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

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

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

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

 

 

 

Wright: “Buildings for the Prairie”

Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

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There are myriad celebrations of the sesquicentennial of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth. It is a challenge for curators to decide how to present his career for both people well-versed in his work as well as for people who may be exposed to his designs for the first time. The Milwaukee Art Museum celebrates his work with drawings and artifacts related to his legendary Wasmuth Portfolio of 1910-11. The exhibition, “Frank Lloyd Wright: Buildings for the Prairie,” opened Friday July 28.

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One of the highlights of the exhibition is a wood case for a rare original copy of the Wasmuth Portfolio. This portfolio was donated to the museum by the Demmer Charitable Trust in 2014. Wright had hoped to promote his revolutionary designs and ideas with the portfolio. At a crossroads of his career, he sold some of his valued Japanese prints to help fund the project. His reputation was tattered by his affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, a client, after they left their respective families in 1909 and traveled to Berlin. He looked forward to beginning anew in America after his return in 1911. But, some 500 copies were destroyed in the 1914 fire at Taliesin; only about 30 copies survived.

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Robert and Jeanne Maushammer, left and right, and Diane Kehl, among the first visitors to the exhibit, study the wood case and portfolio. The showcase with these artifacts is at the north entrance to the exhibit hall. The Maushammers came from Virginia to see the exhibit. 

The museum exhibit highlights Wright’s work starting with the Winslow House (1893)  which in 1954 he deemed his first Prairie-style home, and including more than a dozen other commissions presented in the Wasmuth Portfolio.

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Visitors can use touch-screens to enlarge and studies drawings in the Wasmuth Portfolio including ones that are not on exhibit. 

While most of the work displayed are drawings and floor plans from the Portfolio, the exhibit also includes a number of artifacts, some loaned by the SC Johnson Company of Racine (which has them on longterm loan from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation).

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Robert Maushammer studies a skylight grill from the Avery Coonley house in Riverside, Illinois (ca. 1909).

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SC Johnson lent the museum one of the well known colorful windows from the Avery Coonley Playhouse.

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One of the leaded glass cabinet doors for the Heath House in Buffalo (1905) is displayed.

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Wall sconces and a hanging lamp from the Heath House are also on display.

Other architects and designers worked with Wright before he left for Berlin. The Wasmuth Portfolio was important to their careers, as well. George Mann Niedecken, a Milwaukee designer, worked closely with him on a number of the Prairie-style homes, designing murals, carpets, and furniture. The museum is home to the Niedecken archives, and some of his work is on exhibit. MAM FLW 2017 Exhibit 012.jpg

Niedecken designed this writing desk, daybed, and lamp for the Edward P. Irving home in Decatur, Illinois. The design was in the concept stage when Wright left for Europe. It is thought to have been mainly completed by Marion Mahony, his chief draftsperson, under Wright’s guidance.

The exhibit runs through October 15. An exhibition catalogue is on sale in the Wright gift shop at the north end of the exhibition. The price is $17.95 for members, $19.95 for non-members. For more information:

https://mam.org/exhibitions/details/Frank.php

 

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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First Wright Heritage Trail Signage Placed on I-94

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2016

The new Frank Lloyd Wright Trail was dedicated this morning in Madison. The trail, which runs from the Illinois – Wisconsin state line to Richland Center, is a joint effort by the state departments of tourism and transportation to highlight the rich heritage of Wright’s work in his native state. About 142 signs have been placed in the last few weeks on I-94 and other highways marking the path to nine Wright sites.

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed the bipartisan bill establishing the Trail in a ceremony at Taliesin in March:

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Signs directing motorists to specific public sites such as the SC Johnson Administration Building and Research Tower and Wingspread in Racine will be erected in spring.

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A link to the Department of Tourism page with the official map follows:

http://www.travelwisconsin.com/frank-lloyd-wright

Wright at SCJ

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg for SC Johnson

SC Johnson announces “Building Relationships: Wright, Johnson, and the SC Johnson Campus,” the fifth iteration of its Frank Lloyd Wright at Home exhibit in Fortaleza Hall on the company campus in Racine, Wis. The exhibit opens Friday May 6. The exhibit traces the design of the Administration Building (1936) and the Research Tower (1944) as well as touching on Wright’s influence on Norman Foster’s design of Fortaleza Hall on the company campus, and Santiago Calatrava’s Quadracci Pavilion at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

LR FLW & SCJ 006.jpgChris Eyerly’s cutaway LEGO model of the Research Tower is one of the first exhibits. LR FLW & SCJ 014.jpg

A mural of the Great Workroom is the backdrop to selected pieces of office furniture that Wright designed for the Administration Building. The American Metal Furniture Co., later Steelcase, was commissioned to build the furniture. Steelcase bought and restored Wright’s Meyer May House in the 1980s as a “thank you” to Wright for giving them the commission during the Great Depression. The highlight of that portion of the exhibit is a suspended or “exploded” desk chair, enabling viewers to see each element of Wright’s design.

