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Frank Lloyd Wright

2019-06-06 thru 2019-06-11 – Traveling West – Liberal, KS and then Home…

This morning we pulled out of the RV park in Liberal, KS, and pointed the Villa southwest.  In about three minutes we were in the far western part of the Oklahoma panhandle; about 90 minutes later we were in the far western part of the Texas panhandle; by noon we were in New Mexico…

These parts of Oklahoma and Texas look remarkably like Kansas…

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At one rest stop there were these nice little picnic shelters… Mid Century Modern!… Nice, but a little beat up…

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All day yesterday and all day today, until we entered New Mexico, we followed the railroad tracks.  About every ten miles we came to a small town dominated by these giant grain elevators or silos…

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The further we drove west the smaller and more distressed the towns were… Not being farming folk, we could not tell exactly what these facilities do, but we assume it is related to grain storage, food processing, feed production, or something like that…

By mid day we were at our campground in Tucumcari, NM.

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And, for the record, New Mexico does not look anything like Texas, Oklahoma, or Kansas:

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Happy Hours and a light supper ensued in the Villa; tomorrow we head towards Gallup, NM.

Friday morning dawned nice and cool, but the heat will be arriving soon.  We pointed the Villa west, towards Albuquerque and beyond…

The drive was uneventful, as expected…

New Mexico looks like this…

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At one rest stop we found this Scenic Historic Marker:

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We weren’t sure what it meant… east and west looked pretty much the same to us.  Yes, western New Mexico does has more hills.  We rose to almost 7,000′ elevation before dropping down to 5280′ elevation in Albuquerque…

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Then we went uphill again to 7,275′ elevation at the Continental Divide…

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We eventually arrived in Gallup, NM, at about 6,500′ elevation…

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The sky was beautiful, the sun was hot, but the winds made the 89 degree temperature bearable.  By early evening we were able to turn off the AC, and by sunrise tomorrow it is supposed to be 48 degrees…

Happy Hours and a light supper ensued in the Villa; tomorrow we head towards Kingman, AZ.

Saturday morning dawned nice and cool, but the heat will be arriving soon.  We pointed the Villa west, towards Winslow, Flagstaff, Williams, and Kingman…

The drive was uneventful, as expected…

Arizona looks like this…

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We drove for about six hours, taking time for rest stops, fuel, and lunch… We finally pulled into Kingman, AZ by mid-afternoon…

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Interesting note is that we stayed here almost exactly two years ago as our first stop after leaving Irvine on our 4 1/2 month trip, the day after Lynda retired…

Happy Hours and a light supper ensued in the Villa; tomorrow we head towards Palm Desert, CA.

Sunday morning dawned nice and cool, but the heat will be arriving soon.  We pointed the Villa west, towards the California border…

The drive was uneventful, as expected…

We crossed over the Colorado River…

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And we entered California!

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We were met by some attentive uniformed people who asked us where we’d been, and if we were bringing in any firewood…

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The California Desert looks like this…

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For those of you who insist on calling places like eastern Oregon a “desert”, please stop!  Rivers, grass with cattle grazing, and green leafy trees do not make a desert!  See photo above for what a desert looks like!

We moved on to Palm Desert, where they have succeeded in making the desert green:

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We spent the afternoon and evening with like-minded friends, sharing happy hours and dinner.  Early Monday morning we drove the final hour…

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We arrived home in Redlands; an enjoyable time was had by all…

Tally:

Miles driven: 8,379

Days traveling and camping on our own:  40 days

Days on the Cajun Country Caravan:  16 days

Days on the Springtime in Kentucky Caravan:  22 days

Total days living in the Villa: 78 days

Total number of Airstreams seen along the road:  211

Number of nights in the Villa over the past 24 months:  375 days  (51%)

And one last photo of our girls…

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2019-06-05 – Traveling West – Wichita and Liberal, KS

This morning we pulled out of the RV park and pulled the Villa into central Wichita.  We are heading to another Frank Lloyd Wright house – the Allen house…

You remember the neighborhood of nice houses I posted yesterday as we walked near the French bistro where we had dinner.  The Allen house is in the same neighborhood, a few blocks over…

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We pulled up in front of the house and parked along the curb…

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The Allen House is a Prairie Style home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1915-1916 for former Kansas Governor Henry Justin Allen and his wife, Elsie.  Construction was complete in 1918.

It was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s last Prairie Houses.  The design influence of the prairie and Japanese architecture (FLlW was working on the Imperial Palace Hotel in Japan at the time) is apparent on both the exterior and interior.

Also included in the forward-thinking house were such modern conveniences as a central vacuuming unit, an alarm system and gas fireplace logs.  Another innovation was the first firewall in a residential home.  The bricks are considered “Chicago Common Bricks”; the bricks actually are comprised of five different colors.

(An interesting side note here is that in 1916 Wright started designing the Hollyhock House in Hollywood, where I am a docent.   It was mostly completed in 1921.  Hollyhock House is definitely NOT a Prairie style house; Hollyhock House is definitely FLlW’s first non-Prairie style house…)

Anyway, the house is about 4,000 sq. ft., and it cost $30,000 to build, including Wright-designed furniture and full landscaping.  This seems like a very low price for such a fine house.

