Architectural Archaeologist

Text and photos © Mark Hertzberg 2017

Wallis Pencil LRFrank Lloyd Wright drawing of Henry Wallis Cottage scheme 1: © 1986 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. All rights reserved. (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) and used with permission.

Robert Hartmann describes himself professionally as an architectural designer. Based in Racine, Wisconsin, he has designed many of the city’s downtown storefronts. More important for me, has been as an architectural archaeologist as I work on my Frank Lloyd Wright books. This summer Hartmann — an avid baseball fan — hit one home run after another after I sent him high resolution copies of Wright’s drawings related to Penwern, the Fred B. Jones estate on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin (1900 – 1903) and we visited the estate twice.

A week ago he hit a veritable grand slam home run in a late night email. He had greatly enlarged one of Wright’s drawings for the unrealized “scheme 1” cottage for Henry H. Wallis, designed in September, 1900, the month before Penwern would be designed for a nearby lot. Wallis, the premier land salesman on the south shore of Delavan Lake was an early client and patron of Wright. Wright proposed an arched porte-cochère for Wallis (drawing above). The house, as built, (below) differs in several details including the lack of the porte-cochère as well as the lack of stone piers at the corners of the house. Wallis sold the house at completion to the GoodSmith brothers and it is now known as the Wallis – GoodSmith House (the open porch facing the lake is a modern addition):

Wallis-Goodsmith HouseDSC_7995.JPG DSC_7996.JPG DSC_7997.JPG DS

Wallis-Goodsmith House

Hartmann was intrigued by faint pencil marks by Wright above and to the left of the proposed porte-cochère and brought them to a finished state. He discovered that Wright had drawn both a covered walkway above it and a tower to the left of it:

Hartmann cropped LRInterpretation of scheme 1 drawing © Robert Hartmann 2017 and used with permission.

All three of these unrealized details — the arched porte-cochère, the covered walkway above it, and the tower are prominent details at Penwern:

Penwern 076.jpg

There are two possible explanations for the faint pencil sketches of the walkway and tower on Wallis scheme 1. Did Wright propose these features for Wallis before building them for Jones as Hartmann wonders? Or did he simply use a copy of the discarded Wallis plan on which to sketch ideas for the Jones house as Patrick Mahoney suggests, pointing out that Wright did just that using drawings for the Walter V. Davidson House in Buffalo (1908) when designing the Oscar M. Steffens House in Chicago a year later?

Hartmann made several other significant discoveries about Penwern this summer:

-Wright’s drawings for the gatehouse show a semi-circular wall east of the water tower. Today only half the wall stands. That discrepancy intrigued Hartmann enough to mention that to Sue and John Major, stewards of Penwern. They asked Bill Orkild, their contractor, to do some digging. He discovered the foundation of the missing portion of the wall as well as irrigation pipes from the 1903 greenhouse, which was torn down in the 1970s. There are now plans to make the wall whole again. The missing portion was apparently lost when strips of the east and west sides of the estate were sold in 1989 by a previous owner.

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-Wright’s plan of the first floor of the main house shows curved walls for the large front porch (facing the lake) of the main house and the two side porches. Yet they were built straight. The Majors and John O’Shea, who was steward of Penwern from 1989 – 1994 had the porches rebuilt as shown on the drawings but the question remained why there was a discrepancy between the drawing and the walls as realized. Hartmann, again greatly enlarging the Wright drawings, found faint pencil lines bisecting the curved walls, with right angles connecting them to the porches. He surmises that Wright realized, or was convinced by his draftsmen or the contractor, that the curved walls would be difficult to build so he changed the final design to straight walls with the pencil marks, rather than make an entirely new drawing.

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-Hartmann pointed out that there are fewer rows of boards and battens on the front of the stable than indicated on drawings of the structure. And, the drawing does not seem to take into account the gentle slope of the land in front of the stable. Does this mean that Wright had not seen the land for himself or that he did not supervise construction of the building? Hartmann also pointed out that whereas early photos of the front of the stable and the drawing show only two windows at each end, at some point it was determined that it was too dark inside the stable, and a second pair of windows was added just below.

Stable Front 9.27.17003.jpg

Penwern

Robert Hartmann, left, and Bill Orkild. 

Penwern

Copies of Wright’s 17 surviving drawings for Penwern can be viewed at: www.penwern.com  My book about Penwern will be published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press in the spring of 2019. The book could not be possible without the help of countless people including Hartmann, Mahoney, and Orkild. For that reason the Acknowledgments are one of the most important parts of the book for me to accurately write.