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The Norman Foster building and Calatrava’s museum addition are in the last salon of the exhibit, near a video which tells three stories in succession: historic footage of the famous column test at the Administration Building in June, 1937 and time lapse videos of Fortaleza Hall’s and the museum’s construction. Foster’s challenge was to build an inspiring building in the shadows of Wright’s two landmark buildings on the SCJ campus. Calatrava visited the campus as he was designing the museum addition. Wright’s organic architecture is said to have inspired the way he linked downtown Milwaukee to the lakefront museum addition to the original Eero Saarinen building (and its first addition).

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Reservations for free tours of the exhibit, Wright buildings, and Wingspread can be made at: www.scjohnson.com/visit

Frank Lloyd Wright Trail signed into law.

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2016

Walker Wright Heritage Trail

Commemorative pens that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will use to sign the bipartisan bill to fund a Frank Lloyd Wright Trail between Racine and Richland Center, are on Wright’s table in his drafting room at Taliesin, his home in Spring Green, Monday March 21, 2016. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

The law provides $50,000 funding for highway signs and other marketing to promote Wright’s work in Wisconsin, from the Illinois/Wisconsin state line on I-94 through Racine, Madison, and Spring Green, and ending at the A.D. German Warehouse in Richland Center. Milwaukee is not included in the signage because Wright sites they are not open enough hours and it was thought it best not to divert travelers to sites they might find closed. Three sites in Racine will be included: the SC Johnson Administration Building, the SC Johnson Research Tower, and Wingspread.

Walker Wright Heritage Trail

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker walks out on the cantilevered balcony outside the living room at Taliesin before he signs the bipartisan bill to fund the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail, Monday March 21, 2016. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Walker Wright Heritage Trail

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, center, chats with the bill’s sponsors on the cantilevered balcony outside the living room at Taliesin before he signs the bipartisan bill to fund the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail, Monday March 21, 2016. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Walker Wright Heritage Trail

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, right, chats with state representatives Cory Mason (D-Racine) and Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) and State Sen. Howard Marklein (R- Spring Green), the sponsors of Assembly Bill 512, the bipartisan bill to fund a Frank Lloyd Wright Trail between Racine and Richland Center, in the living room at Taliesin, Wright’s home in Spring Green, Monday March 21, 2016. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Walker Wright Heritage Trail

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signs the bill to fund the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail between Racine and Richland Center, in Wright’s drafting room at Taliesin, his home in Spring Green, Monday March 21, 2016. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Walker Wright Heritage Trail

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is applauded after he signs the bipartisan bill to fund a Frank Lloyd Wright Trail between Racine and Richland Center, in Wright’s drafting room at Taliesin, his home in Spring Green, Monday March 21, 2016. Looking on are Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine), left, Sen. Howard Marklein (R- Spring Green), Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville), who introduced the bill, and State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), a co-sponsor / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Walker Wright Heritage Trail

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed the bipartisan bill to fund a Frank Lloyd Wright Trail between Racine and Richland Center, in Wright’s drafting room at Taliesin, his home in Spring Green, Monday March 21, 2016. / (c) Mark Hertzberg

Celebrating Wright’s Birthday

Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright’s 148th birthday was celebrated at a traditional gathering at Taliesin Saturday June 6 and a day later at SC Johnson in Racine, Wisconsin. Wright designed the company’s Administration Building in 1936 and Research Tower in 1943/44.

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark HertzbergSean Malone chats with Minerva Montooth during the reception at Taliesin.

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Ron McCrea enjoys playing the living room piano when he visits Taliesin.

The reception at Taliesin was followed by dinner – including a birthday cake – and music at Hillside School:

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Prairie 50th Graduation

SC Johnson’s celebration was held in Fortaleza Hall, designed by Lord Norman Foster and partners. There were two sheet cakes and a large cake modeled after Wright’s buildings. The base below the model building was made from compressed Rice Krispie treats and chocolate mix.

