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 —

 

 

Mitchell House: Corwin/Wright’s Coda?

© Photos and text Mark Hertzberg (2021) unless otherwise noted

Mitchell House 1895.jpgThe Mitchell House in 1895, from the Racine Headlight, a railroad publication. Courtesy Racine Public Library. Note the second and third floor porch railings in this photograph and the 1908 one.

Perhaps no house linked to Frank Lloyd Wright has generated as much give-and-take about its provenance as the Henry G. and Lily Mitchell House at 905 Main Street in Racine, Wisconsin. Note that I wrote “linked to” and not “designed by.” 

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Paul Hendrickson devotes four pages to the Mitchell House in Plagued by Fire (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019, pp. 75-78) in the context of his writing about Corwin and Wright’s close friendship and professional association:

“This is the greatest house Cecil Corwin will ever design…”

“Call it the Last Fine Building Moment of Cecil S. Corwin.” 

There is no documentation of Wright’s involvement – if any – in the design of the stately house, but there is much thought that Corwin likely designed the house in collaboration with Wright. A definitive answer to “Who Did What?” remains the proverbial “million dollar question” even after 20 years of sometimes contentious discussion. The lack of documentation means that the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is unable to ascribe any of its design to Wright.

John Eifler, a well-known Wright restoration architect who grew up in Racine and practices in Chicago, in 2001 was one of the first to suggest Wright’s influence on the design. He told me in an interview in 2003 that “It was Corwin and Wright who did that job together. I imagine that it was Corwin who was responsible for presenting the thing to his client because he probably got the job through his Dad.” (The Mitchells were members of the First Presbyterian Church in Racine. Corwin’s father, the Rev. Eli Corwin, was the pastor of the church from 1880 -1888). “This collaborative thing that happens between architects happens a lot. It’s a collaboration, I think between two people, two young architects.”

His conclusions were bolstered this summer with the discovery of a 1908 photograph of the house. The photograph is in a photo album that also included 1908 photos of Wright’s nearby Hardy House [scroll down at the end of this article to see a post with those photos]. The album pages were acquired for the Organic Architecture + Design archives to ensure their preservation and accessibility for research. I will give more history about the sometimes contentious history of the house before I get to Eifler’s reaction to the 1908 photograph .

1908 Mitchell House OA+D toned.jpgCourtesy of, and copyright by, Organic Architecture + Design (2021). All rights reserved.

In terms of official records, the house was designed by Cecil Corwin in 1894. It was so stated in the April 15 Chicago Inter Ocean newspaper and in the March issue of the Journal of the Inland Architect. This was the year after Wright left Adler & Sullivan, so he no longer had any reason to hide his work. In fact, his Bagley House is listed in his name a few lines below the Mitchell House listing in the Inland Architect.

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In addition, Corwin’s proposal to remodel Herbert and Flora Miles’s house in Racine in 1899 shows a mini-Mitchell House grafted onto the existing house (the remodeling commission passed on to Wright in 1901 but was not realized).

Miles Existing? Wright.jpgCorwin’s 1899 proposal to remodel the Miles House. Copied by the author at the McCormick Library of Special Collections at Northwestern University.

The “Who Did What” intensified in 2002 when William Allin Storrer visited the house on July 12. He photographed it extensively and declared it to be by Wright in a story in the Racine Journal Times and in stories that ran in USA Today and on the Associated Press news wire. Storrer was quoted as saying “Maybe it (the design) is only 75 percent Wright’s, but it’s still Wright. If it’s 51 percent, it’s still Wright’s.” He included the house in a subsequent edition of his The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Complete Catalogue (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017). 

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Storrer once speculated that Wright may have designed the house as a gift to Corwin to thank him for letting Wright use his name on his “bootleg houses.” Those were houses that Wright surreptitiously designed while at Adler & Sullivan because his contract forbade him from taking on private commissions. 

As the discussion about the provenance of the house intensified, I asked Edgar Tafel about the house on April 7, 2003. Tafel, one of the original Taliesin Fellowship apprentices (1932 – 1941) told me, “On the very first trip to Racine (in 1936 for the SC Johnson Administration Building) we came down Main Street. In all the times I was there, we came down the Main Street, any number of times. He never mentioned anything about any house other than the Hardy House (four blocks south of the Mitchell House).