(Unfortunately, interior photos were not allowed…)

The porte cochere.  Where is the front door?  It’s around the corner to the right…

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That man is at the front door…

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The door itself is VERY crooked.  There is about a three inch settlement of the foundation near here…

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These repetitive windows are in the Living Room…

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These spherical planters are made from concrete using crushed oyster shells in lieu of gravel and sand… They are over 100 years old and there are no cracks…

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This is the rear of the house.  This parking lot was originally a kitchen garden and a cutting garden of red roses…

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This projection is oddly not symmetrical – it really bothers me…

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The classic feature of all Prairie houses is their horizontality.  This is reinforced by mortar joints, a plynth row of limestone, and a water-table of limestone…

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The square motif is repeated in light fixtures throughout the house…

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The kitchen windows feature “pie-cooling” iron grates…

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The ice goes here for the large kitchen ice box…

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Beautiful planters…

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Many of the house’s eaves contain these hidden rain gutters…

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The built-in downspouts for the hidden gutters;  also note the security alarm…

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The terrace and courtyard was used for entertaining as often as two-three times per week…

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The tea house beyond…

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We had a great tour.  I only caught the docent in one error – she was talking about how Wright had invented the casement window for the Hollyhock House, and then used it again here.  Really?  The casement window was “invented” thousands of years ago… Wright used them almost exclusively in his houses; in fact, what he did say was, “If they had not already been invented I would have invented them…”.  Also, the Hollyhock House was designed and built AFTER the Allen house…

So we drove off, pulling the Villa; Allen house was our last “tourist” stop.  From now on we are streaking straight home…

We left Wichita on Hwy 54, heading southwest, towards New Mexico…

Kansas looks like this:

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And this:

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Hwy 54 parallels the railroad tracks, build in the late 19th century as the prairie lands were homesteaded…

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They grow dandelions big around here…

img_9229 We stopped in Liberal, KS, at about 5:00 pm, at a very basic campground.  We were tired.  Happy Hours and a light supper ensued, an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-06-02 – Traveling West – Eureka Springs and Bentonville, AR

We attended Sunday Services at Thorncrown Chapel.  Worshiping in such a beautiful place is a very special experience…

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An interesting point was that the preacher was the son of the founder and of the chapel… And there was some good old hymn singing going on…

A mystery occurred behind the blue pilaster on the right.  The minister suddenly appeared from behind the pilaster, then he went back again during some of the singing.  Is he just sitting on a chair back there, and had he been there since before we arrived?  Or is there a hidden back door there that he can slip in  and out of?  Or is there a stair to a basement with an exterior entrance?  Any ideas?

After the service we drove to Bentonville; along the way we found, quite by accident, Hoss’s RV Repair.  The place was littered with old Airstreams (23), in various stages of repair and restoration…

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We traveled on…

Bentonville is home of Sam Walton and his family.  And his family’s store:

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The town Square is very nice…

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We had brunch at a very nice modern diner…

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We were very impressed with the center of this town of 70,000 people.  (In 1960 when the first WalMart was built the town had about 3,000 people…)

We wondered, as we looked around at these downtown buildings, how much of this was built, rebuilt, and/or owned by WalMart?  Did the first WalMart, built outside of town on the highway, kill the town?  Did WalMart buy up the deserted buildings and create this Disneyesque town square?  I don’t know…

(By the way, the original Walton’s 5 and dime is just a facade for the WalMart Museum.  There is a WalMart Neighborhood Market just a block away…)

In any case, the reason we were here was to see Crystal Bridges, the Museum of American Art built by the Walton Family Foundation… It is about 3/4 mile from the heart of town…

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The museum was designed by Moshe Safdie, world famous architect…

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The museum sits atop a small creek that has been dammed to form several ponds at several levels.  The weirs (dams) are under the buildings, so the surfaces of the ponds are kept mirror-still…

The vaulted roofs are supported by suspension cables.  Remarkable!

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But the REAL reason we are here is to see a Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian house.  The Bachman-Wilson House was originally built in New Jersey in the mid 1950s.  Over the years it was lived in by a variety of families.  In 1980 it was restored; unfortunately, the adjacent river took up a bad habit of overflowing its banks on a regular basis.  By 2004 the owners appealed to the Walton family and convinced them that there is no greater American Art than a Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian house.  The house was disassembled and moved here, and it was reassembled on a site adjacent to the museum…

It is a classic Usonian, which typically turns a blank face to the street for privacy.  FLlW also typically hides the front door…

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There’s the door…

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(Sorry, no interior photos…)

The house bears remarkable similarities to the Spring house in Tallahassee and the Rosenbaum house in Florence, AL.  The board and batten siding, the views out to the forest, the horizontal lines, the cantilevered carports, and the stenciled cut-outs applied to the glass…

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The house has been beautifully restored and preserved… It is, indeed, a piece of American Art…!

But we move on!

In the little town of Bella Vista, in the far northwest corner on Arkansas, within a mile or two of the Missouri and Oklahoma borders, is another Fay Jones chapel…

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In contrast to Thorncrown Chapel, this chapel is built of steel.  Again, the details are beautiful…

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Built to honor Mildred Borum Cooper, wife of John A. Cooper, Sr., founder of Cooper Communities, Inc, the Chapel is a fitting memorial.  Besides being a devoted wife, mother, and member of the community, Mrs. Cooper had a deep spirituality and a love for nature.  Her family commissioned the Chapel in her honor to celebrate her life and her dedication to God and his creations.

