Meet “The God-Almighty-Joneses”

© Mark Hertzberg, Simon Evans, and Georgia Lloyd Jones Snoke (2021)

It is understandable, perhaps, that they were sometimes referred to by ‘the others’ in the Valley as ‘the God-Almighty Joneses.” Maginel Wright (Frank Lloyd Wright’s younger sister), in The Valley of the God-Almighty-Joneses, written with Tom Burke (1965).

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Welsh heritage has been well documented, but we now have the opportunity to eavesdrop on new correspondence between two living descendants of those “God-Almighty-Joneses.” They are Georgia Lloyd Jones Snoke of Tulsa, Wright’s first cousin, twice-removed, and her distant cousin Simon Evans, who lives in Wales. Nan, who is referred to on some of these slides, is Mrs. Evans.

The Joneses set foot in America when when Mary Thomas Jones (Mallie) and Richard Jones sailed into New York on December 8, 1844, according to a family history written by Jane Lloyd Jones in October 1870. Mallie and Richard settled in Spring Green in 1856 and then across the river at Hillside in 1863. Family members did not add their mother’s surname of “Lloyd” to their names until they got to America. They were “Jones” in Wales. They left Wales from New Quay for Liverpool, where they sailed for New York.

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I have cogitated for weeks how to present this fascinating history. Rather than edit and paraphrase as I originally intended to do, I have decided it best to copy the whole of the current email correspondence between Evans and Snoke, and many of the illustrations in the slide presentation that Evans has painstakingly put together. He lives near the family homesteads in Wales, so his presentation is geared to research he did for his family there. This is a lengthy post, but stick with it…there is a special nugget for fans of PBS television shows, near the end.

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This Wright genealogical adventure started when I was researching my book about Penwern, the Fred B. Jones summer estate on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin. Wright designed four buildings for the estate, the main house, the boat house, the gate lodge, and the stable, between 1900 – 1903. One of the important questions I sought to answer was the origin of the name of the estate because there is no definitive documentation about that. It had been written in at least one previous book that “Penwern” is Gaelic for “great house” but that assertion is inaccurate. In fact, “Penwern” is a Cornish or Welsh, not Gaelic, and can mean “near the swamp” or “at the head of the alder tree.” A local botanist has told me that alder trees are native to Delavan Lake. 

Jack Holzhueter, a specialist in Wisconsin history, whose areas of interest include Wright’s life and work in the state, was of inestimable help when I worked on the book between 2013 and 2019 when it was published. He introduced me to Snoke. She and I corresponded many times, and she reinforced the idea that the name is seemingly an Anglicization of Pen-y-Wern, the name of Wright’s maternal ancestral home. That notion was also suggested to me by architects and Wright scholars Brian A. Spencer and Tom Heinz.

Snoke and her husband, Ken, traveled to Wales in 2004 and photographed the Pen-y-Wern cottage where Wright’s grandmother Mallie grew up. Holzhueter suggests that perhaps Wright got his American client Jones – not related to Wright’s Jones family – to honor Wright’s maternal family by naming his estate “Penwern.”

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Family accounts differ whether another cottage named Pantstreimon was Richard Jones’s home, or Richard and Mallie’s home before they emigrated. The photo is from cousin Chester Lloyd Jones’s 1938 book “Youngest Son.”

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I put my research into the Jones / Wright family history aside when my Penwern book was published in June 2019, but I have posted many articles about Penwern and Pen-y-Wern to this website. A welcome surprise landed in my email Inbox on November 25, 2020, asking me to approve a comment on one of those Penwern blog posts. That email brings us to this blog post:

Hi guy’s,

I’m Simon Evans, a distant Cousin of Georgia’s; still living in Wales; and I absolutely loved your article about ‘Penwern’. My great great grandfather on my father’s side was John Thomas, Mary Thomas’ little brother; he set up farm a mile down the valley called Plasllwyd, and survived the destitution and impoverishment of that period; he died a few years after Mallie.

I’m double linked to Georgia since, on my mother’s side my great great gran was Hannah Jones, Richard Jones’ sister. Pantsreimon, the farm next to Penwern, was one of the original strongholds of the Lloyd dynasty; they were the ruling Cast of West Wales for Centuries; Anna was obviously proud of this heritage, hence her use of the Lloyd name.

I put Simon and Georgia in touch with one another, and so, here we are. You may need more than one cup of coffee or tea to follow these threads! The boldfaced portions of these emails are as written by the correspondents.