Fast forward to May and June 2021 after Eric O’Malley [of OA+D] emailed the 1908 photo to Eifler:

Eric sent the photograph to me as well, and when I saw the railings on the second and third floor, as well as the little bit of ornament adjacent to the dormer I became even more convinced of Wright’s involvement.  Most architects of the period would have interrupted the continuous rail with newel posts, or intermediate supports – I believe only FLW would have run the curved rail continuously.  I have also attached a stair photo from the Goodrich House in Oak Park (1896), with identically shaped balusters.” (Email to me June 17).

Goodrich House.jpgThe stairs in the Goodrich House, courtesy of John Eifler

For comparison, my 2002 photo of the stairs in the Mitchell House:

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And, in a follow-up email on June 21: (interspersed with more of my 2002 photos of Mitchell and 2019 photo of the Blossom House, left, and McArthur House, and a vintage photo of Blossom and McArthur, courtesy of John Eifler):

“1. the Bagley House in Hinsdale and the McArthur House in Hyde Park both utilize Gambrel Roofs and date from the same period.

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2. The Front Porch is similar to that on the Blossom House from one or two years before.  The continuous railing on top of the porch matches Blossom, as do the shapes of the “pickets”.

3. The trim on the interior of the Mitchell House has many similarities with Blossom and Charnley – for example, the window and door heads all align with the picture rail, there is no trim where the wall meets the ceiling.

4. The Art Glass in the south facing study of Mitchell is similar to some of the art glass in the living room of the Charnley House and McArthur.

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5. The wood used in the study is Santo Dominco Mahogany, a favorite of Wright (and Sullivan) and matches the Charnley Hs. Dining Room.”

Eifler elaborated in a followup email July 7: “It [an old photo of the Blossom House] shows a front porch on the Blossom House that is very similar to Mitchell – most notably it shows a railing on the second floor is continuous, with no intermediate supports, which is very unusual, and a continuous string of “pickets” or balusters, that are uniquely shaped with spheres, matching the 1896 Goodrich House in Oak Park by Wright.  Finally, the first floor of the porch is capped by a narrow projecting eave, or cornice (in classical terms) which projects out over the frieze – the proportions of which are unique, I think, to Wright.”

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Tim Samuelson, the City of Chicago’s Cultural Historian (and a dear friend of Paul Hendrickson’s…Plagued is dedicated to him), offers his thoughtful perspective, as well.

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“As we all know from Wright’s autobiographical accounts, Cecil Corwin was a close and valued friend. We also know that they shared room 1501 in Adler & Sullivan’s Schiller Building to conduct their respective architectural practices. The room 1501 was very small – essentially 12′ x 12′.  It’s possible that they also occupied the connecting room 1502 which didn’t have corridor access, but even with that, it was pretty close quarters. (1502 could have been an used by the tenant of adjoining room1505 and had nothing to do with Wright and Corwin at all). (Floor plan courtesy of Tim Samuelson)

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“The Mitchell House indeed displays many elements characteristic of Wright’s work of the period. But at the same time, there are many aspects that do not.” (I am breaking up Samuelson’s comments with some of my 2001 and 2002 photos of the Mitchell House)

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“In my personal opinion, what you see is a matter of personal and professional osmosis between two architects sharing the same space.  Would they look over each other’s drafting boards and make comments and suggestions?  Sure!  Would Wright sometimes help Corwin with difficult design issues?  Of course!

“On the basis of Wright’s autobiographical writings, Corwin recognized and admired Wright’s unusual architectural gifts. Sharing the same space and personal camaraderie, Corwin would have learned from Wright and naturally tried to emulate aspects of his work.  And for a substantial commission on the main street of Corwin’s home town, he naturally would have welcomed comments and help from an admired colleague literally close at hand to create the best design possible.

“In such a closely shared environment between friends, it’s conversely possible that Corwin might have commented and critiqued Wright’s own work. We’ll never really know, but it’s a reasonable possibility.

“There’s always the temptation to skew perspectives to advocate the presence of a “lost” Wright work. But as a result, Cecil Corwin’s presence as a competent architect and a creative person gets lost. Sadly, it’s the story of his life.”

And,  Robert Hartmann, a friend of mine who is an architectural designer and Wright scholar in Racine, weighs in, as well: “The existence of the 1908 photo offers new evidence that the Mitchell house is a  unique one-off collaborative effort between Cecil Corwin and Frank Lloyd Wright. A dichotomy design with the more inventive parts of the house (the porch, and first floor interior detailing) either attributed to Wright or Wright’s influence on Corwin. Cecil Corwin never-the-less produced a masterful house that should be celebrated on its own merits and testifies to the close friendship between the two architects.”

Let us turn to Paul Hendrickson again, and we realize that Wright was concurrently designing his masterpiece Winslow House and Corwin was on the verge of moving to New York and to some measure of architectural obscurity. 

And so, there we have it. We will likely never know exactly who did what, but let us give Cecil Corwin his due for having designed a notable house, likely with help from his good friend Frank Lloyd Wright. 

This collaboration was not only a professional collaboration. It was also arguably the coda of their one-time close relationship (Hendrickson has a rich history of their relationship, elaborating on what Wright wrote in An Autobiography). 

The “Who Did What?” debate will continue with some discounting Wright’s possible involvement, absent documentation to the contrary (Tafel’s remarks keep reverberating in my mind), and others agreeing with the perspectives offered above.

Game on!

https://www.oadarchives.com

I appreciate the willingness of the Pettinger family, stewards of the Mitchell House, to allow me time to set up lights and photograph their home in 2001 and 2002.

— 30 —

(Scroll down for earlier posts on this website, including the 1908 Hardy House photographs)

Hillside’s Restored Theatre Curtain

All photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2020

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One of the most fascinating things to see at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin is the stunning curtain in Hillside Theatre. It is dazzling to see, but it really comes alive when docents like the incomparable Cate Boldt describe its intricacies and symbolism to tour guests. I had the privilege of photographing the newly-restored curtain a week ago, at the request of Stuart Graff, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. I worked with Kyle Dockery, Collections Coordinator for the Foundation, and Ryan Hewson, Director of Preservation. Dockery gets credit for lighting the curtain perfectly for me!

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I photographed the curtain over two hours, seemingly inside and out…even from the rear, a view few people see. I boiled the take down to 119 images, some of which are below. The description of the work is culled from information from Dockery.

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The curtain was designed by Wright in 1952 following the fire which destroyed the first Hillside Theatre and its own Wright-designed curtain. It was restored in early June by a team of three conservators led by Harold Mailand. The work included stabilizing the existing gold lamé and installing new lamé on top of it, restoring the original shimmering appearance while preserving the original material in place.

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The conservators also addressed such issues as detached felt sections, damaged yarn swags, and water stains. The entire curtain was also vacuumed, in front and back to remove built up dust and dirt, restoring its original coloration, which results in it looking much brighter. 

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Original pencil marks by the apprentices who made the curtain are still visible:

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The view from backstage: Some water stains are visible

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Although Wright designed the curtain, he did not know that apprentices were secretly making it. It was unveiled for his birthday in 1956. He made some alterations, most famously being seen atop a ladder dabbing the top of the white canvas with Nescafé instant coffee.  Mailand has worked with the curtain since 1988. Forthcoming restoration work in the theatre, through a Save America’s Treasures matching grant, will help reduce wear on the curtain, particularly on the left side where it has rubbed against the limestone wall on the side of the stage.

I was able to review photos as I shot them with Dockery, left, and Hewson:

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For more information and a video, visit the Foundation’s blog piece:

https://franklloydwright.org/hillside-theatre-curtain-restoration/

Finally, what’s a photo session at Taliesin without a “selfie,” this one in the mirror at the side of the stage?

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Technical information: Nikon D500 camera (crop sensor) with 17 – 55mm lens, and Nikon D850 (full frame) camera with 14 – 24mm and 70 – 200mm lenses.

