Photos © Mark Hertzberg
One of the joys I have in visiting buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, cameras in hand, is noticing new details, no matter how many times I have been at a particular site. Sometimes it is a question of different lighting at a different time of day from my last visit, other times the photo comes from wondering why I had not noticed something before.
I had the pleasure of being a presenter at a dinner at Wingspread last Saturday to benefit RAM, the Racine Art Museum. It was the first social event held there since the start of the pandemic. I was there to give my “Wright in Racine” presentation, but I got there early enough to meet Marcus White the new (a year ago) president of The Johnson Foundation, and wander around looking for pictures. We gravitated first to the famous “crow’s nest” with its spiraling metal staircase. It is a feature that delighted H.F. Johnson Jr.’s children Karen and Sam when they moved into the house in the late 1930s.
I have climbed the crow’s nest many times, but tended to take pictures at the top, never looking at the stairs themselves. Last Saturday I was mesmerized by the stairs:
Marcus White turned the tables on me and took pictures of me at work.
I found new things to photograph upstairs on, and from the second floor, as well:
One of the first floor fireplaces is framed by the wood of the balcony
Late afternoon sun skims across the floor outside the master bedroom.
This mother is sitting in a planter off the second floor. Karen Johnson Boyd once saw a photo I had taken of a goose looking into her father’s bedroom, and said H.F. would have liked that sight. Below: the sun highlights an Administration Building desk chair and a desk lamp in Karen’s bedroom:
When I was writing my “Wright in Racine” book, Karen told me that it was sometimes a challenge sneaking past her father’s bedroom when she wanted to go out at night. One of the guests at the dinner told us that her father dated Karen in high school. One night they wanted to go to a party. He found a ladder in the carport, raised it against the cantilevered balcony outside her bedroom, and off they went to the party. That is the cantilevered balcony Karen had asked Wright for, like the one off Wright’s old office at Taliesin (the better known “birdwalk” balcony dates to the 1950s). Wright had told Karen that one day she would have suitors standing under the balcony, wooing her. Indeed!
Had I not been directed to a parking area other than the one I thought I should go to, I would not have seen the sun highlight the crow’s nest when I returned to my car. Note to Marcus…this is why that 300mm lens is in my trunk, ready for action.
The other speaker at the dinner was Bruce Pepich, executive director of RAM. He gave an illuminating talk about the work of Frances Myers, a Racine native, who was a distinguished print maker. Karen Johnson Boyd commissioned a series of prints of Wright-designed buildings. You can see them, and read about them, here: