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

 

 

 

Mr. Peterson’s Lovely Cottage

Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

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At age 90 Frank Lloyd Wright may have met his match in audacity in young Seth Peterson, 23, around 1958. Peterson had long admired Wright’s work when he set his sights on a cottage designed by the master of organic architecture for land he purchased overlooking Mirror Lake in south central Wisconsin. Wright was not seeking new commissions, and he turned down the eager young man. But Peterson was resourceful and sent Wright a $1000 retainer which the architect spent, obligating him to design a home for Peterson and his intended bride.

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Seth Peterson, photo courtesy of the Seth Peterson Cottage Conservancy

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Construction had begun when Peterson, despondent over the end of his relationship with his fiancé and real and perceived problems with finishing the house committed suicide at age 24. Another owner finished the project, although not entirely to Wright’s specifications. The cottage fell into disrepair and deteriorated significantly after the State of Wisconsin purchased it in 1966 to be part of the new Mirror Lake State Park and boarded it up, having no immediate use for it. A heroic rehabilitation was undertaken by the Seth Peterson Cottage Conservancy which was formed in 1989. John Eifler was the architect for the work, in concert with many volunteer workers (the story of the rehabilitation of the cottage is on the Conservancy’s website:  Seth Peterson Cottage Conservancy )

When the cottage was opened up for overnight rentals it was the only such Wright site in America.

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The term cottage is certainly relative. While Wright’s summer “cottage” for Fred B. Jones on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin is 6500 sq. ft. with its gatehouse, the Seth Peterson Cottage is just 880 sq. ft. and was intended as a year-round residence.  The panoramic vista into the woods is visible on two or three sides from the living room, dining room and tiny kitchen or workspace, depending where one is sitting or standing. The surrounding trees have matured significantly since Peterson first conceived of a cottage overlooking the lake so it is difficult to see the much of the lake from the house (Department of Natural Resources policies govern the site so trees cannot be cut down).

The word “photography” means “writing with light.” The photos below not only show the inside of the cottage, but also how nature “writes with light” at this lovely wooded site.

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Morning light projected onto the masonry in the bedroom: Seth Peterson Cottage 056.jpg

The windows in the corners, including the clerestory windows, are mitered:

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Seth Peterson Cottage 064.jpgWindows: Wright’s Prairie-style homes are known for his leaded glass designs, his Usonian homes are known for the unique pattern he designed for the clerestory windows of each house. Part of the pattern for the Cottage clerestory windows is evocative of the surrounding trees:

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Seth Peterson Cottage 082.jpgSeth Peterson Cottage 073.jpgThe public and private (one bedroom) space wrap in a “U’ around the hearth. The bedroom can be screened off from the living room by means of a closet door which can fold out into a double-width door in the hallway between the bedroom and living room.

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The bird feeder, which echoes the pattern of the clerestory windows, is popular with raccoons in the evening:

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The requisite selfie!

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Visit the Conservancy’s website for more information about the Cottage and to make reservations to stay there. But, be forewarned, it is often booked more than a year in advance.

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New stewards for Wright in Shorewood

(c) 2016 Mark Hertzberg

Angela and Nicholas Hayes joined the Wright family at the end of 2016 when they became the new stewards of the Elizabeth Murphy American System-Built house (1917) at 2106 E. Newton Ave. in Shorewood (near Milwaukee). The house, which was altered in the 1970s with the addition of a basement-level garage, was documented as one of Wright’s American System-Built homes in June, 2015. The siding, which either covers stucco, or more likely replaced it, also masks its Wright heritage. Still, Nicholas notes, ” The entire home remains as drawn, down to the knobs on the dining cabinets.”

The story of the announcement of the re-discovery of the house as one of Wright’s is at https://wrightinracine.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/newly-discovered-wright-home-near-milwaukee/LR ASB Newton 0002.jpg

 

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The Hayes outlined their interest in Wright and commitment to staying in Shorewood in a letter to the previous stewards, Roger and Pat Wisialowski. The letter, which accompanied their offer to purchase, follows:

“Both lifelong Milwaukeeans, we came to Shorewood 21 years ago to raise our kids among lovely neighbors and homes like yours. We lovingly upgraded our own home and gardens, I built businesses nearby, and Angela became the Art Teacher at Atwater School, where she teaches Shorewood children about local art and architecture, among other things. One of her class projects was to recreate Shorewood facades in clay after hiking neighborhoods, talking about history and engineering, and making 2D pencil sketches. Hundreds of colorful miniatures of familiar homes rest on Shorewoodian fireplace mantels alongside student-signed architectural renderings as provenance.

“With our adult daughters now in college, we’re entering a new chapter: we plan to stay in Shorewood, where we hope to give back. We think your home is an important key.

“Like you, we plan to be attentive and careful stewards and archivists while we live at 2106 East Newton. We will protect its glory, celebrate its importance, and secure its future. We plan to study every detail of Wright’s plans and workmanship and make sure that they remain intact and fresh. We will invest in and care for the home and yard as an important artistic and civic statement.

“To that end, Angela is already supplementing her curriculum to teach students about Wright’s vision, genius and aesthetic through her own experience of living in it. I’ve read every word written about the home since your discovery and will continue to engage the experts to try to uncover new clues and details about its place in our neighborhood. The home will remain a well-cared-for showpiece, although it will not be trampled by tourists. It will stay a private, quiet neighborhood gem, while also, importantly, creating a direct, tangible teaching moment for local kids.”

The Hayes are excited about the discoveries they have made in just a few weeks: “We’ve made some amazing discoveries in one short month: the original porch floor paint was hidden under carpet and parquet. Maple floors run throughout the upstairs (most were covered by linoleum and carpet). The all-birch cabinetry and trim can be painstakingly returned to original with classic materials: vinegar, steel wool, shellac and of course, time.” They are posting their progress on Twitter, including the following pictures, used with their permission.DSC_5302.jpegDSC_5304.jpegDSC_5300.jpeg

 

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

Summer and Fall at Penwern

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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They also uncovered a cistern at the gate lodge:

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

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

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The stable and the house:

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The gate lodge:

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

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