 

 

Exploring Wright with My Cameras, 9.18.19

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

This is a follow-up post to the one from two days ago and several from earlier this year, as I visit Frank Lloyd Wright sites that are familiar to me with guests traveling on Road Scholar tours. I have been with four tours this year, a fifth one is scheduled for next week. One of our guests this week was from Australia:

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My challenge to myself is to try to see (i.e. photograph) these sites in new ways on each visit. Earlier this summer Taliesin Preservation was kind enough to ask me to write about my photography for their blog:

https://www.taliesinpreservation.org/behind-the-lens/

I am dedicating this post to my friend Cate Boldt, docent and educator extraordinaire at Taliesin. First you see Cate, a Master Gardener, preparing for her role as a Taliesin Garden Fairy, and then with students in Taliesin’s summer architecture camp, as students prepare for their final presentations at Hillside Theater (the practice run was at Wyoming Valley School):

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Our first stop Wednesday morning was at Jacobs 1 in Madison:

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I was taken with the glint of morning sun on the side of the house:

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I have long admired James Dennis’s red Volvo P1800 sports coupe which sits under Wright’s first carport. Wednesday I challenged myself to photograph it in the context of the house:

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Then it was on to the Unitarian Meeting House where I concentrated on the new copper roof. There is just a hint of light on the left edge of the prow in the first photo, the usual angle from which the church is photographed:

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Then it was time to play with light and shapes:

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As I shot the next few photos I longed for the days I worked for a newspaper, when I likely would have been given access inside the fence and allowed to climb up with the craftsmen restoring the landmark building:

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Our next stop was Wyoming Valley School. I have posted geometric photos in the past, but I found new lines to photograph Wednesday as Mary Pohlman told our guests about the school:

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I found a new way to show one of the many mitered windows:

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After lunch at Riverview Terrace, it was on for a Cate-led tour of Taliesin. What could I see differently? The first two photographs are reflections in windows:

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Percy Jackson (Hamblen) thinks he rules the roost (Fifi Montooth sometimes loudly challenges Percy, but she can never catches him):

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Inside the original drafting studio:

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In Mrs. Wright’s bedroom:

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Outside Mr. Wright’s bedroom:

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I struck out at Hillside Home and School, but that is okay…I can’t force pictures that don’t present themselves to me. Earlier Cate had urged me not to miss photographing Kevin Dodds (white shirt) from Taliesin Preservation and Michael DiPadova from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation as they rebuild the Tea Circle:

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I leave you with one more “Selfie,” my reflection in the trim of the headlight of Jim’s Volvo:

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Thank you for joining me on my photo adventures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflecting on Wright at Taliesin

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2018

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Much has been written about Frank Lloyd Wright’s reasons for building Taliesin after his return from Europe with Mamah Borthwick (Cheney). Perhaps Jamaal Allmond summed it up succinctly – without necessarily knowing the details of the turmoil in Wright’s life in 1911 – when I saw him at Taliesin Saturday several hours before the annual Wright birthday celebration. His answer when I asked him what I had just photographed him doing: “I was relaxing my soul.” Allmond, a first time visitor to Taliesin, is from Scottsdale, Arizona. He was visiting friends who are at Taliesin.

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Now, onto the annual celebration of Wright’s birthday at Taliesin, hosted by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the School of Architecture at Taliesin, and Taliesin Preservation. Our hosts were the ever-ebuillent Minerva Montooth, Carrie Rodamaker, and Stuart Graff. There are more photos of Allmond “relaxing his soul” at the end of this post.

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LR Wright Birthday 2018 048.jpgThe birthday cake is presented.

LR Wright Birthday 2018 018.jpgMinerva Montooth greets guests at her home…Taliesin.

LR Wright Birthday 2018 026.jpgStuart Graff, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, describes his concrete (really!) bowtie to guests.Wright Birthday 2018 024.jpgJack Holzhueter, left, Mike Lilek (Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block, Inc.,) and Steve Sikora (Malcolm Willey House)

LR Wright Birthday 2018 035.jpgThe tables are turned on the photographer.

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Wright Sites Meeting at Wingspread

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg, 2018

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Three dozen representatives of Wright sites, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, met at the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread in late March for a “Wright Site Directors Summit.” Topics included creating Wright mobile apps, presenting sites in 3-D on tablets, strategies for innovative branding and marketing, and accommodating guests with disabilities. The three-day meeting was sponsored by the two foundations and the Building Conservancy.LR BC Wright Sites 024.jpgLibby Garrison of the Marin County Civic Center tells how their mobile app was created.

