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?

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SCJ Shapes

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

Circles seemed to be what caught my eye today when I shot a few quick pictures at SC Johnson today while accompanying 35 guests who are on a two-state Road Scholar / Jewish Community Center of Chicago architectural tour. These were taken in public areas where photos are allowed without special permission or arrangements.

SCJ 10.4.17 007.jpgThe Research Tower, upper right, peeks out from above the short columns on the walkway to the Administration Building carport.

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The carport presents a myriad of shapes to play with.

SCJ 10.4.17 014.jpgFinally, there is this picture at the entrance to the Administration Building.

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/

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Foster LR 2.jpg(c) 2017 The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

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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?

Stewardship of a Wright Home

(c) Mark Hertzberg

What does it take to be the steward – a better term than ‘owner’ – of a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright?

Last week I posted pictures which the late Eugene (Gene) Szymczak took in 1977 of what became his beloved Thomas P. Hardy House when he became its seventh steward in 2012. A few days later his family sent me a copy of an email Gene sent me in 2012, an email I had forgotten about. In it he describes his thoughts about his new stewardship of the house. His writing “I don’t know how long I’ll be there” is poignant and particularly moved his family because Gene fell ill and died unexpectedly December 3.

As you read the email, remember that when I showed Gene the house, which was distressed, he told me, “I don’t have children, this (buying it and rehabilitating it) is something I could do for Racine.”

His note is particularly apt this week as the stewards of dozens of Wright-designed buildings gather in New York City for the annual conference of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.

From: <EugeneS@>
Date: September 14, 2012 7:19:57 AM EDT
To: Mark Hertzberg
Subject: 1319
Hello Mark,

I have been born and raised in Racine.  I come from a working class family.  Racine has a reputation in history for doing the right thing.  It could be from fighting against slavery to having the first high school in the state to trying to rejuvenate River Bend. We do the right thing. We put others first and give back.  I am part of that heritage. I think that it was time for someone to assume stewardship of the house from Jim and Margaret.  The Youghourtjians have been good stewards for more than fourty years.  I don’t know how long I’ll be there.  It’s my turn to take care of the Hardy house.  It is a Racine and even a world landmark.

Attraction

The Hardy house is a home that most Racinians would recognize.  It evokes different reactions.  In 1905 it was called “kooky”.  To me it’s a song.  Wright was a middleman between humans and nature. He asks us where to we fit in nature?  How do we interact with living creatures?  What can we learn?  Do we enhance one another’s lives and the landscape?

Interest in Wright

I find that Wright looks a little deeper into life and introduces more questions than answers.  A little more understanding than strong judgement calls.  God (being Nature), has all the answers to what being here is all about.  To me he says be part of it all and share it unselfishly.

The black and white photo of the house were taken in 1978 [the prints indicate 1977] About when I bought a fancy camera.  I took pictures of my parents, the lake, and the Hardy house.  To me significant things.  I ended up returning the camera because I felt it was too expensive…lucky for you it was the end of my “career” in photography.

Gene

Gene Szymczak 002.jpgHardy Exteriors Post-Restoration 078.jpg

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:

Wingpsread LR 2.jpgWingpsread LR.jpg

SC Johnson Administration Building, Racine:

SCJ LR.jpgSCJ 5 LR.jpgSCJ 3 LR.jpgSCJ 6 LR.jpgSCJ 2 LR.jpgSCJ 4 LR.jpg

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

Back in the Pool at End of Summer

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2017)

The late Sam Johnson recalled that he fretted when it was time to move to Wingspread, the 14,000 sq. ft. home Frank Lloyd Wright designed in 1937 for his father, H.F. Johnson Jr. He was afraid his friends would no longer want to visit him once he moved so far from his home south of downtown Racine, Wisconsin, about seven miles away. He later said that he had no reason to fret once his friends learned the house had a swimming pool.

The house became home to the newly-formed Johnson Foundation in 1959. In September, 1961, the Foundation hosted a party for new teachers by the pool:

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(Photo courtesy of The Johnson Foundation)

The pool eventually fell into disrepair, and has been covered for many years. These aerial views show the pool, first in 2003, and then in 2009:

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Wingspread aerials 2009 008aa.jpgHere is how it looked June 21 after the cover was removed and preparations began to reconstruct the pool:Wingspread Pool 004.jpgAnd then on August 18 after the pool was framed in:Wingspread Pool 8.18.17 006.jpg

About 80 cubic yards of concrete were poured in the deep end of the pool August 30:

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Tom Drabender, the construction foreman for Riley Construction, watches the pour.

Although the pool is being rebuilt, it will be used as a water feature of the estate, rather than as a place to swim. The project is slated for completion late this year.

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

 

Spring Green Restaurant – Historic Photos

(c) Mark Hertzberg, 2017, with all photos (c) Robert Hartmann, 2017

Robert Hartmann’s passions when he was growing up included Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and photography. The result? Thirty historic photos by him of the construction of Wright’s Spring Green Restaurant, the building now known as the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center. It houses the Taliesin Bookstore and Riverview Terrace Cafe. The building also serves as the starting point for all tours of Taliesin.