Georgia Snoke to Simon Evans, November 30, 2020

Back atcha!  To properly introduce myself, I am the great granddaughter of the Reverend Jenkin Lloyd Jones.  He and his wife Susan were BIG in Unitarian circles and for all I have read about him, he was a ancestor to revere.  He had two children, a daughter Mary who never married, and my grandfather Richard who married the Georgia for whom I am named.  She was an absolute GEM!  I am so proud to bear her name.  They, in turn, had three children, Richard Jr., Jenkin (my dad) and Bisser (a “Florence”—my grandmother’s mother’s name—who became “Bisser” when two year old Jenkin couldn’t say “Baby Sister”.  She was “Bisser” all her life.)

While Rev. Jenk preached from the pulpit, my grandfather and his progeny preached through a newspaper (CAREFULLY distinguishing between editorial opinion and newspaper fact!  They’d have been appalled by today’s press.)  They left Wisconsin for the new, raw state of Oklahoma in the late 19 teens when the children were between 9 (Aunt Bis) and 13 (Uncle Dick).   All three returned to Wisconsin for college and were great friends with their dad’s cousin Frank, visiting Taliesin frequently on weekends.

My Uncle Dick went into the business side of newspapering and was also president of the American Newspaper Publishers Association; my dad was editor and publisher of the Tulsa Tribune (and syndicated in 140 newspapers), as well as national president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the ASNE (American Society of Newspaper Editors.  Upon Uncle Dick’s death, Aunt Bis stepped into his shoes as president of the Tulsa Tribune Company.  My two brothers, Jenkin and David, worked full time for the Tribune—Jenkin ending as editor and David as a longtime columnist—and I became a weekly columnist after a few years as a television newscaster. 

I go into all this detail to reiterate the difference between newspaper writers and historians… And much of the secondary research I have done comes from “amateurs” who wrote down what they had been told as children.  There may be gaffs, but the core is there… Blessings, (distant) cousin Georgia

Simon Evans, On Nov 29, 2020

… I’m not a historian; however, it’s been my hobby since I retired nine years ago; having spent forty years at the forefront of driveline technology in the automotive industry; I retired back to the family farm in Ceredigion; it’s been the family home since 1860; but you’ll see from the family tree; my family’s been in these parts for ever.

I remembered my grandparents telling stories about our extended family; and being the only remaining link to the past; I owed it to my grandkids to research its’ voracity, and get it written down for posterity. Well, word got out, and I was asked to give a talk to the community group. 

It ended up being a two-hour Power-Point presentation; and it went down a storm!! 

Other Historical Societies heard about it; so, I’ve been busy for the past two years, giving the talk here there and everywhere it seemed; my favourite venue had to be the Great Hall at Lampeter University; the third oldest University in the UK; that really had atmosphere. 

The Power-Point file is nearly 300MB; not exactly email size; but what I’ve been doing is to break it up into smaller segments in PDF format and to get under the email Limbo limit. 

The two files I’ve attached here are: A fun file I created for the Grandkids showing them that their timid little Nan was a distant cousin of our queen; it gets across quite succinctly, the huge influence the Lloyd family had in these parts. 

The other one is a file I prepared for our Parish Council for their annual Walk for Life initiative; they were going to walk the Aber Loop and wanted me to highlight places of interest along the way; the walk goes quite close to Blaenralltddu; but it’ll give you a taste of the amazing history that lurks in the shadows of a non-descript little backwater of West Wales. 

I’ll have to do a bit of massaging on the other elements to make them attachment size; please bear with me. 

However; the attached is a taster; enjoy. 

Georgia Snoke 29 November 2020:

I am absolutely cock-a-hoop with your information, and I embrace you and yours as cousins. 

 I was very fortunate to have had two splendid Welshmen, one a descendant of Mallie’s family, provide an enormous amount of research to our branch.   One was John Jenkins (sadly deceased) and one was Ifan James, a Mallie descendant.  Ifan gave three days of his life to Ken and me in 2004 and took us all over “our” part of Wales.  I am enclosing an excerpt of those days in the “Black Spot” for your amusement.

Again, so MANY thanks for your extraordinary offerings.  What a joy to “meet” you, Cousin!

Georgia Snoke 29 November 2020:

Dear “Cousin” Simon:

What a wonderful Thanksgiving gift to receive your email.  I am very excited about “meeting” you and look forward to all you may share about the Lloyds.  Our family has always known that Richard and Mallie were “Jones” in Wales, but the family story is when they reached Wisconsin there were so many Welsh Joneses they took their mother’s maiden name as a prefix.  For certain sure, I, for one, claim the Lloyd name with pride and sign my passport Georgia Lloyd Jones Snoke.  Some in that second generation (my great grandfather’s–the Reverend Jenkin Lloyd Jones—) wrote the two names with a hyphen; some used periods, some (the eldest) merely used Jones.  But most of us in communication now use the Lloyd as well as the Jones.