We returned to Eureka Springs and enjoyed a dinner in a fine French bistro: Le Stick Nouveau:

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We enjoyed five courses of appetizers and hors d’oeuvres… and a bottle of fine Pinot Noir from Oregon…

As is our custom, we returned to the Villa for Happy Hours and a light supper; an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-06-01 – Traveling West – Eureka Springs, AR

We left Little Rock about 8:00 am.  Arkansas is green…

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We were driving through the Ozarks National Forest…

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We stopped for a respite along the way… driving through windy, steep mountain roads is taxing, and relief was required…

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We arrived in Eureka Springs, and set up at the Green Tree Lodge and RV Park, a nice but basic RV park…

Then we drove one mile down the road to see the work of E. Fay Jones, an early apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin, and a prolific architect and educator during his long career.  This is the Thorncrown Chapel:

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The interior is as spectacular as the exterior…

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The light fixtures along the “walls” are exquisite; the light is in the shape of the cross…

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As a true student of Frank Lloyd Wright, Fay’s chair designs are great, too!

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The rear is as great as the front…

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The attention to detail is astounding…

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The front door, repeating the diamond shape…

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The Thorncrown Chapel has won every architectural award imaginable… Just recently it was honored by leading the list of “40 under 40”, great architecture that has become iconic in less (fewer?) than 40 years…

The chapel is the dream of a man named Jim Reed, an Arkansas native, who bought this land in 1971 to build his retirement home.  Over the years he continually found strangers walking through the property enjoying the beautiful Ozarks hills.  Rather than fence them out, he decided to invite them in.  He and his wife decided to build a glass chapel as a place for visitors to relax in an inspiring way.  I think they have met their goal…

After such a beautiful place we drove to Eureka Springs and found the opposite:

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Eureka Springs was hot, noisy, crowded, and full of bikers and tourists.  There was some festival going on, although we never quite determined what it was.  The town is very historical, much like Bisbee, AZ, but the tourist factor rivaled Fredericksburg, TX, (and Graceland…)

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Eureka Springs was a late 19th century boom town which grew rapidly based on the water from their many springs.  All the quacks and snake oil salesmen came to town to sell magic water to cure everyone’s ills… The town suffered a bit when the Great Fire of 1888 burned it to the ground, but it was quickly rebuilt and grew to a population of over 4,000.  Today it has a population of about 2,000, but the historic downtown itself is nothing but biker bars and trinket shops… We did enjoy a good walk and we hope to return tomorrow for dinner at a highly rated French bistro…

As is our custom, we returned to the Villa for Happy Hours and a light supper; an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-06 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Frankfurt, KY – Day #12

We carpooled together this morning to Frankfort – the capital of Kentucky.  I’m always surprised when I see a state capital that is such a small town.  The population of Frankfort is only about 28,000… It is so small you could hardly see it because of the trees…

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But before we could park at the capitol building we found:  The Zeigler Residence!

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It is not open to the public… Sad…

So we moved on to a perfect example of Beaux-Arts/Greek Revival Architecture…

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Statue of Abe Lincoln…

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The rotunda dome… LED lights subtly change colors…

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EVERYTHING in this building follows the golden rule – what you do to one side you must do to the other.  True in algebra and true in the symmetry of classical buildings…

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The other president born in Kentucky – Jefferson Davis…

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The State Supreme Court…

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The legislative floor…

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The Assembly Chamber…

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The Senate chamber…

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I’m not a fan of these neo-classical building.  I do appreciate the attention to detail, beautifully executed by the stone masons…

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What annoys me is when designers, who often do not know how materials and buildings go together, try to duplicate these details in a studs and stucco construction… Sorry – you can’t do these details in stucco!

All in all it was a nicely detailed building but a little over-scaled.  It seemed too heavy for my taste, and the proportions seemed a little “off”…

We had a great tour, then we moved on to the Kentucky VietNam Veterans Memorial…

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The design is unique in that it is a sundial with the names of the dead located on the granite floor such that the shadow of the point of the sundial falls on the name on the day of the year that he or she died…

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It is a little confusing, but a moving memorial in any case…

Time for a break.  We drove into downtown Frankfort; we walked the (small) town and  enjoyed a nice lunch at Serafini…

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During lunch we saw a commotion of people gathering just outside the restaurant and across the street, on the lawn of the “old” state capitol building…

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Today was an all-state peace officers memorial ceremony for officers killed in the line of duty…

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Bagpipes were playing…

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It looked like a nice, small town parade and gathering of like-minded people.  Very nice…

After lunch we walked around the town; we especially liked the buildings overhanging the Kentucky River…

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We soon arrived at our next tour:

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Rebecca Ruth was in business making candy for over 60 years; as a women this was unheard of… In Kentucky in the 19th and early 20th century women without a father or a husband simply didn’t exist – they could not own property, have a bank  account, or do much of anything… She confounded all these ideas…

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Rebecca Ruth is credited with inventing the famous bourbon balls, although the claim is disputed…  There was a nice tour and many folks bought lots of chocolate…

But we were moving on to our final tour of the day:  Buffalo Trace!

