Color photo taken at ground level under Taliesin's horse stable. Photograph by Keiran Murphy

Newspaper under Taliesin’s Horse Stable

Reading Time: 6 minutes

No, not Taliesin’s first horse stable (as seen in this post).

I’m talking about the other Taliesin horse stable. The one he added some time in the Taliesin II era (you know, “The Forgotten Middle Child of Taliesin“).

I think he stopped using the first stable when he started having draftsmen live with him. So he turned the first stable (and a carriage house) into apartments.

I found this newspaper while working on the history of the spaces at Taliesin.

I called these the “Chronologies”. These were narratives of the spaces in chronological order. These were of Taliesin’s rooms, spaces, or groups of rooms. In the end I created over 25 of them and gave them to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation so that my knowledge and information didn’t disappear into the ether….

These covered Taliesin’s Living Room and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bedroom, but also places with few photographs where no one ever lived. Like that second horse stable, the tack room next to it, or the rooms and under it… so other mechanical spaces.

Still,

they all add up to Taliesin having 101 rooms spread out over 7 wings.

And, sure: one of those rooms is a closet, but one-hundred-and-one is still a fun number to throw out there.

And one of Taliesin’s rooms was known as “the Kohler Room”. You see the outside of it in the photo at the top of this post. Its the room with four windows. It’s labelled as the Kohler Room on at least one floor plan: drawing #2501.046. They called it that because there was a Kohler generator there for additional electricity.

The space is also known as called “Gene’s Print Room” because it held the printer that Gene Masselink worked on.

Getting back to the point

If you look at the photo, you can see a rectangular window on the wall perpendicular to the Kohler Room. The window looks into a garage that was, originally, a throughway for the driveway. On the ceiling of that garage is 

the discovery

I remembered last week.

I was watching a video tour of Fallingwater that Boaz Frankel (of Next Pittsburgh) took. In it, Executive Director Justin Gunther1 takes Frankel through the unusual spaces at Fallingwater, like the kitchen, private offices, and the basement.

At just over 7:20 into Frankel’s video

Gunther shows a detail in the basement: its ceiling shows the impressions of the wood from the forms that were built to set up the concrete in the ceiling.

Gunther talking about the concrete detail reminded me of what I’m going to write about today: when I was writing about the history of that horse stable, I found a piece of newspaper embedded in the ceiling of the garage. The newspaper tells us when the pour was made.

When I was doing the “chrono” on the horse stable, my research sometimes took place in my head. Sometimes it took place while I peered at every drawing or bit piece of oral histories that I could think of.

Or, sometimes I did it by driving to Taliesin and walking around the spaces at Taliesin, trying to poke into everywhere I had the nerve to go

I was a little nervous because my balance sucked (even before my MS2).

We don’t know exactly when Wright added this stable, but it might have been part of the changes that the Baraboo Weekly News mentioned in 1919:

Story from Baraboo Weekly News on October 2, 1919

The title of the piece is:

Wright Adding to Property: Architect Making a Number of Changes to his Wisconsin Home Near Spring Green

In part, the note says that Wright was making “improvements”, and an “addition” which was “being built to the stable and a number of fine cattle will find shelter there[e].

Since there was nothing added to Taliesin’s original stable, I think this points to the current Taliesin stable you can see in the drawing below.

Drawing executed in 1924 of the western wing of Taliesin. Drawing number 1403.023. Owner of drawing unknown.

Wendingen Magazine published the drawing in its issues devoted to Wright in 1924 and 1925.
Then the magazine issues were published as a book, The Life-Work of the American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, by Frank Lloyd Wright, H. Th. Wijdeveld, ed. (Santpoort, Holland: C. A. Mees, 1925).

The horse stable is the vertical rectangle to the left of the “SHELTER”. The drawing shows that the drive went under it. That’s why you see “SLOPE UNDER STABLE” and “RAMP” which I labelled in red. Not only could you drive up to the house, but farmhands could drive a trailer under it and they could sweep the horse manure onto waiting wagon. 

Unfortunately,

that scoundrel didn’t even leave us any other drawings; this one comes from 1924.

And

you can also see the words “Cow Barn” on the drawing: the horizontal section 15.

Wright never built that, but I think this must have been what the Baraboo Weekly News was talking about. Well, regardless of how Wright used the area around the sable, he wanted to change how someone got to his home after Taliesin’s 1925 fire.

