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/

Foster Cost LR.jpg

Foster LR 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?

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Wright in Miniature

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017 / Photos by Mark Hertzberg for SC Johnson, and used with permission of SC Johnson.

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The sixth iteration of SC Johnson’s annual The SC Johnson Gallery: At Home with Frank Lloyd Wright exhibition opens today in Fortaleza Hall on the company’s campus in Racine, Wisconsin. The centerpiece of the exhibition, titled On the Wright Trail, is the display of 26 miniature scale models of Wright’s architecture by retired architectural draftsman Ron Olsen of Janesville, Wisconsin. One of the models is of the gate lodge at Penwern, Wright’s estate for Fred B. Jones on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin (1900-1903):

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The exhibition coincides with both the summer-long observances of Wright’s 150th birthday (June 8) and the inauguration  of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail in Wisconsin. A ceremony marking the launch of the Trail was held May 10 in the Great Workroom of Wright’s landmark SC Johnson Administration Building (1936). Olsen and his wife, Judy, were photographed when they saw the exhibition for the first time after the Trail ceremony. The exhibition includes a video interview with Olsen:

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“SC Johnson is proud of its Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture,” said Kelly M. Semrau, Senior Vice President – Global Corporate Affairs, Communication and Sustainability, SC Johnson. “In celebration of Wright’s birth in Wisconsin 150 years ago, we are thrilled to offer visitors of On the Wright Trail a unique opportunity to study the architect’s design practice across different areas, media and time.”

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Summer and Fall at Penwern

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2016

It is time to revisit Penwern, the magnificent estate Frank Lloyd Wright designed for Chicago “capitalist” Fred B. Jones on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin in 1900 – 1903. Penwern was Jones’ country home, a place to entertain his many friends from Chicago. It is no less a magnificent home to welcome friends today than it was during the myriad of summer parties mentioned in contemporary newspaper social notes.

The entry is one of my favorite parts of the house. Visitors enter the house under a low ceiling (the balcony or passageway from the stairs to the bedrooms is above this entry ceiling). Instead of being confronted by walls and doors, they can immediately look into the billiard and dining rooms (left) and living room (right).

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We see friends of Sue and John Major, stewards of Penwern since 1994,at the Majors’ annual party celebrating the 4th of July. While Wright specified that the front porch (facing north and the lake) and the two side porches should have curved walls, the walls were either built straight or modified by Jones. John O’Shea, steward of Penwern from 1989 – 1994, rebuilt the front porch to Wright’s design. The Majors did the same with the side porches last year. The curved walls echo both the arched porte-cochere and the 28′ foot long arch over the front porch.

July 4 Penwern Party 007 LR.jpgJuly 4 Penwern Party 008 LR.jpg

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The Majors also removed the wall separating the front porch from the east side porch:

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Early photos of Penwern show a cairn near the gate lodge. The Majors recreated it this year:

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They also uncovered a cistern at the gate lodge:

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There are often different views of the lake through the boathouse windows and through the arched porte-cochere:

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Fall is spectacular in Wisconsin. This past weekend begged a visit to Penwern, cameras in hand:

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The stable and the house:

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The gate lodge:

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We end our visit with a photo of Jones’ monogrammed wind vane which was once atop the stable. It is now in the living room:

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Visit www.penwern.com to see many more photos of the house, both historic and contemporary, as well as copies of Wright’s surviving drawings.

Penwern – Wright’s Porch Design is Built

Text and photos (c) 2015 Mark Hertzberg, unless noted.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed semi-circular outer porch walls for Penwern, the Fred B. Jones House on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin (1900-1903), but the walls were either built straight or modified from his plans early in the life of the house. Jones is shown near the straight east porch wall in an undated photograph. The house was completed in 1901; he died in 1933.

FBJ @ Penwern 1

The east and west (side) porches now have semi-circular outer walls, as indicated on Wright’s drawings for the house. (The drawings can be viewed on Penwern’s magnificent website, www.penwern.com ) Sue and John Major, stewards of Penwern since 1994, commissioned master builder Bill Orkild to rebuild the side porches to Wright’s plan this spring. The work was completed just a week ago. The outer wall of the front porch, facing the lake, was changed from straight to semi-circular by John O’Shea, the fourth owner of the house, between 1989 and 1994. The front porch is on the right side of the first photo below:

Penwern Porches

The semi-circular design brings a unified design element back to the house because it echoes the dramatic arch over the front porch and the arched porte-cochere.

Penwern Porches

Penwern Porches

Penwern Porches

Penwern Porches

Penwern Porches

Orkild photographed the east porch during reconstruction:

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He also fashioned the diamond-shape accents shown on Wright’s drawings. Penwern Porches

Penwern Porches

Penwern Porches

The next question for the Majors to ponder with Orkild is whether the walls on the insides of the porch are load-bearing. The walls are not shown on Wright’s plans. Removing them would allow for more dramatic vistas to the east and west from the front porch. It is possible that the porches were screened in with these walls after Jones lived in the house to shelter himself and his visitors from mosquitoes.

Penwern Porches

Penwern Porches