Buffalo Trace is one of my favorite “go to” daily drinking bourbons, along with Makers Mark.  But I knew little about it; I was looking forward to this tour!  Boy! Was I surprised!

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The distillery is very old, and is listed on the National Listing of Historic Places…

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Here is the buffalo… I’m not sure what they are trying to tell us about the water they use here…

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We had the standard tour, seeing the barrel houses, the fermentation tanks, and the bottling line…

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Wait!  This is Buffalo Trace?

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When we toured Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, Jack Daniel’s, and others, we heard all about the original family’s dedication to making a high quality whiskey (or whisky), how they developed their brand, their distinction in the marketplace, and their unique flavor profile.  And, yes, we learned that the family eventually sold out to one of the multinational conglomerates that own the vast majority of makers of wine, beer, and spirits…  Here at Buffalo Trace I learned something different.

Buffalo Trace Distillery is a corporate “made up” brand, and is part of a corporate conglomerate that buys up smaller brands and farms out their services and distilleries to brands owned by others.  Buffalo Trace is owned by the Sazerac Company, which is privately owned by a billionaire (William Goldring and his family) in New Orleans.  The corporate office is in Louisville, Kentucky.  As of 2017, it operated nine distilleries, had 2,000 employees, and operated in 112 countries.  It is one of the two largest spirits companies in the U.S., with annual revenue of about $1 billion made from selling about 300 mostly discount brands.  They claim it is the largest and privately held distillery, but Heaven Hill disputes that point… They also claim it’s the oldest continuously operating distillery, built in 1812.  However, Burks’ distillery, now used for production of Maker’s Mark, disputes this.  According to its citation in the registry of National Historic Landmarks, Burks’ Distillery’s origins extend to 1805, and Burks’ Distillery is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest operating bourbon distillery.  So we know that Buffalo Trace claims things that may just be apocryphal…

The distillery has historically been known by several names, including the George T. Stagg Distillery and the Old Fire Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery.  The company says the name “Buffalo Trace” refers to an ancient buffalo crossing on the banks of the Kentucky River in Franklin County, Kentucky.  The Sazerac Company purchased the distillery in 1992, and Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey was “invented” in 1999.  So, as you see, Buffalo Trace was no small Mom and Pop brand that did well…

Records indicate that distilling started on the site that is now the Buffalo Trace Distillery in 1775 by Hancock Lee and his brother Willis Lee, who died in 1776.  The first distillery was constructed in 1812 by Harrison Blanton.  In 1870 the distillery was purchased by Edmund H. Taylor and given its first name, the Old Fire Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery.  Taylor sold the distillery eight years later to George T. Stagg along with the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery.  This second distillery was sold within the year to James Graham, in order to add more land to the O.F.C. Distillery.  In 1886, Stagg installed steam heating in the storage warehouses, the first climate controlled warehouse for aging whiskey in the nation.  This is another unique feature of Buffalo Trace… Most other brands brag that their barrel houses are NOT climate controlled… (Except for Woodford Reserve…)

While Buffalo Trace Distillery is mainly known for its bourbon, it also produces other spirits such as rye whiskey and vodka, plus quasi-bourbon such are Bourbon Cream.  (More of Bourbon Cream later…).

Buffalo Trace is HUGE!  The following spirits are produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery:

  • Self-produced brands
    • Buffalo Trace – straight bourbon
    • Col. E. H. Taylor – small batch, single-barrel, and barrel proof straight bourbon and rye
    • Eagle Rare – straight bourbon and 17 year antique collection
    • George T. Stagg – barrel-proof straight bourbon
    • Stagg Jr.- barrel proof straight bourbon
    • McAfee’s Benchmark – straight bourbon
    • O.F.C. – straight bourbon (with a prior name for the distillery)
    • Old Charter – straight bourbon
    • Old Taylor – straight bourbon
    • Sazerac – straight rye and Sazerac antique collection
    • Thomas H. Handy – barrel-proof straight rye
    • W. L. Weller – special reserve, antique 107, and barrel proof William Larue Weller antique collection straight bourbon (with a wheated mash bill very similar or identical to that for the Van Winkle brands)
    • Wheatley Vodka
  • Brands produced in partnership with Age International (a former owner of the distillery, now part of the Japanese company Takara Holdings):
    • Ancient Age – straight bourbon
    • Blanton’s single-barrel – straight bourbon
    • Hancock’s President’s Reserve – single-barrel straight bourbon
    • Elmer T. Lee – single-barrel straight bourbon
    • Rock Hill Farms – single-barrel straight bourbon
  • Brands produced in partnership with the Van Winkle family (under an agreement established in June 2002):
    • Old Rip Van Winkle – straight bourbon (wheated)
    • Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve – straight bourbon (wheated)
    • Van Winkle Special Reserve – straight bourbon (wheated)
    • Van Winkle Family Reserve – straight rye

So, rather than having a great family story, Buffalo Trace is a product of a giant corporate conglomerate.  Nothing romantic, no great family story, nothing to write home about.  However, it is a VERY good bourbon!