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Cedar Rock: Lowell and Agnes Walter Estate

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

Frank Lloyd Wright designed a lovely home for the Walters on a riverside site in Quasqueton, Iowa in 1945. It is known as Cedar Rock, and is administered by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

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Construction began in 1948, and was completed by 1950. I had the pleasure of giving a talk about Wright’s Fred B. Jones estate (“Penwern”) for the Friends of Cedar Rock several weeks ago. The tie-in? Wright designed boathouses for both Cedar Rock and Penwern. I had hoped to photograph the boathouse from the  Wapsipinicon River but the weather was prohibitive. I leave you with photos of some interior details that intrigued me. A panoramic photo gives you an idea of the central gathering space:

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The first intriguing thing for me was the reflection in the mirror in the entry way:

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I was also struck by the inward-facing mitered windows in the clerestory:

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The house is closed for the season. I urge you to visit when it reopens in May. For information:

http://www.friendsofcedarrock.org

Penwern Update

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

I shot this panoramic photo of the view in three directions from a guest bedroom at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fred B. Jones house (“Penwern”) on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin this morning. It was perhaps my last research trip to Penwern before the January 15 deadline for the manuscript for my book about Penwern which will be published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press in spring 2019.

LR Penwern NE bedroom view.jpg

I am currently reviewing voluminous notes about Penwern that I have accumulated since starting the project in 2013 and rediscovering important points. Newspaper microfilm gives us the only definitive documentation of a visit by Wright to the lake…in 1905 while preparing to design a home for A.P. Johnson of Chicago. The A.P. Johnson House was the last of the five Wright homes on the lake.

The microfilm also clarifies the timeline for the four Wright buildings at Penwern. There are 17 surviving drawings. The drawings for the boathouse and the first floor plan for the house are dated October, 1900. One stable drawing is dated March 24, 1903. The microfilm dates completion of the house by the end of June, 1901 and the boathouse in spring, 1902. The gate lodge was constructed in 1903, the stable the next year.

The drawings are construction drawings, not presentation drawings. In his autobiography Wright mentions regret about the number of drawings he discarded. Mark Peisch theorizes that many drawings were lost or thrown out in the move from the Oak Park Studio to Taliesin, in his 1964 book “The Chicago School of Architecture.”  I do not believe that drawings were lost to either fire at Taliesin: it is not likely that the Penwern drawings would have been kept in separate places and the surviving drawings show no sign of fire or water damage.

There is a wonderful website for Penwern: www.penwern.com

Friends have told me they look forward to seeing the book…so do I!

 

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?

SCJ Shapes

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

Circles seemed to be what caught my eye today when I shot a few quick pictures at SC Johnson today while accompanying 35 guests who are on a two-state Road Scholar / Jewish Community Center of Chicago architectural tour. These were taken in public areas where photos are allowed without special permission or arrangements.

SCJ 10.4.17 007.jpgThe Research Tower, upper right, peeks out from above the short columns on the walkway to the Administration Building carport.

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The carport presents a myriad of shapes to play with.

SCJ 10.4.17 014.jpgFinally, there is this picture at the entrance to the Administration Building.

A Curiosity in the Wright Archives

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2017)

I saw something curious in the archive of Frank Lloyd Wright presentation and construction drawings at the Avery Architectural Fine Arts Library at Columbia University while doing research there early this week. I had never run across a cost estimate on one of Wright’s presentation drawings before. The estimate is smack in the middle of one of the drawings for the Stephen A. Foster Cottage and Barn (1900) on Chicago’s south side. The estimate for $3500 is equivalent to about $103,000 today. The website I use for cost comparisons is:

https://www.measuringworth.com/m/calculators/uscompare/

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Foster 2.jpg(c) 2017 The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

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I was interested in looking at the Foster file because the house slightly predates the commission for Fred B. Jones (Penwern) on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin which I am writing about. The Foster “Cottage” and three of the four buildings Wright designed for Jones have flared or raised ridge rooflines, thought to be a Japanese design influence.

Perhaps it was not uncommon to have a cost estimate on a drawing, but this was the first time I had seen one. Incidentally,  isn’t a fact that Wright never brought buildings in over his initial cost estimate, or am I mistaken?

Stewardship of a Wright Home

(c) Mark Hertzberg

What does it take to be the steward – a better term than ‘owner’ – of a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright?

Last week I posted pictures which the late Eugene (Gene) Szymczak took in 1977 of what became his beloved Thomas P. Hardy House when he became its seventh steward in 2012. A few days later his family sent me a copy of an email Gene sent me in 2012, an email I had forgotten about. In it he describes his thoughts about his new stewardship of the house. His writing “I don’t know how long I’ll be there” is poignant and particularly moved his family because Gene fell ill and died unexpectedly December 3.

As you read the email, remember that when I showed Gene the house, which was distressed, he told me, “I don’t have children, this (buying it and rehabilitating it) is something I could do for Racine.”

His note is particularly apt this week as the stewards of dozens of Wright-designed buildings gather in New York City for the annual conference of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.

