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

© Mark Hertzberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wright Tourism is Back: Bits of Burnham

© Mark Hertzberg (2022)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links:

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block:

http://wrightinmilwaukee.com

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photographing Wright for the Umpteenth Time

Photos and Text (c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

When I take guests on Frank Lloyd Wright tours for Road Scholar I tell them that one of the joys of Wright’s architecture is the possibility of seeing new things on every visit to places one has been to before. I always take my cameras with me on the Road Scholar tours for that reason and on my fifth tour for them, two weeks ago, I saw new things in buildings I have photographed many times. Alas, I did not find new things at every site we visited.

My first discoveries were at 2734 W. Burnham Street in Milwaukee, an American System-Built duplex being restored by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block. The walls have now been stripped off and I saw these things, including the incinerator chute in the kitchen. The first photo is the view from the living room into the kitchen:

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I have photographed the Unitarian Meeting House in Madison many times. This visit I saw these views of the church. I hope to see the new copper roof by the time of my scheduled fall visits:

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I also saw a picture which spoke to the church’s statement of what Unitarianism is about, a collection of May poles amidst a “Black Lives Matter” sign. No matter what one’s beliefs, this is what the church believes, which is why the church exists, which is why there was a building for Frank Lloyd Wright to design:

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I have enjoyed photographing one of Wright’s smaller commissions, the Wyoming Valley School. This is what I saw differently this time:

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At Riverview Terrace (the Visitors Center at Taliesin), I was struck by the colors on a tree in the driveway:

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Then, of course, there was Taliesin. One of the guests asked why there are no art glass windows in the house. Cate Boldt (our superb docent) explained that Wright had no reason to shield the house for privacy and art glass windows would have blocked the views of his beloved land. What did Wright see?

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Windows looking out from the guest room were uncovered in December, 2017:

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The “Hoffman rug” in the living room has been taken out:

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The Romeo and Juliet Windmill and Tanyderi:

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And, then, finally, this was the first time I saw the drafting room at Hillside Home and School without students, which meant I could go into the room and take pictures:

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The tour I accompany for three days for Road Scholar is: https://www.roadscholar.org/find-an-adventure/22976/architectural-masterworks-of-frank-lloyd-wright

 

 

A New Day for Wright in Wisconsin and for the Burnham Block in Milwaukee

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

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The board of directors of Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin (the only statewide Wright group in existence) voted unanimously last week to reorganize, spinning off ownership of the four American System-Built homes it owned in Milwaukee into a separate, self-standing organization. The reorganization was formalized today in a joint announcement. Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin is now rebranded as Wright in Wisconsin. George Hall remains president of the organization which is dedicated to preserving Wright’s legacy, education about Wright and promoting Wright tourism in Wisconsin. Mike Lilek, who has spearheaded the restoration of two of the four Burnham block homes, will be head of the new Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block, Inc.LR WiW Reorganization 001.jpgGeorge Hall, president of Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin, leads the group’s final board meeting prior to the vote to reorganize, Thursday August 3, 2017. 

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Hall commented, “With the recent creation of the Frank Lloyd Wright state trail, and the celebration of the 150th anniversary of his birth this year, Wright’s legacy has never been stronger in Wisconsin.”

Lilek, former Vice President of Facilities for the former organization, looks forward to the possibilities for growing the legacy of the American System-Built homes which represent Wright’s commitment to affordable housing. “This reorganization creates a group now singularly set on restoring the historic Burnham Block site and welcoming visitors to experience Wright’s broadest gesture to a wide American audience.”  . Constructed between 1915-1916, the Burnham Block site consists six homes that symbolize the challenge faced by Wright to create beautiful and affordable spaces. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 and welcomes thousands of visitors each year from across the United States and more than 33 countries.

LR 2714 & Duplexes 4.10.15 001.jpgThe Burnham Block organization is the new owner of the first and third ASB duplexes from the left, as well as the 2714 W. Burnham Street single family home, right, and 1835 S. Layton next door to it). 2714 has been restored to house museum status and is open for tours. The duplex at far left, 2732-34 W. Burnham Street, is undergoing restoration.

LR 1835 S. Layton 4.10.15 003.jpgWright’s second single family American System-Built house on the block, at 1835 S. Layton, was significantly altered more than 50 years ago, and is less recognizable as a Wright design.

Along with expanded educational opportunities for adults, and publishing the quarterly newsletter, Wright in Wisconsin will continue to offer the annual Wright & Like Tour to provide the public with a rare opportunity to experience private homes and public buildings designed by Wright, his apprentices, and related architects. In the past, the tour was held in Milwaukee, Racine, Madison, Delavan Lake, Wausau, and central Wisconsin. In June of 2018, the tour will focus on the Spring Green area in collaboration with Taliesin Preservation.

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LR 2016 W & L Hardy 003 .jpgGuests wait to tour Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine during the 2016 Wright & Like tour.

The changes for Wright in Wisconsin include a new website which will be dynamic and updated significantly more frequently than the current one. Screen Shot 2017-08-08 at 3.52.44 PM.pngThis is a screen shot of the new look for the Wright in Wisconsin website, which will launch in the near future. The redesigned website was made possible through a generous grant from SC Johnson. The URL will remain: www.wrightinwisconsin.org

The not-for-profit organization was created in 1991 with the assistance of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the State of Wisconsin Department of Tourism. Historic Wright sites across Wisconsin applauded the creation of a Frank Lloyd Wright Trail by the state legislature last year, including co-sponsorship of 38 legislators from both parties. Running from Racine to Spring Green, and including Wright’s birthplace of Richland Center, this route links together Wright buildings across Wisconsin, including Burnham Block.

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“Wright in Wisconsin is committed to promoting the success of Burnham Block, as well as increasing attendance to all public Wright sites across the state,” said Andrew Gussert, Treasurer of Wright in Wisconsin.

This year marks the celebration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday (1867-1959). Born in Richland Center, Frank Lloyd Wright is considered to be one of the most important architects of the century. With over fifty separate buildings, and a dozen sites open to the public, Wisconsin includes work from every decade of Wright’s body of work. The state served as the backyard laboratory for his architectural experimentation, making it a unique destination for those who want to understand Wright’s organic style of architecture.

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Contact information for the two organizations is below:

Wright In Wisconsin, Andrew Gussert, Treasurer Email: agussert@gmail.com

Wright in Wisconsin, P.O. Box 6339, Madison, WI 53716

Phone (608) 287-0339 ~ www.WrightInWisconsin.com

Frank Lloyd Wright Burnham Block, Inc., Mike Lilek, Telephone: (414) 368-0060Email:

mlilek@WrightInMilwaukee.org 

Website: www.wrightinmilwaukee.org