LR BC Wright Sites 003.jpgMichael Ditmer (Still Bend) and Heather Sabin (Monona Terrace) confer. Ditmer is the new president of Wright in Wisconsin. Mike Lilek, left rear, of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block talks with John Waters Preservation Programs Manager of the Building Conservancy. Kathryn Burton (Gordon House) is also at the table.

LR BC Wright Sites 011.jpgStuart Graff, President and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, contributes to the discussion after a presentation. Jim Ladwig, center, (SC Johnson and Son) and Don Dekker (Meyer May House) take notes and listen.

LR BC Wright Sites 015.jpgJeffrey Herr (Hollyhock House) and Carrie Rodamaker (Taliesin Preservation)

LR BC Wright Sites 037.jpgMike Lilek of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block in Milwaukee.

LR BC Wright Sites 040.jpg“The House,” built in the mid-1950s adjacent to Wingspread, became the home of Mr. and Mrs. H.F. Johnson Jr. before they donated Wingspread itself to the newly-created Johnson Foundation in 1959. It has more space for conferences than the Wright-designed Wingspread. It has been said that Mrs. (Irene Purcell) Johnson was never comfortable in Wingspread because it was designed for another woman…Johnson’s wife who died during construction. National Public Radio, the National Endowment for the Arts, the International Court of Justice – and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy – are among the entities that evolved from Johnson Foundation conferences. 

Wright on the Fly

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

Some of my favorite Wright photos were shot on the fly this week as I accompanied a Wright adventure sponsored by Road Scholar and the Jewish Community Center of Chicago as their Wright resource person in Racine, Milwaukee, Madison, and Spring Green. I sometimes shoot pictures more deliberately, with an appointment to photograph. This week’s photos were shot on the fly, during group tours. I posted some Wednesday. Here are photos from today. The first two are at Wyoming Valley School, the last two at Taliesin.

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The trip ended this evening. What will my next Wright adventure be?

Sean Malone: A Retrospective

Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg

Sean Malone, the president and chief executive officer of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, will leave his position in February, after four years. He had been at least the sixth CEO in a decade when he began his tenure in 2012. His departure came as a surprise to outsiders.

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Malone at the annual Wright birthday dinner at Taliesin, June 6, 2012

     Malone and the Foundation said in a press release that the position requires someone at Taliesin West in Scottsdale full-time. Malone has been dividing his time between Scottsdale and his home near Milwaukee, and wants to stay in Wisconsin for family reasons. He told me in 2012 that he did not foresee problems operating from Milwaukee because he would be traveling widely raising money for the Foundation, something he could easily do from Milwaukee.

There are three parts to this retrospective: My photo history of Sean during his tenure, my April, 2012 profile of him, written as he began his stewardship of the Foundation, and then, after you read the profile, highlights of our conversation July 13, 2015 when I asked him to reflect on his stewardship of the Foundation. I chose to let his 2015 words speak for themselves, rather than interpret them. He used one phrase repeatedly during our conversation, that looking back at his stewardship was taking a view “from 30,000 feet.”

Sean Malone

Malone tours the Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine, March 21, 2012 before our conversation which led to this profile of him when he began working at the Foundation:

The black Toyota Prius quietly rolls to a stop. Sean Malone, 42, steps out, a white straw hat on his head, an iPhone in his hand. Meet the new president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Sean Malone, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Wednesday March 21, 2012 in the Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine Wis. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Malone, who comes from Ten Chimneys Foundation in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin, breaks the mold of what many people may have expected in the new head of the Foundation.

Architect? No. Professor of architecture of art history? No. Seen many Wright buildings before taking the position? No. Steeped in years of Frank Lloyd Wright? No. Lives at or near Taliesin? No. Lives at or near Taliesin West? No.

Bright? Yes. Affable? Yes. Thoughtful? Yes. Articulate? Yes. Successful record with Ten Chimneys? Yes. Enthusiastic about his new job? Yes. Confident that he is the right person to help the Foundation overcome its challenges and negative publicity? Yes.

It is clear why T-West would want Malone: he has a stellar record as a director of a non-profit organization. On the other hand, one might wonder why someone with no traditional background in the World of Wright would want to step into what has been somewhat of a revolving door at Taliesin West.