From: <EugeneS@>
Date: September 14, 2012 7:19:57 AM EDT
To: Mark Hertzberg
Subject: 1319
Hello Mark,

I have been born and raised in Racine.  I come from a working class family.  Racine has a reputation in history for doing the right thing.  It could be from fighting against slavery to having the first high school in the state to trying to rejuvenate River Bend. We do the right thing. We put others first and give back.  I am part of that heritage. I think that it was time for someone to assume stewardship of the house from Jim and Margaret.  The Youghourtjians have been good stewards for more than fourty years.  I don’t know how long I’ll be there.  It’s my turn to take care of the Hardy house.  It is a Racine and even a world landmark.

Attraction

The Hardy house is a home that most Racinians would recognize.  It evokes different reactions.  In 1905 it was called “kooky”.  To me it’s a song.  Wright was a middleman between humans and nature. He asks us where to we fit in nature?  How do we interact with living creatures?  What can we learn?  Do we enhance one another’s lives and the landscape?

Interest in Wright

I find that Wright looks a little deeper into life and introduces more questions than answers.  A little more understanding than strong judgement calls.  God (being Nature), has all the answers to what being here is all about.  To me he says be part of it all and share it unselfishly.

The black and white photo of the house were taken in 1978 [the prints indicate 1977] About when I bought a fancy camera.  I took pictures of my parents, the lake, and the Hardy house.  To me significant things.  I ended up returning the camera because I felt it was too expensive…lucky for you it was the end of my “career” in photography.

Gene

Gene Szymczak 002.jpgHardy Exteriors Post-Restoration 078.jpg

Photographing Wright

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

I have been accompanying a Road Scholar architecture tour in Racine, Milwaukee, Madison, and Spring Green. Below are some photos I’ve shot during the tour, as well as some photos from a shoot at SC Johnson Tuesday:

The ceiling in the entry way of Wyoming Valley School, Spring Green:Wyoming Valley 2 LR.jpg

Classroom window mitre at Wyoming Valley School:Wyoming Valley LR 1.jpg

View of the Wisconsin River from Riverview Terrace Restaurant:

Riverview LR 1.jpg

The Ceiling in the Assembly Room of Hillside Home School, Spring Green:

Hillside LR.jpg

Taliesin, Spring Green:

Taliesin LR.jpgTaliesin 2 LR.jpg

Unitarian Meeting House, Madison

Unitarian 2 LR.jpgUnitarian LR.jpgUnitarian Pano 1 LR.jpgUnitarian Pano 2 LR.jpg

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Wauwatosa:

Annunication Pano LR.jpg

Wingpsread (H.F. Johnson Jr. Home), Wind Point:

Wingpsread LR 2.jpgWingpsread LR.jpg

SC Johnson Administration Building, Racine:

SCJ LR.jpgSCJ 5 LR.jpgSCJ 3 LR.jpgSCJ 6 LR.jpgSCJ 2 LR.jpgSCJ 4 LR.jpg

And, finally, one that did not work out…I needed a photo to illustrate Wright’s use of light in the Great Workroom…I did not want the typical documentary photo. I borrowed a fisheye lens from Nikon. I have given it a trial run with some people via email, and they have given it a thumbs down. I am inclined to agree with them. But I had to try it. Here is what that miss looks like:Skylights 9.5.17.jpg

Back in the Pool at End of Summer

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2017)

The late Sam Johnson recalled that he fretted when it was time to move to Wingspread, the 14,000 sq. ft. home Frank Lloyd Wright designed in 1937 for his father, H.F. Johnson Jr. He was afraid his friends would no longer want to visit him once he moved so far from his home south of downtown Racine, Wisconsin, about seven miles away. He later said that he had no reason to fret once his friends learned the house had a swimming pool.

The house became home to the newly-formed Johnson Foundation in 1959. In September, 1961, the Foundation hosted a party for new teachers by the pool:

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(Photo courtesy of The Johnson Foundation)

The pool eventually fell into disrepair, and has been covered for many years. These aerial views show the pool, first in 2003, and then in 2009:

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Wingspread aerials 2009 008aa.jpgHere is how it looked June 21 after the cover was removed and preparations began to reconstruct the pool:Wingspread Pool 004.jpgAnd then on August 18 after the pool was framed in:Wingspread Pool 8.18.17 006.jpg

About 80 cubic yards of concrete were poured in the deep end of the pool August 30:

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Tom Drabender, the construction foreman for Riley Construction, watches the pour.

Although the pool is being rebuilt, it will be used as a water feature of the estate, rather than as a place to swim. The project is slated for completion late this year.

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

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

s

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. 

LR WiW Reorganization 003.jpgHall, left, and Lilek sign documents formalizing the reorganization.

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