Riverview Terrace-Spring Green restaurant-3-.jpgA vintage color photo from winter, 1967, of the recently completed Spring Green Restaurant. Hartmann notes that the original location of the old Wisconsin River bridge abuttment can be seen in the upper left of the photo. The pavilion which is still wrapped in plastic sheets, right, originally served as the sales and marketing office of the Wisconsin River Development Corporation headed by Racine businessman Willard Keland.

The building overlooks the Wisconsin River. Wright first designed an auto showroom, restaurant and home for Glen and Ruth Richardson for the site in 1943. His next proposal for the site, ten years later, was for a bridge-like restaurant. Construction had started when Wright died in 1959. Taliesin Associated Architects completed his design and construction in 1967 as part of a Wisconsin River Development Corporation plan from the late Willard Keland (of Wright’s Keland House in Racine).

Hartmann became interested in Wright’s work when he was just eight years old and saw Wright’s newly completed SC Johnson Research Tower in Racine in 1950. Six years later he borrowed his father’s Argus model C-3 35mm camera (which he notes, he never returned). He was working on his Master’s degree in Environmental Design at the University of Wisconsin in 1967. It was an opportunity for Hartmann to follow the progress of the construction of a Wright design. He thought, “It appeared that Wright’s Broadacre City was actually being built.”

An accomplished photographer, Hartmann often drove the half hour to Spring Green to document the construction in his compact gray Sunbeam Imp. He recalls, “Getting to The Spring Green Restaurant was as rewarding as reaching my destination. Driving west on Highway 14 took me through the wonderful small towns of Cross Plains, Black Earth, Mazomanie, Arena and Spring Green. These were the places that Wright had passed through so many times in his lifetime and have now become immortalized by way of mention in the many books and articles by and about Wright.”Riverview Terrace-Spring Green restaurant-4-1060899.jpgThis summer 1967 photo,with scaffolding still in place, captures The Spring Green restaurant as windows and exterior trim are nearing completion.

Riverview Terrace-Spring Green restaurant-5-5.jpgThis detail view shows the gable roof and original open terrace shortly after Wright’s building was completed. The open terrace on the right was later enclosed and covered with a flat roof by Taliesin Associated Architects, the successor firm to Frank Lloyd Wright.

The young graduate student – he was 25 –  carefully filed his three dozen color and black and white negatives and Polaroid instant photos of the construction, and moved onto a career as an architectural and industrial designer. He opened his own practice in Racine in 1980. The negatives would remain unprinted until this year.

Hartmann never lost his passion for Wright’s work. He is a former board member and past president of Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin (Wright in Wisconsin). This past spring Hartmann learned that Erik Flesch, director of development for Taliesin Preservation, Inc., was looking for ways to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the structure. Turning to the notebook with his negatives, Hartmann told Flesch about his archival photos. They arranged for 24 framed prints of the construction and an early renovation to be exhibited at the visitor center through the end of the year.

Riverview Terrace-Spring Green restaurant-2-22.jpgHartmann is a meticulous craftsman. Although he shot each photo in perhaps 1/125th of a second, he spent an estimated 1200 hours digitizing and making archival ink jet prints for the exhibition. The prints are 11″x14″ matted and framed to 16”x20”.

Spring Green Hartmann Flesch LR.jpgHartmann, left, and Flesch review the installation of Hartmann’s photos.

Lady Bird Johnson, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s wife, attended the dedication on September 22, 1967. A free public celebration of the 50th anniversary of the dedication will be held Friday September 22 be from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. with limited food service and a cash bar. A centerpiece of the anniversary celebration is the on-going exhibit of Hartmann’s photos which he never printed until this year.

 

Wingspread’s Swimming Pool

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2017Wingspread aerials 2009 009.jpg

The swimming pool at Wingspread (shown covered by a tarp in 2009) is an integral part of the grounds. It was filled with water, but was ornamental for many years, rather than being used, when it was drained after leaks were discovered more than 10 years ago.

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The fireplace on the pool deck:

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The pool is now being renovated, to be filled and again be a water feature of the house.

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The are two wonderful anecdotes about the pool. The first was told by the late Sam Johnson, whose father, H.F. Johnson Jr., commissioned the home by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1937. Sam Johnson in 2000:

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The Johnsons would be moving more than five miles from their home on Racine’s south side, near the SC Johnson offices and factory, to their new home in Wind Point, beyond the city limits. Sam feared not seeing his friends anymore. He had no reason to worry: once his friends learned Sam’s new home had a swimming pool, they were anxious to bike out to visit him.

The second anecdote was told by Edgar Tafel, the young apprentice who was in his mid-20s when Wright trusted him to supervise construction of the SC Johnson Administration Building and then of Wingspread. Tafel, one of the original Taliesin Fellowship apprentices (1932-1941) recalled agreeing to a change in the location of some plumbing for the pool in consultation with contractor Ben Wilteschek while Wright was in the Soviet Union.

Tafel at this Greenwich Village townhouse in 2007:

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Wright was livid about the change when he visited the construction site after returning to the United States. Tafel kept backing up to get away from the angry architect, and fell into the excavation for the pool. He said Wright glared down at him and said, “That serves you right.”

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Scott Poritz, Utility and Grading Superintendent of Wanasek Contractors, moves concrete slabs from the pool Friday July 7, 2017:

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The work is expected to be completed late this year by Riley Construction, the general contractor.