A wonderful cousin named Jix (Richard) Lloyd Jones did considerable research on the Lloyds.  I have created a gigantic book filled with various essays—his included—but, like my own essays, I can’t always be sure his facts are accurate.  None of us speak Welsh these days.  He died about three years ago.  What a wonderful, wonderful man!

We Ll-J’s would treasure any information you wish to share.  In fact, I am the “editor” of the annual Unity Chapel newsletter and I would love to include anything you wish to impart.  With full credit to you, of course.

And if you are interested, I would be more than happy to send you a little booklet that I have put together for the next generations.  All I need is your address.

My husband and I have visited Wales several times, always with a stop at Alt-y-roden (sorry about the spelling.  I don’t have my notebooks in front of me.) Pant-y-Dafaid, Blaen-yr-allt-ddu, etc.

In fact, one of the funniest coincidences of my life occurred far from Wales.  My husband and I were getting ready to take a ship to the Mediterranean.  It was disembarking from Cadiz.  We had come a day early, so husband Ken took the rental car to its home and I started unpacking in our cabin.  Over the intercom came an invitation to passengers already on board to join in a luncheon buffet—which sound much more fun than unpacking.  So there was this little lady from Tulsa, Oklahoma standing in line when the two gentlemen behind me introduced themselves to one another.

“Hello.  My name is David…”  “Hello, MY name is David…”  So I, who had a brother named David, quipped over my shoulder, “David is a great name.  Dewi Sant would be proud.”

There was a pause, and then the “David” with the British accent said, “Dewi Sant?  What you you know of Dewi Sant?”  Blush!  So I turned to them, introduced myself, and explained that I didn’t really know much about Dewi Sant—just that he was the patron saint of Wales and I only knew that because some of my ancestors came from Wales.

From the fellow with the British accent.  “Oh. That’s interesting.  Where did they settle?”  “Wisconsin.”  “Where in Wisconsin?”  “Ummm…south central Wisconsin.”  Then came the coup de grace:

“Have you ever heard of the Valley of the God-Almighty Joneses?”  By this time I was gaping.  “That’s my FAMILY!  My great-grandfather was the Reverend Jenkin Lloyd-Jones!”  “Oh yes, yes, yes.  He was the uncle of Frank Lloyd Wright.”  And it turned out that this particular David (Barnes) was one of the Lindblad expert guides to the Mediterranean, but he was Welsh and had written his doctoral thesis about religious dissenters in Wales. A whole chapter was devoted to my Lloyd ancestors.  Later, I asked David if I could get a copy of his thesis to read.  Someone else asked him its title and he said, People of Seion.   I gulped and said, “David, it’s already in my library.”

(Re:  The Valley of the God-Almighty Joneses:  That is a book written by Frank Lloyd Wright’s little sister, Maginel Wright Barney, in which she chronicles the stories passed down through the family of Wales and Wisconsin.  The title has become affixed to the Valley where the Lloyd-Jones’ Unity Chapel is and the whole family inhabited.)

Long story short, David has remained a friend and about three years ago we hired him to take Ken and me, my niece and nephew, and our daughter for a week’s trip to Wales.  What a glorious time!

As I say, that was a truly amazing exchange.  Just as it is wonderful that you’ve contacted Mark and I will have a chance to learn yet more from you.  I hope you are willing.

On November 29 I wrote Georgia, asking her to summarize the family tree for me:

Richard Lloyd Jones, my grandfather, was named for his grandfather Richard who, with his wife Mallie (Mary Thomas) and their seven children, made the voyage to America.  One of their sons, my great grandfather, the Reverend Jenkin Lloyd Jones was the brother of one of their daughters, Anna Lloyd Wright.   Their sons (Richard and Frank) were therefore first cousins.  Frank built my grandparents’ home, Westhope, in Tulsa.  I knew it well as I stayed there whenever my parents went out of town.

I call Richard and Mallie the first (American) generation.

Reverend Jenkin, Anna Lloyd Wright, and 9 siblings were born.  One, Nany, died as a child) — They made up the second generation.

The third included my grandfather, Richard, and his cousin Frank.

The 4th—my dad, aunt and uncle of the “Jenkin line”

My dad’s kids—me, my two brothers, sundry cousins—5th generation

Our kids and grandkids — 6th and 7th.  Time flies when you’re having fun.