In Taliesin’s earliest years, you drove to the house by going up to the Porte-Cochere, like what’s in the photo below:

Photograph of Taliesin's porte-cochere seen in late fall/early spring
Photograph of Taliesin by Taylor Woolley in the Utah Historical Society, ID #695913

But after 1925 he eliminated the chance to do that.

Instead

People drove from the dam and waterfall around Taliesin’s pond at the base of the hill:

Aerial of Taliesin taken Feb. 7, 1934
From the William “Beye” Fyfe collection at The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives

then up the drive and under the horse stable.

Very few visitors took photographs at this part of the house. Fortunately, though, you can see the drive going under the stable in one photo I showed here before. I’m showing it again and lightened up part of it to show the drive. It where the added arrow is, too:

Photograph of a part of Taliesin taken on December 17, 1928. Photograph by architect George Kastner. Courtesy, Brian A. Spencer

Photograph by architect, George Kastner. George Kastner took this photograph on December 17, 1928. Brian A. Spencer collection

The date on the photograph is in 1928, but a piece of newspaper

told me when this drive was completed.

When the workmen poured the concrete (like Gunther at Fallingwater said) and built the wooden forms, they put the newspaper down to keep the concrete from curing on them. That’s how, when I was investigating the garage and snapped photos, I found the newspaper you can see below:

Newspaper crop. Photo by Keiran Murphy

Date from bit of newspaper. Photo by Keiran Murphy

October 1, 1926.

Wright wasn’t at Taliesin that day. At the time, he was hiding in Minnesota due to problems with his second wife, Miriam Noel. But obviously, he still had work going on at his house.

Wright changed this drive in 1939

and built a large parking court that still exists. Here’s my photo from when I researched the stable. The red arrow I added is at the garage:

Looking west on Taliesin's Lower Parking court. Photo taken in May 2005 by Keiran Murphy

The last I heard,

That whole wing is in pretty good shape, so it doesn’t look like this area desperately needs restoration or reconstruction.

 

 

Published May 13, 2024
I took the photograph at the top of this post almost 20 years ago, in July 2004. You’re looking (plan) east at the first floor under the horse stables. You walk past this stonework on one Taliesin tour: the 4-hour Taliesin Estate tour.


Notes:

1. Gunther and I sat close to each other at the conference in September when I received my “Wright Spirit award“. I regret not speaking to him.

2. My father once said to me, “Balance is not a gift God gave to you.” Which honestly made me really happy.

 

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.

Frank Lloyd Wright: architect of millionaires… or maybe not

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In today’s post I’m going to write about the public perception of Wright as the millionaire’s architect, countered by his attempts to design and build homes for people in the middle class.

It’s not surprising

that when you think of Frank Lloyd Wright, you think he only designed for rich people.

Because

You hear he designed a house on a waterfall like the one you see at the top of this post.

Or that he designed everything at the house,

            including plateware.

                        Which isn’t true, but you heard he designed everything so

Why not plateware?

If it sounds like I’m being snarky, I’m just repeating what even Taliesin tour guides wondered sometimes, either because we got really curious

hopefully not dangerously curious

until I had to satisfy my curiosity and confirm that he only designed plateware for the Imperial Hotel and Midway Gardens.

check out this page for some pretty plates

Regardless,

you probably heard his houses all cost too much money.

The perception by the 1950s was that Wright was an architect of the wealthy. In fact, the movie,

North By Northwest is an example of this.

This is the Alfred Hitchcock movie with Cary Grant running in a corn field while a crop duster barrels down on him.

And he  runs across Mount Rushmore.

Before that, he sneaks up to the modernist home of character Phillip Vandamm (a Cold War spy). This home hangs off of the area behind Mount Rushmore near the end of the film.

Screenshot from the movie North by Northwest. Cary Grant standing against terrace railing of Vandamm house

The look of this home screamed “Frank Lloyd Wright” to people.

Um…. No.

Wright didn’t design the house. In fact, the house doesn’t exist.

But director Hitchcock wanted the house owned by the bad guy Vandamm to exude luxury. According to JetSet Modern’s article from 2001, Hitchcock

“was faced with having to find places and things that were universally recognized as belonging to the rich and powerful…. It meant getting the cooperation of the Plaza and…. coming up with a house for Vandamm.”