Finally we moved on to the tasting…

We tasted some white lightning and some vodka that they make.  Nothing special, although the vodka is rated to be very good and is at a price point far below other premium vodkas…

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We tasted Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare.  Same mash bill, but Eagle Rare is a higher proof and it has been aged longer… It was marginally better than Buffalo Trace, which, of course, was quite good.

Then we tasted the bourbon cream.  It is a bourbon liqueur, 30 proof; It is made with bourbon and real cream.  A special process enables these two dissimilar products to blend nicely without curdling.  It was spectacular!  (And I don’t like Harvey’s or Bristol Cream…)

Then we added a little root beer to the bourbon cream.  Root beer float!  Add a little ice cream for a real treat!

And, of course, we were given bourbon balls to enjoy!

So the tasting was fun, but the back story was disappointing…

We returned to the Villa and turned in early.  And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-23 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Traveling from Huntsville to Florence to Tuscumbia, AL, and Frank Lloyd Wright…

We pulled out of the RV park at the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville and drove to Florence, AL.  We are here to see the Rosenbaum House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (FLlW)…

First, another bridge; I think this is the one millionth time we have crossed the Tennessee River…img_8002img_8005

We arrived in Florence and parked the Villa in the office complex across the street from the house, where the Visitor Center is…

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We walked across the street for our tour to begin…

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The cantilevered carport roof…

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They have the same “sprite” in their front yard that I have in mine…

Rosenbaum House:

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Terhorst House:

Sprite

These Sprites are 1/2 size reproductions of similar Sprites (hundreds of them) originally designed and built for the FLlW-designed Midway Gardens complex in Chicago.  Midway Gardens was a restaurant, beer-hall and event venue complex; the business failed after prohibition was voted in, and the complex was demolished; all the ruble, including hundreds of Sprites, was bulldozed into Lake Michigan as land-fill…

We were greeted by our tour guide, and we heard the history of the house…

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The owner of this house across the street gifted this lot to his son, along with some of the money to build the house.

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The son and his wife had three sons at the time, and this was the perfect place to raise a family; the lot (at that time) had a fine view of the Tennessee River, but the trees have now grown up to obscure it…

Frank Lloyd Wright was hired for $1,100 to design the house. It was 1,500 sq. ft., and it included three bedrooms and two bathrooms, Living Room, Dining area with built-in table for five, Study, and a tiny “Workroom” – what we would call a kitchen, if we could conceive of such a tiny space being a kitchen.

The house is a classic “Usonian”, a concept named by FLlW to designate the houses that were simple in design, and suited to middle class Americans.

Usonian houses were characterized by their lack of attics and basements, radiant heat in the exposed concrete floors, and simple wood detailing that can be beautiful yet economical due to the ability to be made by machine.  The houses all had tiny “Workrooms”…

The house was built and the family moved in.  They soon found the house a bit cramped, especially when a fourth child arrived.  So they hired FLlW to design an 1,100 s.f. addition, containing a guest room and bath, a new, much larger “Workroom”, a Laundry-Service room, and a large Playroom-Dormitory for the four boys.  Somehow they still managed to get along with the Dining Room table for five…

FLlW designed many pieces of furniture that are still in the house – simple, beautiful, and elegant, using simple materials like plywood.  As usual, the chairs were impractical and uncomfortable, but they are beautiful, and that’s all that matters.  (A chair similar to these from another house recently sold at auction for $35,000!)

The house was sold to the City of Florence in the late 1990s for $75,000; the City spent several years and over $600,000 restoring the house, which was opened to the public in 2002.

The walls of the house, inside and out, are board and batten, using cypress wood from Louisiana swamps, and pine battens.  (We saw cypress trees growing out of the water on our swamp tour…)  Cypress is extremely resistant to wood rot and termites – it is an excellent building material!  Unfortunately, the walls also contain battens of pine; when the house was sold to the City it was found to be infested with termites.  When the termites had destroyed the pine they settled into all the books… But the cypress wood is still intact!

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The board and batten walls; on the interior side all shelving, tables, and doors have horizontal lines that match the battens…

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The second cantilevered carport…

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This tiny balcony in the center of the photo below is off the Master Bedroom…

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The Living Room and Study have these beautiful French doors opening onto the terrace…  You can see through the house to the narrow clerestory windows on the opposite side of the room…

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We thoroughly enjoyed touring this house.  It is beautifully restored and maintained, and we were able to see all the rooms, with all the furniture, as if the family were still living there.  Furniture not designed by FLlW is mostly designed by Rae and Charles Eames…

After our tour we walked into downtown Florence and walked the four blocks of Court St.  Upon the recommendations of the Rosenbaum staff we had a lovely lunch at Odette…

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After lunch we walked back to the Rosenbaum house where we had left the Villa.  We drove to Tuscumbia, about five miles away, and parked at Heritage Acres RV Park.

This is a very basic, all gravel place, with no trees – good for satellite TV reception.  Full hook-ups including cable are all very good.  We wanted to refill one of our propane tanks, but when I went to take it off the Villa I found that it had been locked using a cable and a padlock.  Could I find the combination to the lock?  After tearing apart the trailer and the truck I finally found it, 1 1/2 hours later.

