of Natural Resources, died in 1998 at the age of 48. (Photo (c) by Brent Nicastro, and used with permission)

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Bill Martinelli of the Conservancy presented the award to Tom, left, Curt, Jim, and Joan Szymczak. Tom and Jim are Gene’s brothers and Curt is a nephew of his. Joan, who is married to Tom, tirelessly helped with the rehabilitation and staged the house for the many benefit tours which Gene generously opened the house for.

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Recognition includes a large plaque, a monetary award, and a small plaque affixed to a marker near the Cottage. The marker is mounted on a slab of sandstone shaped like the state of Wisconsin. Martinelli found the slab at a nearby quarry:

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Tom Szymczak wrote to the Conservancy after the presentation, “Our sincere thank you  for honoring Gene with the Visser award. On the surface Gene would not have like the attention but I believe deep down inside he would have seen it as a ‘thank you.’ I know at times, especially early on in the project, he would wonder what he had gotten himself into. But once he saw the public begin to cherish the house, he knew it was all worth it. Gene had plans of retiring in Hardy house and sharing it with visitors so they could feel the magic of a Wright-designed home. We truly lost a person that Lived by Example. Again, Thank You for honoring Gene with award.”

Jim Cairns, of Bukacek Construction, contractor for much of the work, wrote me, “We at Bukacek Construction were honored to be part of Gene’s rebuilding process. His home is truly a unique architectural treasure in Racine and Gene’s commitment to restore the property is a tremendous gift to all of us who live and work here.”

Szymczak had previously been awarded a Wright Spirit Award by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in 2014.

The inaugural award was given in 2007 to Steve Sikora and Lynette Erickson-Sikora, for their work in restoring the Malcolm and Nancy Willey House in Minneapolis. The 2009 award was granted to Paul A. Harding and Cheryl Harding, for their work in restoring the Davenport House, in River Forest, Illinois. The 2011 award was presented to Mary Arnold and Henry St. Maurice for their work on the E. Clarke Arnold Residence in Columbus, Wisconsin.  The 2013 award was presented to Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin for the restoration of the B-1 ASBH in Milwaukee and the 2015 award was given to John Eifler and Bonnie Phoenix for the restoration of the Ross house in Glencoe, Illinois.

The application deadline for the next award will be in early spring, 2019. Applications should be sent to award committee chairman Jerry Minnich, 821 Prospect Place, Madison, WI 53703. Questions may be submitted by e-mail: jminnich7@att.net.

http://sethpeterson.org

https://www.savewright.org

New BC web site design

The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy has just launched a redesigned website at www.savewright.org  The site includes a photo director of virtually all, if not all, of Wright’s extant works. Visit the site and join the BC if you are not already a member!

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In and around San Francisco

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2016

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Thousands of pictures were taken by participants in the San Francisco area during the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy’s annual conference in early November. While many people used sophisticated cameras, the democratization of photography through the smartphone enabled anyone to take high quality photos and post them to social media. While I take what I call “record shots” of the buildings we visit (literal views of the buildings for record purposes) I also look for different ways to interpret the architecture. Certainly mid-day is not the ideal time to shoot buildings, but one does what one can do while on tour!

Our first visit was to the Berger House in San Anselmo. I was struck by the juxtaposition of wood and stone…all put in place by the client over some 20 years as he built the house:

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The Walker House in Carmel has a dramatic prow on the west side of its site on the Pacific Ocean. Undine, a two-ton sculpture of a mermaid by Robert Howard was placed on the prow in 1964:

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Wright’s Marin County Civic Center and Hall of Justice in San Rafael (supervised by Aaron Green) is almost too easy to shoot in. Gold gates mark one of the entrances.

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The stairwells are dramatic, too:

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And then there is the gold tower:

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Conferees were able to spend time in the VC Morris Gift Shop near Union Square in the city. The building is in transition between its recent iteration as an art gallery and its next life as a showplace for Italian suits. One can argue whether it is better to photograph the shop with merchandise, as it was designed to showcase, or empty so one can see the pure forms Wright designed. References were made to Wright’s concurrent design for the Guggenheim Museum with its spiral ramp. I also thought of his unrealized 1949/1950 design for Racine’s YWCA, which had a ramp from the lobby to the next level.

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Sunday’s optional tour including a reception at the Fawcett House in Los Banos, certainly one of the more unusual sites for a Wright home…a dairy farm:

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In response to an email I just got from John Clouse after posting this, I recognize the conflict between those of us who selfishly want photos with no people in them and conferees who have every right to inspect every nook and cranny of every building we visit! I sometimes wish we had a “photo bus” with those on board agreeing not to rush the building as soon as we arrive.

Next year’s conference is September 13 – 17 in New York City. I leave you with a photo I took closer to home, of the moon rising over the Home and Studio in Oak Park this past Saturday, the day before the “Super Moon.”

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Remembering Bonnie McCoy

(c) Mark Hertzberg

Bonnie E. McCoy of Mason City, Iowa died May 14. She and her husband, Bob, are well known as being instrumental in Mason City’s architectural preservation. Their home, Walter Burley Griffin’s Blythe House, is in the Rock Crest, Rock Glen development, near Frank Lloyd Wright’s Stockman House and the Architectural Interpretive Center named for Bob. These photos of Bonnie and Bob were taken when they received the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy’s Wright Spirit Award last October 3 at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. The last photo shows them with the Building Conservancy’s late John Thorpe.