Does that give you the family “tree”?  Of course, the 2nd generation farm families had a passel of kids—which is why the “Aunts” (Nell and Jennie) used their skills as teacher to begin Hillside Home School.  They never married and Margaret survived her two sons and two husbands, but the rest of the family was ore or less awash in kids.  The third generations focussed on education.  They spread far out from Spring Green.  It wasn’t until the death of actress Ann Baxter’s mother (a daughter of Frank) that the family began to coalesce around the abandoned Unity Chapel.  Branch by branch we made re- connection.  Now every five years (except this year) a reunion draws us together.

Hope this helps sort us out, Mark.  Blessings to you!  G…

I have, indeed, made connection with Simon Evans and he is, indeed, a (distant) relative.  Furthermore, he has a gazillion stories to tell about the Lloyds (from whence the “Lloyd” of Lloyd-Jones and Lloyd Wright comes.)  He is a delight, and I’d have utterly missed out had you not given me that nudge.  Thank you, thank you my friend!  Georgia

Georgia to Mark, December 3:

Dear Mark:

I absolutely loved Westhope [the house that Wright designed for her grandfather, Wright’s cousin Richard Lloyd Jones, in Tulsa].  More or less growing up in a Frank Lloyd Wright house spoiled me.  There is a family story that Frank was supposed to design its furniture, too, but the man he sent to oversee its construction spent that money on his family.  It was the Depression.  No one sued, but the only furniture my grandparents’ got was a fabulous desk with crawl through space beneath for us young children.  (It now resides, as I recall, at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.)   When my great grandmother in Eau Claire died, her plush Victorian furniture was brought to Oklahoma.  Aunt Bis always said that the Victorian furniture “softened” the angularity of the architecture.  She saw the house through several different owners and never liked any of their furniture in comparison.

It was my beloved Aunt Bis who really introduced the Lloyd Jones family to me.  As I said to Simon, the Jenkin line in Tulsa, Oklahoma was pretty isolated from other branches.  Aunt Bis saw an article on Elizabeth Wright (FLlW granddaughter), and dropped a note to her.  That introduced us to the Anna line.  But when the mother of Liz’ cousin, actress Ann Baxter, died, the idea of checking on “the dear old chapel” in Spring Green, WI was raised.  There was a 1979 picnic at Tan-y-deri that my dad took Ken, our girls and me to.  From that came the formation of Unity Chapel, Inc.  I’ve twice served as its president as well as multiple times as board member.  Both my girls are on the board today.

Meanwhile, I became hooked on Lloyd Jones history.  I would come to board meetings a couple of days early and spend them in the newspaper archives at the Wisconsin State Historical Society.  That led me to all sorts of other research.  It has been a wonderfully fulfilling episode in my life, and I probably know more about the second generation (my great grandfather’s) than anyone now living.  I came to admire them hugely.  For the most part, they were farm folks, but their drive and curiosity and creativity were astounding.  And even in that second generation you had two extraordinary female educators and an internationally known minister.

Georgia to Mark December 7

Mark:  the first cottage is  Blaen-yr-allt-ddu (my spelling is suspect) where my great grandfather (the Rev.) Jenkin was born.  The family landed in New York a year later.  The plaque on the wall commemorates his birth there, put up by Chicago parishioners following Jenkin’s death.  The cottage has been much expanded since then.

 

The white cottage continues to puzzle me.  It is charming…and far different from the Pen-y-wern stone (and forbidding-looking) structure whose picture Ken took. The white cottage is identified as Pen-y-Wern in Chester Lloyd Jones’ book, Youngest Son (about his father Enos, last of the 1st generation flock.)  And yet when Ifan James took Ken and me around family structures in 2004, it was the dark and dour tall stone building  he identified as Pen-y-Wern.  And that’s what the sign says!   

Wait!  It was Ifan James who took Ken and me to dark and dreary Pen-y-Wern.  It was his dear friend, colleague, and terrific researcher into Ll-J materials John Jenkins who made corrections for other photos in Chester’s book, but slid right over the i.d. of the white cottage.   John had died by our 2004 visit—a great loss.  As a surmise, he knew Pen-y-Wern as Mallie’s birthplace but never actually saw it.  If Chester identified the white cottage as such, John may have accepted his i.d..  Who knows?  I am so sorry to have totally lost contact with Ifan James.  I don’t even know if he is still alive.

Simon:  When Ken and I, in the company of Ifan, met the couple who owned Pen-y-Wern they were cordial…Their children were not interested in farming.  They didn’t know what the future would bring.  I don’t know if they are still there.  But I wonder if there is a historical society in the area that could identify the white cottage?  Could be worth a try?  As I said, I’ve been puzzled by that photo in Chester’s book for years.