“In 1958, when ‘North by Northwest’ was in production, Frank Lloyd Wright was the most famous Modernist architect in the world…. His renown in the Fifties was such that mass-market magazines like House Beautiful and House & Garden devoted entire issues to his work. If Hitchcock could put a Wright house in his movie, that mass audience was going to get the point right away. Wright was absolutely the man to fill the bill Hitchcock needed….”

I found this article in The Wayback Machine.

See? I told you I used that site a lot.

But despite this popular conception

there’s evidence throughout Wright’s career that he really wanted to design moderate-cost homes for people.  

And “Wright was not a shyster

First,

if you’re in the Wrightworld, you know he tried in the 1910s for standardized building designs known as the American System Built Houses (ASBH).

These, which he tried to sell in the 1910s used standardized, milled lumber, and cut down on waste.

Check out

This well-written entry on the ASBH at Wikipedia.

Secondly, in the 1920s

He designed his “Textile-block houses“.

You see, Wright thought

the houses would be inexpensive because they were made out of concrete using aggregate from the site.

He wrote about this in his autobiography:

The concrete block? The cheapest (and ugliest) thing in the building world. It lived mostly in the architectural gutter….

Why not see what could be done with that gutter-rat?…

It might be permanent, noble, beautiful.  It would be cheap.

An Autobiography by Frank Lloyd Wright, (Longmans, Green and Company, London, New York, Toronto, 1932), 235.

Additionally, the concrete could be cast onsite, cutting down on transportation costs.

But the concrete molds

for the blocks were complicated. And you had to cast

thousands of them.

For example, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation tells us the Wright’s Ennis House in California has 27,000 blocks

As a result, Wright designed only 4 of those houses in California, and one in Tulsa, Oklahoma for Wright’s cousin, Richard in the late ’20s.

Btw: someone restored it and it’s for sale

And then the Great Depression started. But he still thought about houses for the middle class.

Then, in the 1930s Wright envisions another inexpensive house.

These homes, which he called “Usonian“, eliminated the attic and basement, included sandwich-wall construction,1 and had furniture made out of plywood.

And, years ago, another tour guide told me that you could buy a sheet of plywood for a dollar in the 1930s.

Here’s a sign put out by the Jacobs family when they were building their house in Madison. They apparently paid for the design of the house by giving tours for 50 cents:

Photograph of sign put at the Jacobs House in Madison telling visitors to pay 50 cents to see the house.

I got this sign from Building With Frank Lloyd Wright, by Herbert Jacobs, p. 51.

I’ve heard that Usonian designs were his most popular. The Wikipedia page I linked to above says Wright designed 60 Usonian houses.

And some people disagree with what others define as Usonian. Sometimes it seems like people2 say anything he designed after 1936 is “Usonian”. Others say, no-no, it’s got to be only if the home has a small footprint. Others say that the home has to have in-floor heating.

But Wright’s intention seems to have been to construct moderately priced beautiful homes for people. He also encouraged people to construct the homes to save on costs.

Why?

Really: why did the guy do this?

I think he wanted buildings that beautifully integrated with nature and was probably willing to take any pay cut to get it to the largest group of people possible.

granted, like I wrote in the post “Wright was not a shyster”, with him, there’s a difference between the ideal and the reality.

Ok, it might have also been because,

            as some would say to me on tours,

Architects are control freaks and he wanted the U.S. to look the way he wanted.

And if his designs were the way to do it, so be it.

 

First posted April 29, 2024
The image at the top of this post is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. The image is available at Creative Commons, which has its licensing information and a larger version. I also posted this photo in “Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings are smaller than you think“.


Notes

1. kind of is what it sounds like: a layered construction that included insulation and was structural in a way that eliminated wall studs. So, it cut down on materials. “PreservationPricess” went into this at a blog they kept for 6 months in 2012:

“sandwich-wall construction”: vertical sheets of one inch thick plywood with a layer of roofing felt on each side, and horizontal cypress boards and battens screwed onto both sides…. The sandwich-wall construction reflected Wright’s desire for simplification within the Usonian house… [and] could be shop-built and easily erected on site.

2. or I could say real estate agents, but that gets me into another conversation. I’ll put a note to myself to write a post about how people glom onto “Wright-inspired”, or at least give you all links to dozens of conversations Frankophiles have every time we see “Wright-inspired”.