Malone tours Wright’s American System-Built homes on W. Burnham Street in Milwaukee with Robert Hartmann, then-president of Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin and board member Ron Scherubel April 18, 2012:

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Malone Burnham Street

Malone Burnham Street

Sean Malone, CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, left, tours Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin's Burnham Street project, Wednesday April 18, 2012 with Robert Hartmann, president of the organization.  / © Mark Hertzberg

Malone talks about his interest in Wright, “I have always been moved by his body of work. Because I am not an architect, I was not in a position that I could explain what it was that moved me. I found it invigorating. It’s just beautiful, balanced, intentional work, and so I started from a point of engagement with his art. The other piece that really excited me and brought me into the organization was the potential for the body of work and the philosophy of Frank Lloyd Wright to inspire me.”

Malone’s tour of the Grant House in Iowa during the 2012 Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy tour is interrupted by a phone call:

Malone Iowa

Malone Iowa

      There is much more substance to his vision about his new role than what some may fancy for him. His responsibilities are more than overseeing the preservation of Taliesin and Taliesin West, overseeing the Foundation’s architecture school, and racking in big bucks in donations, grants, and souvenir sales to fund the whole kit and caboodle.

Malone says that the Foundation’s “biggest challenge” is “to decide what the next decade or two will be about.” That is not a particularly startling answer. What is more interesting is the next series of questions he poses, and the way he answers those questions.

Malone welcomes conferees to Taliesin West October 29, 2014 during the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy annual conference:

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Malone BC 2014

      First, he asks, “Who do we exist to serve? That is a loaded question. It underlines my opinion that we exist to serve…it is something I believe all non-profits should do. That is what attracted me to the Foundation.

“Who do we serve directly? People who visit the two national landmarks we own, our publications…but also the people we exist to serve through indirect means. If we are inspiring people who are professionals who are part of the built environment, more than just architecture, our ability to inspire them, is not just about them, it is about what they then go and do.

“I am a real believer in both direct impact and indirect impact. Directly, I want to inspire architects and student architects, all people involved with the built environment (including writers, photographers, and city planners). All of them, if we inspire them, change peoples’ lives. If you take a look at the direct and indirect impact (of the Foundation on people), it’s global.

Then Malone asks, “What are the deep meaningful needs of those individuals and communities? Once we define who we exist to serve, what are their needs? Sometimes it is things they do not know they want yet. It is about needs, not wants. It has to be (something) unmet. If someone is doing it adequately, I don’t want to do it.”

Finally, Malone says he want to know, “Which of those needs do we agree we are uniquely positioned to meet, better than anyone in the world or that no one in the world can do at all?”

Malone signs the guest book at Burnham Street:Malone Burnham Street

Asking those questions, having “conversations” with people, is key to Malone’s approach to his new position. “That is the lens through which I look at the role of a non-profit. I don’t think that articulation is completely new or earth-shattering.”

While most non-profits might end up with a list of only two or three challenges that answer those questions, Malone has no illusion that there will not be many “opportunities” that the Foundation could take on. He has no doubt that there could be a daunting list of goals that some may offer as priorities. Malone wants to pare such a list down. “What is particularly exciting for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation…that is a big part of why I wanted to make this move and a big part of why I am so energized about the work that we are going to accomplish in the coming years.

Malone asks more questions. “Why do you think of his body of work and philosophies? Why do you think it is going to be relevant ten years from now. Why do you think it is going to be relevant a hundred years from now. Those are the questions I am asking people.”

He has a degree in business from the University of Wisconsin, but Malone sees his work as being more than just a dollars-and-cents guy charged with keeping the troubled Foundation solvent. “The idea of how we live our lives has been an important part of my career, because I think it matters. i think people find it relevant, and that we as humans have the opportunity to make that a decision…I think his (Wright’s) work has something very meaningful to say about our ability to choose the life we are going to live, to live an intentionally lived life, and that is a powerful thing. That is one of the handful of truly universal challenges…the sense that we don’t have to choose between being great one thing or another. We don’t have to choose between deep relationships with family and friends and connections with the nature around us. You can live an integrated life.”

Malone believes that one must do more than just read the plethora of biographies of Frank Lloyd Wright to understand him. One has to experience his work. “To get a sense of the universal truths, you don’t read a biography of Shakespeare, you read Shakespeare, and that is what draws me to the body of work of Frank Lloyd Wright. That is his legacy.”