Onward!  G

Much of Simon’s presentation touches on the family’s strong ties to the Unitarian religion. Economic hardship and the quest for religious freedom spurred Mallie and Richard to emigrate to America.

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The Rebecca Riots were Welsh resistance to the imposition of tolls on roads in Wales. According to Wikipedia, the ringleaders of the resistance were sent to Australia as convicts, but the toll gates were dismantled in time when it was determined that they were an obstacle to free trade.

There is one more tantalizing discovery…the Royal Family is related to the Lloyds. LR Nan's Ancestral Surprise-4.jpg

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So, now we have a link between Frank Lloyd Wright’s family and the House of Windsor, the Royal Family of Great Britain (something that the producers of Masterpiece Theater and “The Crown” have overlooked)! What think you, should the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and Other Things Wright send a post to Buckingham Palace, inviting them to join their ranks or at least send a few pounds and shillings their way? After all, Prince of Charles, you know, the Prince of WALES (!) is keenly interested in architecture!

A commemorative plaque was unveiled in 1922 at Jenkin Lloyd Jones’s birthplace:

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Georgia and Simon have taken us on a remarkable journey. It begins with a couple seeking better fortunes and religious tolerance and ends with their grandson, an architect who spent his summers in the valley of “the God-Almighty Joneses,” whose work is revered to this day. I leave you with photographs I have taken at Unity Chapel, the family chapel across the road from Wright’s beloved Taliesin. I also thank Keiran Murphy for her assistance with this blog post (and countless other projects of mine!). I joke, but am not far off the mark, when I tell people that she likely knows more about Taliesin and Frank Lloyd Wright than he did.

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This is where the family gathers every five years for a reunion (when there is no pandemic…2020 was canceled). Perhaps Simon and Nan can join them in the future!

Taking a Fresh Look at Penwern

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg (2020)

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Bill Orkild, the Wizard of Penwern, the magnificent estate that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for Fred B. Jones on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin in 1900 – 1903, invited us to an open house a few weeks ago. The occasion was to show off the new / old gate lodge greenhouse constructed this year. It replicates the original one which was demolished in 1983. I give Orkild that monniker because he is the construction master of virtually every phase of Penwern’s rehabilitation since Sue and John Major became its stewards in 1994.

https://wrightinracine.wordpress.com/2020/04/06/the-coda-to-penwerns-rehabilitation/penwern-greenhouse-6/

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The visit also challenged me to see Penwern with fresh eyes, six months after my last visit. Arches are one of of the design themes of the grounds…this photo of the 28′ arch which spans the front porch, facing the lake, was a new angle for me, even after dozens of visits to Penwern. I also looked at the dormers on the west side of the house differently, as we sat by the pool and enjoyed a picnic lunch:

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Now, onto the greenhouse! The structure is virtually identical to the commercially – built one which Wright included in his design. The new one is an entertainment venue, rather than a greenhouse for growing flowers (Jones loved growing roses). It is surrounded on the east side by a semi-circular boulder wall, another recreated feature of the estate. Bob Hartmann, an architectural archaelogical sleuth from Racine, noticed the wall on the plans and commented that half the wall was missing. Say no more to the Majors and Orkild, there is a full wall again!

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There are now flowers in a planter atop the north wall at the end of the greenhouse. Orkild speculates that the original wall and greenhouse may have failed for lack of a liner to keep water from the plants from seeping down and weakening the structures.

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Now, invitations in hand, let’s go into the greenhouse:

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The design on the windows leading to the new space is reprised on the corners of the counters in the food preparation area:

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One of Orkild’s great contributions to preserving Penwern’s history is the museum he is creating in the stable:

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The work at the gate lodge included the arduous task of scraping off concrete that had been added atop boulders on the walls of the gate lodge water tower as cracks developed over the last 115 years:

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Orkild found an unexpected artifact, a pipe, 12″ into this wall. The pipe is now in the museum. He theorizes that either a mason put his pipe down and forgot about it, or one of his co-workers, annoyed by the smoke, took the pipe, and ensured that it could not be found (or smoked) again.

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This oak table, below, is another recent addition to the museum. The piece of wood from an alder tree is signficant, because one of the possible meanings of “penwern” in the native Welsh is “at the head of the alder tree.”