Well-deserved Happy Hours ensued, and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-14 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Tallahassee, FL, and Frank Lloyd Wright

All night long I heard and saw tornado warnings on the weather channel; storms were coming in from the west.  We were up at 6:00 am to hitch up and go; then ambulances and fire trucks rolled in, blocking all traffic lanes in the RV park.  Apparently there was some minor medical issue 3-4 trailers down the row…  But by the time we were ready to go they had all left, and we rolled out at 7:00 am.  We saw lots of lightning as we drove north 15 miles, then, as we turned east we started to get some light rain.  But no tornadoes, no hazardous wind (despite the large flashing signs warning us about hazardous winds…), and the rain soon stopped.  We heard of terrible storms in Michigan and Texas and Alabama, but I think the storm had petered out by the time it got to Florida…

We arrived safely in Tallahassee and set up in a nice RV park.  We walked around and found another Airstream – and found out that it was another couple that we knew from an earlier caravan, and who will be going on the Kentucky caravan with us!  Small world!

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We had an appointment at 2:00 pm to see the Spring House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright house built in Florida.  We had light rain as we approached, but the house itself was delightful.

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Obviously it is in need of repair and restoration… The daughter of the original owner, who grew up in the house, still lives here; she is trying to raise funds on behalf of a foundation (www.preservespringhouse.org) so that they can buy the house, restore it, and open it for philanthropic events…

We met Byrd, the current owner, and heard the story of the house.  Her parents, Mr. and Mrs Lewis, saw an article by Frank Lloyd Wright in a magazine about houses having “souls”, and they were impressed.  They had a chance to meet FLlW in 1952 and they said, “We have a lot of children (4) and not much money; can you design a house for us?”  At the time FLlW was 84 years old and was still excited about his “Usonian” houses for people of modest means, so he agreed.  After a 2 1/2 years the Lewises had found this five acre property with a stream running into a lake.  The house was designed and eventually built, with all the usual FLlW drama, even though he never visited the house…

The house is boat shaped, and it has three curved walls, the two exterior walls being convex, and the interior balcony being concave.  The ends are pointed.  There is a huge two-story tall curved wall of glass facing the forest; all the major rooms in the house face this wall of glass and have a continuous view of the wall of trees a few feet away from the house.  Spectacular!  Unfortunately, interior photos are not allowed…

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The little windows resemble half-portholes…

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The ship lap siding runs through the glass…

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So between talking to Byrd, the other docents, and other visitors, we spent a delightful two hours.

We then traveled to the home of the WBCCI Caravan Director, Jay Thompson, and his wife, Elna.  They were leaders of the Southwest Caravan that we did last year.  We had a nice time catching up, drinking wine, and batting around ideas about how the caravan experience can be improved…

We returned to the Villa about 6:30 and enjoyed a bottle of wine and some pasta…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-13 – Arizona – Day 56 – Taliesin West and the Biltmore… And Rain!

It was slightly raining this morning when we left Sun City to drive to Taliesin West.  We arrived in plenty of time for our tour.  We were able to take a few pictures, but soon it was raining quite hard.

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Taliesin is today a fully accredited School of Architecture, and it is not affiliated with any university.  It has between 20 and 30 students at any one time, and they can earn a Masters Degree.  The students live and work and study at each of the two campuses for 6 months each year, Summer in Wisconsin, Winter in Arizona…

We started the tour, but quickly retreated to the “Dance Pavilion”.  This was a performance space, and it is about the last building built at Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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What you need to know is that for FLlW, Taliesin West was his “desert camp”, and he enjoyed “camping” here in maximum communion with nature.  The first few years they put together temporary structures with scrap lumber and canvas.  They left it all when they returned to Wisconsin in the Spring, but when they returned in the fall they found that it had all been stolen and carted away by the locals…

So they began to build more permanent buildings, but they were still built to be open to nature.  The roofs were sheets of canvas, walls and doors were open, maybe partially covered with canvas flaps.  They had no electricity (except from generators) until the early 1950s.

So the dance pavilion was originally an open air pavilion.  Only in later years was it enclosed by glass.  The canvas roofs still remain today, and everyone enjoys the softly filtered light that they provide…

We walked in the rain to the FLlW’s “Office”.  This was not a work room, but was a conference room and presentation room… On the way we could see the canvas roofs.  Originally they were just sheets of canvas.  But they deteriorated quickly under the desert sun, so a panelized system was created to make for easy replacements of individual sections.  Today the canvas is covered by translucent acrylic, and the canvas still needs to be replaced about every five years…

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Inside, the canvas is supported by steel beams and internal gutters to channel away (most of) the water that seeps through…

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All of the solid walls at Taliesin West are concrete, formed with rocks gleaned from the desert by the Taliesin students.  This has proven to be an economical system that has stood the test of time.  This being Arizona, there is no rebar in these concrete walls…

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The entrance to the Office is through this odd-shaped door.  The door is barely six feet tall, and the ceiling is not much higher.  FLlW’s secretary sat in this entry space, in a “cave” constructed of this large rock concrete.  This entry exhibits FLlW’s famous “compress and release” concept as you move through the low-ceilinged space into the larger space beyond…