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Remembering John G. Thorpe

(c) Mark Hertzberg

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John Thorpe at the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy benefit at Steelcase, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Friday October 18, 2013. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

I was on my daily bike ride on my birthday just a month ago when my phone rang. I am never overly eager to answer the phone when I’m riding in the winter, because I have to take my gloves off after pulling off the road, and the weather was nasty, but I was glad I took the call. It was John Thorpe wishing me a happy birthday. I had no inkling that he knew my birth date. Today I awoke to an email telling me that John died yesterday of congestive heart failure. He was 71.  The world of Wright preservation is reeling from the news.

John was my mentor when I began my Wright adventures some 15 years ago. I had no background in Wright scholarship, but that did not matter to John. All he cared about was that I was writing about Wright’s work, striving to be as accurate as possible, doing as much original research as possible rather than rely on anecdotes and the existing literature. My mentor became a friend. I could not help but smile all the times he tweaked me for being a native New Yorker (Second City Syndrome, John?).

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Steve Sikora, left, John Thorpe, and Ron Scherubel at the 2014 Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy conference at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix , Thursday October 30, 2014. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Jonathan Lipman had introduced me to John when I was looking for advice about how to handle a sticky question about the alleged authorship of a house I was writing about. John in turn introduced me to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. I turned to him for advice often. His advice was always the same: let proven facts lead the way.

I had the pleasure of helping John chair the Building Conservancy’s 2007 annual conference in Northbrook and Racine.

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John Thorpe, right, leads a Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy planning meeting at Wingpsread for the 2007 conference, Friday February 17, 2007. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

In 2012 John was the person I called for advice from the basement of Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House when I was showing the house to a prospective buyer, Gene Szymczak. The house needed extensive repairs, and the Building Conservancy had fretted about its future. I wanted to know how much the house might be worth as a Wright property over its assessed value. John firmly told me it was time to bring in professional appraisers and to step out of the picture.

Gene ignored his advice, surprising the owners and me by making an offer out of the blue a week later, as they met over lemonade and cashews at the owners’ new apartment. It was an unexpected turn of events, and the house had a new steward. Gene completely rehabilitated the house over the next three years, earning a Wright Spirit Award last October. What better tribute to John than to have the house preserved for another century?

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Edith Payne, left, and John Thorpe at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church during the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy annual conference in Milwaukee, Friday October 2, 2015. (c) Mark Hertzberg

Next year’s Building Conservancy meeting in San Francisco…and each one thereafter…will be diminished without John’s presence. Indeed, so will the Building Conservancy itself, as well as Wright scholarship and preservation.

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John Thorpe, left, at the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy benefit at Steelcase, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Friday October 18, 2013. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Farewell, my friend.

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Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy annual conference, Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee, Wednesday September 30 – Sunday October 4, 2015. (c) Mark Hertzberg

Information about any memorial service for John will be posted to the Building Conservancy’s website: www.savewright.org  Blair Kamin’s feature obituary story for the Chicago Tribune is at:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/obituaries/ct-john-thorpe-obituary-0127-20160126-story.html

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John and Jack Quinan at the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy benefit at Steelcase, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Friday October 18, 2013. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Wright Spirit Awards

John Thorpe presents one of the Wright Spirit Awards at the Gala Banquet, Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy meeting, Sheraton Society Hill Hotel, Philadelphia, Saturday September 24, 2011. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright in the Southwest

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg

The recent 25th annual meeting of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in Phoenix was my first opportunity to photograph Wright’s work in the southwest. These are some of my favorite photos. Taliesin West is last. The David and Gladys Wright House would be a joy to photograph, but we were asked to respect the owner’s wishes and not photograph even the exterior from the grounds. While some people photographed it through a chain link fence, I do not think that view does the house visual justice.

My favorite image is of the circular wall surrounding the swimming pool at the Norman Lykes House. I am also including an overall picture of the house to give the photo some context a close-up view through one of the portholes:

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I enjoyed photographing the approach to the Grady Gammage Auditorium on the pedestrian ramps from the parking lot:

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This note by Wright is at the entrance to the Carlson House:

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The Harold Price House has wonderful doors designed by Eugene Masselink. You get a hint of the design in the second photo:

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The First Christian Church was adapted from a design of Wright’s by Taliesin Associated Architects. This is the view looking into the jewel-like middle of the ceiling with an 80-200mm lens:

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The Boomer House has dramatic roof lines. Again, there is an overall photo of the house for context:

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Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer’s house, adapted from the Jester House plans, has circular rooms, including the living room:

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And now some of my visual impressions of Taliesin West:

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Then, the ceiling in the private dining area by the living room:

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Two window reflections:

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The use of native rock is legendary:

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There is a wonderful round gate into Mrs. Wright’s garden:Taliesin WestTaliesin West Taliesin West  Taliesin West

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A.D. German Warehouse has a new steward!

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From the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy’s release:

“The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy learned recently that a new buyer for the A. D. German Warehouse (1916-1921) had stepped forward from among the residents of Richland Center, Wisconsin. The property was purchased from the estate of Harvey Glanzer and closed on August 15. The new owner will be working with a group of Richland Center citizens and institutions who are organizing to develop plans for strategic and financial planning, fundraising, restoration, partnering on adaptive use and future operations. The Conservancy began an initiative in May 2012 to chart a path for a new owner and a new future for the Warehouse, bringing together a group of interested parties and local citizens. The current steering committee includes several individuals from this group.”

Congratulations, and thanks, to all those from the BC who made this happen!

Photo (c) Mark Hertzberg