It is surprising to some that Malone continues to live in Wauwatosa, a suburb of Milwaukee, rather than move to Scottsdale or even to Spring Green. “I think that it is reflective of an organization that is no longer Arizona-centric.” He has full confidence in the people who oversee Taliesin and Taliesin West, without feeling the need to be on site full-time.

“My job is to make sure that both are able to be successful in their day-to-day operations, both in public programs, like the tours, and in education, like the school of architecture, but the mission of the organization is, at the very least, national, so I think it makes sense that the CEO isn’t the on-site person at either place. We have very talented staff members. We didn’t need another COO in Scottsdale.”

He spends a bit more than half his time traveling. He anticipates that he will be traveling less frequently to Taliesin West as time goes on, instead traveling more across the country to raise money for the Foundation, “Great things cost money, part of my job is to connect people with those activities. It’s the donors who make it really happen. It’s my job to steward that investment. It’s my job to make sure their donation is well spent and makes an impact.”

Malone finishes the interview with a reminder of who he believes the Foundation must not lose sight of,  “We exist to serve, and only succeed because of the public.” Some people will certainly deem Sean Malone’s tenure a success if he retains his position – he is at least the sixth CEO in a decade. Others will consider his tenure a success if the Foundation’s finances are stabilized. Malone himself has a broader goal. He drives a Prius. It is reasonable to think that he will be satisfied only with results that will be harder to measure: that he is able to bring stability to the Foundation so that Wright’s work can continue to influence people to live Wright’s architecture, to better their lives and their communities.

Malone and Minerva Montooth at the 2015 Wright birthday dinner at Taliesin:Wright Birthday 2015

Malone Reflects On His Stewardship, July 13, 2015:

A collaborative effort: I am extremely proud of what the Foundation has accomplished in this time. It’s the Foundation that has accomplished it. All great things happen because groups of civic volunteers and advocates get together and make it happen.

The very significant increase in contributions comes from people coming together with clarity about the mission. This is something that is very exciting to me. I hope everybody connected with the Foundation is proud of it. It is something in which I take great pride.

I asked him if there was anything he feels has been left undone: I don’t look at it that way.

This organization has grown in capacity and reach, and the number and quality of its advocates to be able to continue moving forward. What’s exciting when you look at it from 30,000 feet, the organization is going in a great direction in multiple fronts, in every aspect of what its supposed to do.

On the “uncertainty” about the future of the School of Architecture: I feel like we have multiple constituencies working together …

On the preservation of both Taliesin and Taliesin West:  We just competed the first ever in-depth comprehensive preservation master plan that talks about what needs to be restored, at what level, and why. That’s not easy…Sixteen months of impressive research (about Taliesin West) thoughtfully put together…the cornerstone is done and that’s very exciting. Similarly good, last year we spend three times as much on the preservation of the two Taliesins as the year before I came. We went from about $1million to $3 million, and that’s not because the needs went up, but because there was a real investment in making this happen. That’s the 30,000 foot view of preservation. This organization embracing its responsibility to preserve the two Taliesins for generations to come.

On the sale of the archives to the Avery Library and to the Museum of Modern Art: That collaboration has been extraordinarily successful. We are already seeing everything affiliated with those archives taking the next step in terms of the preservation of those archives, the access to scholars, the quality of digital capture and in terms of public access, not just scholarly access. There was a remarkably well received exhibit at MOMA in 2014 and in 2017 there will be a very large exhibition as part of a celebration of Wright’s sesquicentennial; that’s another bright spot.

On public tours of Taliesin West: We’ve really overhauled and significantly increased visitor satisfaction of that tour, reducing tour size, continuing education with docents, and the opportunity to purchase tickets in advance (Before) you would come and sit and hope you got in eventually. Now 50-90% of tours are purchased in advance, depending on the week.

We are also in the process of doing a comprehensive evaluation of the tours and interpretive planning projects. What people expect and what they are going away with. What is it we want people to take away with them?

If you have 100,000 people touring, it’s not having a cash cow, but an obligation, an opportunity to inspire. How are we connecting this experience to peoples’ lives?

Programmatically, those are the bright spots from 30,000 feet.