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It is a very nice space… Of course, because it was raining, I had to position my chair so that I would not be dripped on…

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The table you see covered with a tarp to protect it from the rain is VERY low, as are the chairs.  FLlW designed it this way so that when clients looked at the drawings placed on the table they could see them very well as an overview, but if they wanted to examine them more closely they would have to stoop, and it would be very uncomfortable.  He didn’t want his clients looking too closely at the drawings…

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Our next stop was the drafting room.  This room is generally off limits when the students are present, but the students are still in Wisconsin, and they won’t arrive for a few weeks yet… We walked in the rain and passed the concrete walls of the drawing vault.  Paper drawings must always be protected from fire and other elements.  (Today we use computers to draw and make presentations, so they are much safer, if backed-up properly…)

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The drafting room has the same style of canvas roof.  The glass ares were originally open, with canvas flaps…

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It is a marvelous space!

We then moved to the “Kiva”.  This is the original “man cave”, where FLlW would show movies for his students and guests.  Originally this was a windowless storage room.  When they would leave in the spring they would put anything of value that they were not taking with them in here for security… Later they added the projection room and they experimented with lighting…

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Floor lights…

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Cove lighting, with “cut-out” shapes to form shadows.  Are these triangles representative of teepees?  Or mountain peaks?

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Corner lighting…

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We moved on to the Dining Room…

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The Dining Room is entered from this Breezeway.  The Breezeway has always been here, but the ceiling was raised after FLlW’s death in 1959.  Apparently his son-in-law, Wesley Peters, who was an MIT-trained engineer, and who was FLlW’s right-hand-man for all things engineering, was 6′-5″ tall, and he hated that he always had to stoop when he was around FLlW.  He wanted a space to sit and enjoy the desert in front of a fireplace and remember FLlW.  So he had the ceiling raised to make this space…

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The fireplace…

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The views…

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We entered the Dining Room to enjoy a break and a little refreshment…

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The Dining Room wasn’t always here… It was originally on the opposite side of the house, overlooking the southern views across the desert.  But, in 1948, the local power company strung power poles across the edge of the property to facilitate the rapid post-war expansion of Scottsdale.  FLlW was so incensed at this, after exhausting all avenues of protest, including a letter to President Truman, that he redesigned the buildings and landscaping to reverse the orientation and avoid the views of power poles.  (Truman’s response to his letter:  “Do you really think I have nothing better to do than to worry about your view?”)  Today the power poles have been replaced by giant steel high-tension wire structures… They are quite ugly…)

So we enjoyed our refreshment… We had a VERY interesting talk by a woman who was born at Taliesin.  She lives here today, where she works in the archives department.  Her mother and father were some of the first students here in 1937.  They stayed on after their school days were over, having two children here.  They moved away briefly during WWII; they subsequently divorced, and her mother moved back and lived and worked here the rest of her life.  She passed away just last year, well into her nineties.  There are three other original students who came and never left who still live here…

We saw many photos of life at Taliesin in the old days, and many interesting stories.  Originally, the students pitched tents out in the desert (there were no dormitories…) or they built “Desert Shelters” in which to live.  No electricity, running water, or kitchens.  Students still live out in the desert today… If you come to see Taliesin West in the winter you can tour the student “homes”…

We thoroughly enjoyed her talk…

But it was time to move on… We left the Dining Room via the Breezeway and went to the entrance to Mr. and Mrs. Wright’s home…

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As usual, the front door is hard to find, and is very small…

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This is the Garden Room, or the entertaining space.  Parties, called, “Taliesin Nights”,  were held here most Saturday evenings.  Celebrities, friends, and students mixed, all in formal attire.  In the early days FLlW would send a large flat bed truck the four miles to Scottsdale to pick up the guests, so that they would not have to navigate the narrow, steep, dirt road…

The room has a canvas roof; glass was added in the late 1940s, and central heat and AC was added by Mrs Wright in the 1970s… It is a lovely room…

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Water is added whenever it rains…

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Adjacent to the Garden Room is the Wrights’ private sitting room.  Originally it was an open-air space, open to take in the nature of the desert…

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But Mrs. Wright eventually tired of the exposure to the desert and asked that glass be installed.  FLlW objected for many years… Finally, FLlW consented, and ordered the apprentices to install the glass.  When they asked what they should do with the pots on the shelves, FLlW angrily answered, “Leave them exactly where they are”!  Thus:

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The Wrights’ bedroom and Mrs. Wrights sitting room, face onto the desert, but the views have been constructed, using fencing and trees, to obscure the power poles… The “Moon Gate” allowed the Wrights’ children to access the adjacent courtyard and their rooms.  Mrs. Wright eventually built another bedroom suite for herself after FLlW’s death…

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The Sprites seen here are two of the five remaining original Sprites (out of over 500) that were designed and built for the Midway Gardens project in Chicago in 1915.  The others were all bulldosed into Lake Michigan, along with the rest of  Midway Gardens, after prohibition doomed the project and the City wanted something else on the site…

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This is the Master Bedroom…

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The bathroom is sheathed in polished aluminum… as befitting an Airstream!