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Orkild’s wry sense of humor shows in this new display:

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Wizards sometimes don’t show their faces. I offer only this wizard’s shadow as he stands by the stable gate explaining some of the work he has done:

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Recreating the greenhouse was a team effort, and the Majors credited all who had a hand in it with a plaque outside the new structure:

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The Coda to Penwern’s Rehabilitation

Text and greenhouse construction photos © Mark Hertzberg. Other photos courtesy of and © Emily Smith and Bill Orkild. Historic photos courtesy Betty Schacht, Sue and John Major and John Hime and ©  Frank Lloyd Wright gate lodge drawing: ©2020 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. All rights reserved. (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

The final significant stage of the rehabilitation of Penwern is now complete.

Roses will bloom again this summer at the gate lodge greenhouse at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fred B. Jones estate – Penwern – on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin, perhaps for the first time since Jones’s death in 1933. Jones loved growing roses, so Wright included a commercially built greenhouse for him in his design for the gate lodge. The gate lodge and greenhouse were constructed in 1903, two years after the main house or “cottage.” The greenhouse was tucked between the north side of the gate lodge water tower and a boulder wall:

Avery_FLW_4207_007.jpg©2020 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. All rights reserved. (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

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Jones added a second greenhouse on the west side of the gate lodge at an undetermined date.

Historic_Scan_08a.jpgThe caretakers’ family near the second greenhouse, ca. 1935, courtesy Betty Schacht

The original greenhouse had deteriorated so badly by the 1970s that Terry Robbins Canty, whose parents Burr and Peg Robbins were the second stewards of Penwern, had it torn down and replaced by a carport when she lived in the gate lodge.

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Penwern had been significantly altered by the time John and Sue Major became stewards of most of the estate in 1994. They immediately began what has become a decades-long quest to bring Penwern back to Jones’s and Wright’s vision. They acquired the last piece of the estate – the gate lodge – after Canty’s death in 2000. Canty had also replaced a dining room window overlooking the gate lodge patio with doors when she added a small TV room (right side of exterior photo of the gate lodge, below). The carport, and most of the other alterations to the gate lodge, were undone within the next few years.

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The space where the original greenhouse stood has been like a missing tooth on a jack o’ lantern for almost 50 years. Could it be replicated? The Majors are not daunted by challenges. “No” is not in their vocabulary when it comes to the rehabilitation of Penwern. Didn’t they remove the large unsightly 1909 and 1910 additions that Jones had put on the main house? Didn’t they successfully fight for permission to rebuild the boathouse which had been destroyed by an arson fire in 1978? Why shouldn’t they rebuild the greenhouse, too?

Although the greenhouse is the most dramatic new addition to the estate, the 2020 summer season will now be remembered for the realization of a number of other projects around the gate lodge as well:

  1. A new stucco chimney, like the original one, replaces the brick chimney that has been atop the structure for years

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2) The doors leading from the gate lodge dining room to the patio have been replaced by the original window, below right:

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3) And, finally, but not least, the original semicircular boulder wall east of the water tower has been reconstructed. Architectural designer Robert Hartmann, who had meticulously studied Wright’s drawings, realized that much of the wall was missing. The semicircular design was important because it echoes the trio of semicircular porches at the main house and the great arches at the house and the boathouse.

Avery_FLW_4207_002.jpg© 2020 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. All rights reserved. (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

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Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 035.jpgMark Hertzberg – April 2020

20200406_085611.jpgEmily Smith – April 2020

One can easily surmise why the Majors undertook the greenhouse project, but let John Major tell us. “At one level, we rebuilt the greenhouse to complete the last piece of the original design. But, as we got into it, we realized that the greenhouse is a quintessential example of FLW design. Small becomes large; large becomes small; a huge space that minimally impacts the landscape around it. It’s to us, what FLW was all about. We’re expecting that people will be shocked. I know we are as it is coming together.” Shocked? “People were when we showed them the entry leading to the dining room for the first time. This will be more show.”

Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 014.jpgMark Hertzberg – April 2020

Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 018.jpgTravis Orient places sklylight panels.  Mark Hertzberg – April 2020

Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 021.jpgMark Hertzberg – April 2020

Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 022.jpgMark Hertzberg – April 2020

Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 025.jpgPaul Kenyon seals the panels. Mark Hertzberg – April 2020

Penwern Greenhouse 4.2.20 016.jpgMark Hertzberg – April 2020

Emily Smith – April 2020

And what about the rest of the work at the gate lodge? “The dining room is now better balanced and the view of the lakeside of the gatehouse is much more balanced as it was intended to be. The doors were put in when the previous owner added a small TV room. When we removed the TV room, we put off replacing the doors.  Once we found the original window, we were ready to complete the work.

“The brick chimney is being replaced with a stucco chimney as the original drawings say it should be [indeed early historic photos show the stucco chimney]. The brick chimney was ugly. The stucco chimney will be much nicer.”

