What is in your basement?

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2020

In the case of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hillside Theatre at Taliesin, there are some Pyrex-glass window tubes and thousands of roof tiles. The window tubes are thought to be related to the SC Johnson Research Tower, designed in 1943/44 and constructed 1947-1950, according to Kyle Dockery, Collections Coordinator for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. The Tower has 17.5 miles of the tube windows (the Administration Building, designed in 1936 has 43 miles of the window tubes).

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Dockery says there are between 30,000-50,000 clay roof tiles which were made by Ludowici Roof Tiles for the Theatre.

Hillside Theater 2018 016.jpg“They were removed and replaced with the rolled rubber roofing in 1968 after a stack of extra tiles which had been set aside to repair the roof fell over and damaged a truck. The structure of the roof meant that the tiles needed constant maintenance and replacement so plenty of extras were kept on hand.” 

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I unexpectedly got to see these generally unseen artifacts in the basement when I was working with Dockery to photograph the newly-restored curtain in the Hillside Theatre in June. A shortcut to the dining room to photograph the curtain from the dining room balcony took us through the basement.

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Hillside’s Restored Theatre Curtain

All photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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The view from backstage: Some water stains are visible

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Happy 152nd Birthday, Frank Lloyd Wright

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

It is always a joy to mark Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday at Taliesin at a party hosted by the always-gracious Minerva Montooth and Taliesin Preservation. The celebration, which is always on a Saturday, was on June 8, his birth date.This year we had the privilege of staying overnight at Taliesin for the first time because I was giving a presentation the next day at Hillside about my new book about Penwern, the Fred B. Jones estate on Delavan Lake.

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Caroline Hamblen, left, Director of Programs, and Kyle Adams, Events Manager, show Minerva the traditional Frank Lloyd Wright birthday cake, made from his favorite cake recipe.

 

Dixie Legler Guerrero chats with Minerva.

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2019 Wright Birthday 011.jpgCarrie Rodamaker, Executive Director of Taliesin Preservation, speaks under a lovely evening sky. This year’s guests were not subjected to the heat and humidity that has beset past birthday celebrations.2019 Wright Birthday 023.jpg

2019 Wright Birthday 015.jpgAaron Betsky, Dean of the School of Architecture at Taliesin

2019 Wright Birthday 017.jpgBenjamin Feiner played for the guests.

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2019 Wright Birthday 031.jpgMinerva holds Fifi as the celebration winds down at 9:30 p.m.

 

Photographing Familiar Wright Sites, Part 2

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

A few weeks ago I posted photos that showed new things I saw at Frank Lloyd Wright sites that I had visited “umpteen” times. I was helping lead a Road Scholar tour and had told the guests that one of the joys of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture is the challenge of seeing his work in new ways on return visits. For me that means I have a personal challenge to see new things to photograph. On my visit to Taliesin last Friday – just two weeks after my last visit with a Road Scholar group – I saw many new things. One cannot help but be on the lookout for new things with Cate Boldt as docent (and that is not to diminish her colleagues’ skills, but, well, Cate is Cate!).

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I cannot count the number of times I have been in the living room at Taliesin and seen the piano. This was the first time I saw it this way and thought about Wright and his apprentices sitting next to the windows and gazing out at the “Valley of the Almighty Joneses” (the late Edgar Tafel, one of the first Taliesin Fellowship apprentices, often told of Wright directing him, “Edgarrrrr, play some Bach!”). Hats off to Cate for sending me into the small kitchen adjacent to the living room to look for our friend Minerva Montooth!

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How many times have I seen the old drafting tables in the original drafting room? This is the first time I have seen photographs in them:

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This is what Wright called “the belvidere,” framed by the wisteria plants outside his bedroom:

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I led my last post with a view of the farmland framed by a window near the bird walk. I saw more things framed by windows this visit. Two photos look abstract because I shot them as my camera’s autofocus was hunting for a focus spot:

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And, seen from the entrance to Hillside Theatre:

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Sometimes the architecture itself frames our view:

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Sometimes the red shuttle bus can add a point of interest, instead of being an element to crop out of the photo:

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The next two photos are from the Jacobs 1 House and the Unitarian Meeting House in Madison:

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While I have your attention, on June 14 Nick Hayes, steward of the Elizabeth Murphy American System-Built house in Shorewood (Milwaukee) will present a program about the house and the ASB homes in Milwaukee. I encourage you to hear his presentation:

https://uwm.edu/sce/courses/how-frank-lloyd-wright-built-an-artistic-legacy-from-a-tiny-house/

 

 

Stuart Graff at Taliesin

All photos (c) 2018 Mark Hertzberg

Most of my blog posts have photos of buildings, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, to be sure. This is a different kind of post. In June Jeff Goodman, Director of Marketing and Communication of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, assigned me to photograph Stuart Graff, the President and CEO of the Foundation, at Taliesin. I had two hours to decide how and where to photograph Stuart in the context of Wright’s home and studio in Spring Green. Stuart chose to wear the hat that has been recently fashioned in the style of Wright’s famous porkpie hat for some of the photos. Here are some of the results, presented in the order in which they were taken. Enjoy the photos, and let us know your favorite one(s) in the comments!

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Reflecting on Wright at Taliesin

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wright 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?

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:

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

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Taliesin, Spring Green:

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Unitarian Meeting House, Madison

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Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Wauwatosa:

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

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SC Johnson Administration Building, Racine:

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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

Tan-y-Deri Porch Restored

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

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Completion of the multi-year comprehensive restoration of Tan-y-Deri was celebrated last Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony as a start to Taliesin’s celebration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday. The three organizations charged with maintaining the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin celebrated their collaboration on this project: Taliesin Preservation, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and the School of Architecture at Taliesin. The porch, perhaps better referred to as a terrace since it is only accessible from the interior, was the final piece of the project. It has been reconstructed to how it looked between 1939 – 1956. I had an opportunity Saturday to photograph the first floor of the house before the Wright birthday dinner. The Romeo and Juliet Windmill is nearby, and is in some photos. The early evening light, at the end a rainy day, was particularly welcome and lovely that day. We had driven to Taliesin under cloudy skies, and I had been pessimistic about having good light for photos.

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Wright designed the house in 1907 for Jane and Andrew Porter, his sister and brother-in-law, four years before designing Taliesin. The name of the house is Welsh for “under the oaks.” Andrew Porter was then the business manager for the nearby Hillside Home and School, run by Wright’s aunts. Tan-y-Deri 2017 010.jpgTan-y-Deri 2017 017.jpg

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Tour du Taliesin

(c) Mark Hertzberg

About 50 bicyclists chose between 38 and 100 mile routes Sunday May 22 during the first Tour du Taliesin bicycle ride. The fund-raiser began at the Visitors Center and ended with a cookout below Tan-y-deri, across from Taliesin.

Robert and Donna  from West Bend finish their ride:

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Ride 00Michael and Aaron Collins from Madison relax across from Taliesin:

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Ride 2A distinctive logo was designed for the ride that benefitted Taliesin Preservation, Inc.:

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