The organization: Then there is the capacity, the institutional side of things. I am proud of the board, staff, and donors about  the evolution of the Foundation as an increasingly world class non-profit.

It was a family business when it started…the Fellowship, him and his wife. It had its era, but the organization is really focused on what is its impact. It is focused on being a professional. organization, that we have the discipline to make sure that when donors contribute that their philanthropic investment yields the best public impact.

In Arizona it is rewarding to see the development of the Taliesin Board of Stewards, local leaders embracing the critical importance and impact of Taliesin West in a way that we’ve never had that community engagement. That’s certainly important in terms of contributions and support, but it’s also the best opportunity for us to make sure we are serving our community. Having this group of Arizona leaders talk to us about the needs of tourism and residents, and connecting this international icon to an understanding of what Phoenix and the Greater Valley community is…It’s very much a symbiotic relationship. We can’t accomplish what they point us toward without support.

He is excited about the solar energy at Taliesin West, but does not take credit for it: The ball started before I came in.

On fund raising: We are changing the philosophy of the gifts program, making sure we are interacting with donors the way they want to be interacted with. Donors don’t want perks, they believe in the organization in which (they are investing). Instead of you get this many mugs, tickets, t-shirts…it’s all about engagement…here are ways for you to have more insider opportunities…not us taking a chunk of the money you gave and giving you trinkets. We have had an increase in people giving and in the average. gift size. We nearly tripled annual giving. That is really powerful and really rewarding. I certainly believe that is not about me, that is about the importance of this organization and the mission. Nobody gives to something they don’t believe in. I am very proud of the increased level of giving. It speaks to the promising future of the organization. Our preservation needs are significant. There is more work to do, it is critical work…it is exciting work and rewarding work.

In closing: I will continue to be a huge advocate for and fan of this organization, and working toward its success.

Newly Discovered Wright Home Near Milwaukee

Story and photos (c) Mark Hertzberg

The 2100 block of Newton Avenue in Shorewood, Wis., will no longer be a quiet street, as word spreads of the documentation there of a previously unidentified house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The home at 2106 Newton may not look like a Wright home at first glance, but underneath the modern siding, and above the garage which was added in 1976, is one of Wright’s stucco American System-Built homes.

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Many people think Wright designed homes only for wealthy clients, but he was keenly interested in affordable housing for the middle class. The American System-Built homes, designed as affordable housing, could be selected from a myriad of designs. The entrance to the house is on the right side (as one faces the house). The original open porch at the entrance was enclosed at an unknown date. It still has the original stucco finish and the leaded glass windows which apparently were the front windows of the house.

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The Newton Avenue house, built in 1917, joins six homes in the 2700 block of W. Burnham St. (two single-family homes and four duplexes) as examples of Wright’s American System-Built homes in the Milwaukee area. The two-bedroom Shorewood house is a Model A203. Four other Milwaukee American System-Built duplexes, the Arthur R. Munkwitz Duplex Apartments, were demolished in 1973 to widen a street.

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

The first person to tell owners Roger and Pat Wisialowski that they may be living in a Wright home was the late Richard Johnson of Evanston, Illinois. Johnson had a passion for searching for previously unknown Wright works. However, none of the ones he believed Wright designed were documented and authenticated as Wright’s, until Mike Lilek researched the little house on Newton Avenue over the last year and found proof that it is, indeed, a Wright home. Lilek is nationally recognized as an expert on the subject of Wright’s American System-Built homes.

The documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect of the home at 2106 Newton Avenue, Shorewood, Wis., was announced Friday June 5, 2015. The home, which dates to 1917, is one of Wright's American System-Built homes. It has   /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Lilek, left, is interviewed by Jeff Rummage of the “Shorewood Now news site.

He has spearheaded the restoration of two of the Burnham Street houses for Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin. He extensively researched the Newton Avenue house and has presented his findings to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the organization which oversees all things Wright and was the former home of Wright’s archive. He announced his findings June 5, 2015 at a press event in front of the house. He has been transparent about his research, and has posted a link to it:

www.wrightinwisconsin.org

Link toMary Louise Schumacher’s feature story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

http://www.jsonline.com/entertainment/sleuthing-reveals-shorewood-home-was-

designed-by-frank-lloyd-wright-b99513440z1-306231261.html