The greenhouse will be a place for the Majors to entertain, which is fitting, because entertaining friends is arguably Penwern’s historic raison d’être. It was important, first to Jones, and then to the subsequent stewards of the estate. A nearly full kitchen will be adjacent, inside the base of the water tower. The walled area will have a patio and roses will bloom there.

Design work for the greenhouse and surrounding boulder wall was by DePietro Design Associates. Bill Orkild, master of most of the work at Penwern since the Majors came to the lake in 1994, rebuilt the wall, did the dining room work, and supervised the other work. The greenhouse was built by Arcadia Glasshouse of Madison, Ohio.

Orkild, who knows the estate more intimately than probably anybody in its history, offers his perspective on the project. “The challenges of this project were no different than many of the projects at Penwern. It is always a challenge to weave together old and new, Wright’s vision and practical use. Hiding new technology from view was another significant obstacle. The physical challenge of outdoor work in the winter, wresting boulders in excess of 200 pounds, and wet clay clinging to boots was a daily battle.

“My greatest takeaway from the project was an overwhelming positive feeling I received from working with so many smart, strong and enthusiastic young people.  It was a pleasure to see there bright eyes and beaming smiles every day.  They were strong enough to make up for my weakness, enthusiastic enough to work through the rain, wind and cold, smart enough to laugh at my jokes.  All is good with the world. The young people have this.”

20200403_140929.jpgPaul Kenyon, left, Jason Janke, and Travis Orient built the greenhouse. Emily Smith – 2020

Visitors to Penwern likely take Orkild’s work for granted. They should not. He is the Wizard of Penwern, and much happens behing the scenes before Orkild work his magic for us to see: “Here’s how I made the greenhouse perfectly plumb and square for a snug glass house fit.  I built a platform on top of the coping stone.  This guaranteed me square without movement and something to stand on.  In my shop, I built a precise end wall form with knee wall height and roof pitch.  Bracing the end wall form to the platform assured me plum.  Then I was able to saw cut, grind and chip out the original tower stone to create a flat channel to accept the end of the glass house.  The process was repeated on the north end to form a concrete ledge.

20200117_134213.jpgBill Orkild – 2020

20200120_125150.jpgBill Orkild – 2020

Bill Orkild -April 2020

Now you know how to do it for your next project,” Orkild writes, certainly with a grin, as he finishes his email message!

Penwern: The Next Chapter

Contemporary photos and text © Mark Hertzberg (2019)

Frank Lloyd Wright Drawings: © 2019 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

2019 Reconstruction drawings © Russell J. DePietro, Architect/ DePietro Design Associates

Penwern Greenhouse and Wall 8.7.19 015.jpg

The gate lodge at Penwern, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fred B. Jones estate on Delavan Lake in Wisconsin (1903) was significantly altered in the 1970s and 1980s. Among the changes were the loss of  the gate lodge greenhouse, which though commercially built, was shown on Wright’s drawings, and about half of the semi-circular boulder wall which formed the east perimeter of the gate lodge property, past the greenhouse and gate lodge water tower.

Gate Lodge 003.jpgThe greenhouse is shown at left, between the gate lodge water tower and the semi-circular boulder wall. Photo courtesy of John Hime. The two historic photos below are thought to have been taken in 1935, two years after Jones died, while the estate was still in probate. They are courtesy of Betty Schacht, whose grandparents were the caretakers of Penwern at the time.

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Historic_Scan_13a.jpg

Canty Carport removal.jpgThe greenhouse had deteriorated significantly by the 1970 when it was replaced by a carport. The Majors had the carport removed after acquiring the gate lodge in 2001 (they had bought the rest of the estate in 1994). Photo courtesy of Bill Orkild.

Sue and John Major, stewards of Penwern since 1994, are taking another step in the restoration of the estate this fall, having commissioned Bill Orkild of Copenhagen Construction to reconstruct both the greenhouse and the wall. Orkild is working from drawings prepared by architect Russell J. DePietro of DePietro Design Associates in Delavan. DePietro was able to study Wright’s extant drawings:

LR Gate Lodge 2nd floor, Greenhouse.jpg

LR DePietro Greenhouse 1 Side Elevation.jpg

LR DePietro Greenhouse Overall Plan.jpg

DePietro is no stranger to restoring and reconstructing Wright’s work, having worked with the Majors since their first project at Penwern, the removal of Jones’s two non-Wright (and unsightly) 1909/10 additions to the main house. He says, “I feel it’s an honor to work on a Frank Lloyd Wright restoration. I was very fortunate and I am forever thankful to the Majors for reaching out to me to help with the restoration, starting with the house and tearing off the additions to it.” DePietro has played a major role in every project at Penwern since then, including making the main house structurally sound, restoring the stable, rebuilding the boathouse from Wright’s plans in 2005 (it was destroyed in an arson fire in 1978), and in 2015 building new side porches that were in keeping with Wright’s plans for the main house.