Children played with Lincoln Logs, a toy invented by John Lloyd Wright

Bob and Jeanne Maushammer wanted their picture taken with a life-size cutout photo of Wright. The Maushammers, who have seen several hundred of Wright’s buildings, were in their hometown of Racine to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

New Wright exhibition at SC Johnson opens

Photos by Mark Hertzberg (c) for SC Johnson

SCJ Wasmuth

Wright’s 1910 Wasmuth Portfolio is the theme of the fourth annual exhibition in the “At Home with Frank Lloyd Wright” gallery in Fortaleza Hall on the SC Johnson campus in Racine, Wis. Fifty lithographs from the portfolio and artifacts from the Dana House and the Heath House, among others, are exhibited:

SCJ Wasmuth SCJ Wasmuth

SCJ Wasmuth

Weekend tours now also include H.F. Johnson Jr.’s office in the Wright-designed Administration Building (1936). The office has been refurbished with period furniture and company artifacts for the tours. Johnson commissioned Wright to designed the Administration Building, the SC Johnson Research Tower (1943/44), Wingspread (his home, 1937), the unrealized Racine YWCA (1949/50), an unrealized remodeling at the Racine Airport (1941), and several unrealized buildings at Wingspread.

HF Office

HF Office

HF Office

Wright – and others close to Johnson – called him “Hib”.

SCJ Wasmuth

For information and required tour reservations go to: www.scjohnson.com/visit

SCJ Research Tower: Imitation is Flattery

(c) Mark Hertzberg If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery (Charles Caleb Colton, 1820), then Frank Lloyd Wright’s SC Johnson Research Tower has many admirers. The latest incarnation of the Tower is a Lego model built by Chris Eyerly of Kenosha. It is displayed in Fortaleza Hall on the company campus.

Lego Research Tower

The first spin-off of the Tower was a desk lighter commissioned by H.F. Johnson Jr. in 1946, the year before construction began, to mark the company’s 50th anniversary. Famed industrial design Brooks Stevens delighted in “literally knocking the great Wright down to size” when he designed the lighter, according to Glenn Adamson, who profiled Stevens in 2003 for an exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Tower Lighter

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It was followed sometime after 1960 by a Christmas candle. While the lighters are collectors’ items today, fetching prices up to $700 on sites like eBay, the candle was not as successful, according to the late Serge Logan, who worked in community relations for the company. People liked the “gorgeous smell,” Logan recalled, “I think we got them in Maine somewhere because of the smell of the pines.” But the company that made the candles did not pack them well enough, and many cracked during shipping.

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There was also a golden charm of the Tower offered for sale to employees in 1971 for $5. It was made by Tiffany & Company. It was packaged in a blue leatherette jewelry case with the Tiffany trademark.

Tower Tiffany Pin

Eyerly, 39, is an IT security engineer who enjoys challenging himself by designing Lego models. He incorporates his admiration of Wright’s work into his hobby. The Tower is his second Wright Lego creation. Six years ago he used 15,000 of the plastic building bricks to make a four-foot wide model of the Frederick Robie House in Chicago.

Lego Research Tower

He uses practical considerations in deciding what to build, “If certain Lego pieces fit the shape of the building, that’s a key that’s something I can build. The round corners (of the Tower) were just the right shape. Realizing I could accomplish that was the impetus I could build that building.”

Lego Research Tower

SC Johnson gave him PDF copies of some of the original drawings for the building. Eighty hours later, over some two and a half months in the summer of 2012, up to 6,000 Lego blocks in eight colors had been transformed into an almost three-foot tall model of Wright’s landmark Tower.

Lego Research Tower

Eyerly planned one floor of the Tower model in a computer Lego CAD program to help him estimate how many pieces he would need. “I don’t do a ton in CAD. It’s mostly a free build, just snapping pieces together. I do a lot of math ahead of time. That’s why I like scale drawings, so I know how many studs (the round knob atop each brick) it needs to be.”

Lego Research Tower

His models don’t come together easily. He had to rebuild the Robie House four times, the Tower twice. “You get to a certain point and realize something won’t work and you take it apart and retry.”

Lego Research Tower

The company learned about the Tower model after Eyerly showed it at the Brick World Lego convention in Wheeling, Illinois, and invited him to display it at their headquarters. Eyerly enjoys peoples’ reactions to his models because they evoke emotional responses, he says. “Wright’s architecture is interesting. It often draws out memories from people. Often you get emotions or feelings from people. It often ties in personally for people, which makes it interesting for me to hear the stories.” That is even more the case with the Tower model because he knows many people who work at SC Johnson. His next model will be Wright’s Bernard Schwartz House (1939) in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Ironically, construction was supervised by Edgar Tafel, one of Wright’s original Taliesin Fellowship the apprentices. Tafel had already supervised construction of the SC Johnson Administration Building and Wingspread, as well as part of Fallingwater.

Photos / First Tower Tour

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg for SC Johnson

The first public guests to ever tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s SC Johnson Research Tower had about 45 minutes to explore the 1950s artifacts and displays about the architectural history of the building on two floors of the building, 3 Main and 3 Mezz, Friday morning. Interest in these first-ever tours has been so great that beginning in late May tours will be run five days a week through September, rather than only two days a week. These photos are from the first tour:

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And I leave you with one photo from the companion tour of the Administration Building:

First Tower Tour