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More lighting experiments in the bedroom:  recessed lighting and up-lighting…

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We then moved to one of the guest cottages.  The rain is briefly letting up…

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Walking back along the main house… This is about the only 2-story building… The upper floors contain apartments for staff and/or guests…

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The dinner bell…

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Our last building is the Cabaret…

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This is an underground “supper club” where the students and staff would put on various types of entertainment… The acoustics are great!

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Notice that the rows of seats are angled relative to the stage area.  Mr. Wright always sat a certain way in venues like this, so the seating was designed to accommodate his habits.  This was his way of dictating how you sit if you want a good view of the stage…

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I couldn’t help peeking into the kitchen and service corridor…

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As we left the Cabaret the rain stopped briefly, so we could take a few photos of the exteriors…

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Ventilation holes in the vault…

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The Office…

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The Drafting Room…

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The view of the power towers…

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And then our three hour tour was over…

We left, sadly, in the rain…

We dropped in at The Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Resort… We immediately noticed the Sprites… Oh.  And it was raining with a capital RAIN!

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Warren McArthur, Jr. and his brother Charles McArthur along with John McEntee Bowman, opened the Arizona Biltmore on February 23, 1929.

The Arizona Biltmore’s architect of record is Albert Chase McArthur (brother of the hotel owners), yet the design is often mistakenly attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright.  This is due to Wright’s on-site consulting for four months in 1928 relating to the “Textile Block” construction used in the hotel.  Albert McArthur had been a draftsman for Wright, and specifically asked Wright to assist with implementing the textile block system, which became a signature element of the hotel’s appearance.  The hotel has similarities to several Wright buildings, especially in the main lobby, owing to a strong imprint of the unit block design that Wright had utilized on four residential buildings in the Los Angeles area six years earlier.  McArthur is indisputably the architect as original linen drawings of the hotel in the Arizona State University Library archives attest, as does a 1929 feature article in Architectural Record magazine. The two architects are a study in contrast with the famous and outspoken Wright being self-taught and never licensed as an architect in Arizona. The more soft-spoken McArthur was Harvard trained in architecture, mathematics, engineering, and music. McArthur obtained an architect’s license in Arizona, number 338, in 1925, the year he arrived in Phoenix to begin his practice.

Reproductions of the geometric ‘sprite’ statues originally designed by sculptor Alfonso Iannelli for Wright’s 1915 Midway Gardens project in Chicago are placed around the property.  Also, the original hotel solarium was converted to a restaurant in 1973 and since the mid-1990s has been named ‘Wright’s’.  Three on site restaurants bear Wright’s name, Wright’s at the Biltmore, The Wright Bar, and Frank & Albert’s.

We were there to have lunch at Frank and Albert’s

We looked around and found many interesting details…

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And then we enjoyed a very nice lunch…

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Driving back to the Villa proved to be quite an adventure…

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We did safely return to the Villa and spent the rest of the day and evening watching football…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-12 – Arizona – Day 55 – Arcosanti and Taliesin West

We packed up early, left Camp Verde, and headed south.  Our first stop was at Arcosanti:

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Arcosanti is a planned experimental town with a molten bronze bell casting business 70 miles north of Phoenix, at an elevation of 3,732 feet.  Its “arcology” concept was posited by the Italian-American architect, Paolo Soleri, a former student of Frank Lloyd Wright.  He began construction in 1970 to demonstrate how urban conditions could be improved while minimizing the destructive impact on the earth.  He taught and influenced generations of architects and urban designers who studied and worked with him there to build the proposed ‘town.’

We arrived in time for the 10:00 am tour.  After a brief video presentation we toured the various buildings of this “urban experiment”.  We saw the “students” making their signature clay bells, then we moved on to the Foundry.  Today we watched as they poured molten bronze (2,100 degrees F) into dies (forms) to become bronze bells…

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We were shown performance areas, living quarters, and lounge spaces.

The place is a little strange… Sort of like a hippie commune with high academic credentials.  And we didn’t even see any of the architects living and working there…

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We continued on into Phoenix, or Sun City, to be exact.  We checked into our RV park, then I took the truck into the Chevrolet dealer; we are about 1,000 miles overdue for an oil change, and I don’t want to risk driving home across the desert with bad oil…

The big event today is an evening tour of Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio and school in Scottsdale…

Taliesin West was Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and school in the desert on the outskirts of Scottsdale, AZ, from 1937 until his death in 1959 at the age of 91. Today it is the main campus of the School of Architecture at Taliesin and houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship began to “trek” to Arizona each winter in 1935. In 1937 Wright purchased the plot of desert land that would soon become Taliesin West. He paid about $7,000 for over 600 acres on the southern slope of the McDowell Range overlooking Paradise Valley outside Scottsdale.  In 1937 is was 4 miles past the last paved road in Scottsdale, a hamlet of about 200 people.  Today it is about a 45 minute drive from the RV park in Sun City… It is almost totally surrounded by the sprawl of Scottsdale…  We arrived just before dark…

The tour was fabulous, but, since it was at night, we took few pictures.  We will come back tomorrow and do it in the rain, so pictures might be better…

This is the main drafting room…

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This is the Breezeway…

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We arrived home at about 10:00 pm – very late for us…

Tomorrow we come back to Taliesin West and have a three hour “In Depth” tour…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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