DePietro, a native of upstate New York, and an architectural graduate of the University of Illinois, opened his office in 1985. But he was no stranger to Wright’s work. “I’ve studied most of the Master Architects’ during my career and became a Frank Lloyd Wright fan years ago at the age of 17 when my uncle took me to New York City to tour the Guggenheim Museum.  I’ve explored Taliesin in Spring Green, the Dana House in Springfield, Illinois, the Johnson Wax Headquarters in Racine, his Oak Park studio, the Oak Park, Illinois homes, Unity Temple and I’ve studied a number of
his other works over the years.  I’m planning on touring Taliesin West in Scottsdale this coming January/ February 2020.”

Architectural designer Robert Hartmann was the first to notice the significance of  half the boulder wall missing when he carefully studied Wright’s plans in 2017.  He pointed out that the lines (right, in the drawing below) echo the curves and arches that are prevalent in the main house and the boathouse.

LR Gate Lodge 1st floor, Greenhouse, Curved Wall.jpg

LR Orkild hat and Hartmann 001.jpgHartmann, left, and Orkild compare Wright’s drawings to buildings at Penwern.

LR Gate Lodge North, Greenhouse.jpg

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It is thought that the boulder wall was partially demolished after the property was subdivided in 1989 and a driveway was built for the new adjoining home.

Penwern Greenhouse and Wall 8.7.19 009.jpg

Penwern Greenhouse and Wall 8.7.19 008.jpgThe remaining original boulders (sometimes referred to as “bowlders” on Wright’s drawings, were marked and will be replaced whenever possible along the new wall structure.

Penwern Greenhouse and Wall 8.7.19 001.jpg

Jones was passionate about growing roses in his greenhouse but the new greenhouse will be used as an entertainment space, surrounded by roses on the outside patio. It is expected that the work will be completed by late fall.

Upcoming Penwern illustrated talks:

Tuesday August 20, 2 p.m., Geneva Lake Museum in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Thursday September 12, Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, co-sponsored by The Cliff Dwellers, the Society of Architectural Historians, Friends of Downtown, and AIA Chicago.

Cocktails: Cash bar opens at 4:30 p.m. Free Program: Begins 6:15 p.m. Dinner: Available after the program, a la carte. Reservations for dinner are requested: reservations@cliff-chicago.org or call 312-922-8080. Discount parking is available after 4:00 at the garage located at 17 E. Adams – enter on Adams between Wabash and State.  Ask for a discount coupon at the check-in desk.

 

 

Penwern Publication Progress

(c) 2018 Mark Hertzberg / Book cover (c) 2018 Brad Norr Design

Sue and John Major, stewards of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fred B. Jones estate (Penwern) on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin asked me to write and photograph a book about Jones and about Penwern in 2013. The book is now finished and in the design stage, with publication next spring by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. We now have a cover to show you!

FLW Penwern_small.jpg

We never anticipated that this would be a five-year project, but it proved to be challenging to research the book, especially because there is no known extant correspondence between Jones and Wright. The book is based on as much original research as possible, and dispels a number of things that have been written about Penwern in the past (including the origin of the name of the estate). I found only a handful of photos of Jones, just one of him at Penwern likely taken when he was about 65, twenty-five years after Penwern was built. It was almost four years before I found any adjectives describing Jones’ affable personality, a quality I had guessed but could not document until Patrick J. Mahoney and Eric O’Malley unearthed obscure articles about Jones from 1888 and 1912 in a trade journal and in a newspaper article about his work.

Wisconsin Public Television videotaped an illustrated talk I give about Penwern at the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Wade House last spring. It is an hour long and can be viewed here:

https://wpt4.org/wpt-video/university-place/penwern-a-frank-lloyd-wright-summer-place-utz1yf/

But of course you need to buy the book to see many more contemporary and historic photographs and read much more about this wonderful estate and its stewards since 1900!

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.

Gatehouse East Wall 012.jpg

-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.

Side Porch 029.jpg

-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.

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!

 

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.jpg

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)

Foster House 001.jpg

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?

Wright in Miniature

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

SCJ Olsen Wright models 003 LR.jpg

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):

SCJ Olsen Wright models 040 LR.jpg

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:

SCJ Olsen Wright models 035 LR.jpg

SCJ Olsen Wright models 028 LR.jpg

“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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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:

porch wall 015

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