Opening Taliesin for the tour season

Reading Time: 6 minutes

A photograph of Taliesin’s Living Room that I took during the first week of House Opening in 2006.

I opened the front door yesterday and stepped outside for a moment to experience rain coming down in 50F (10C) temps.

Due to this, I was pushed back into “House Opening”.

That is, I remembered the work on the buildings that Taliesin Preservation staff did from 1995-2014.

I mentioned this before in the posts, “Physical Taliesin History” and “Bats at Taliesin

Why now?

Because we opened the House and Hillside in the second-half of April for every year from 1995 to 2013. Therefore, sometimes April’s sights, smells,

and the song “That’s the Way that the World Goes Round” [and others] by singer songwriter, John Prine,1

bring me back to all of those times of cleaning and preparing Taliesin and Hillside for the upcoming tour season.

Here’s the scene:

The gleam of House Opening usually began in late February. That’s when Tom W. (the Head Taliesin House Steward and collections person for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation) came into the office where I worked.

Winter photograph looking at the Hex Room and spire at the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center.

I worked in the room under the spire.

He approached me tentatively, and we reenacted a play we carried out each spring.

Tom would say

with a slight uptick in his voice, “So…, Keiran, what do you think about… “

then he would usually name the last two full weeks in April that we, and two other staff members, would open Taliesin.

I often groaned and then agreed.

Now, you might be thinking:

“But I’d adore being at Taliesin that much!! And being around all of those artifacts and furniture!!”

True.

But it was beauty at a price.

When we opened the buildings, we spent two weeks moving, sweeping, vacuuming, and window washing while sitting in unheated spaces with wooden and stone floors, single-pane glass windows, and plaster walls with no insulation.

We cleaned all of the furniture by hand with liquid Ivory soap and hot water that we put into buckets from the sink, which slowly cooled to room temperature (which in that case was, again, about 50F).

After six or seven hours, the cold sinks into your bones.

When we came back the next day, we had just a little less energy.

And then did this the day after that, and the day after that, etc., etc. ….

If you don’t believe

that this could be difficult, I’ll tell the story about this one man, J. Z.

He volunteered to help Opening for about 3 seasons. He always appeared in the second week when things were beginning to take on some order.

On these visits

He spent a lot of his time talking while staff cleaned, and drinking coffee in the one heated space of Taliesin’s Living Quarters (the Little Kitchen).

Then,

one day during Opening, Tom kept politely asking J.Z. to help with things.

I remember cleaning furniture with the others while Tom continuously said, “J., could come in here and help me with this?”

Tom’s effort kept J. busy that whole day. Which was also the last time I ever saw him.

Why the hell did I do Opening?

Because someone had to.

You’d think that office staff would, but while several Opened Hillside, I don’t think that for others that it was ever their thing. Plus, a lot of them were prepping for the season in other ways.

Although, in 2014, the Preservation Director at Taliesin worked on Opening, and I was surprised to see him every day.

That’s because, by that time I was used to other folks saying they really wanted to do it who only showed up for several days. Then they would get pulled away and never come back.

Additionally,

if we didn’t have consistent staff, it could be dangerous for the artifacts.

Particularly in the early years

when our opening of the buildings was a “learning by doing” operation.

We weren’t incompetent, but…

for example:

The first few seasons of House Opening included removing the black plastic sheets that Rud2 (the maintenance man for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation) stapled onto the window mullions after we’d closed up the building the previous November.

Or, one time,

I stopped two staff members from dragging out a Chaise Lounge onto the Loggia Terrace to “let it get some sunshine”.

Or the time I walked past someone, not trained on things, violently shaking an original rug.

We eventually figured all of this out, but opening Taliesin was still a dirty, exhausting business.

Here are two photos

That I took in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bedroom. That was the first room we’d “open” each season.

Before:

Photograph by Keiran Murphy looking at Frank Lloyd Wright's study area before opening the season tours at Taliesin.

Looking south in Wright’s study area at the beginning of Opening in April 2006.

And after:

Photograph by Keiran Murphy looking at Frank Lloyd Wright's study area after opening the season tours at Taliesin.

Looking south in Wright’s bedroom in May 2006.

Opening of the buildings, fortunately, inspired a former supervisor to devise

Class Trips

before each season.

In the beginning, we paid our way. But then figured out reciprocal agreements, gas money reimbursements, and more.

Craig did this in order

  1. To educate staff;
  2. Get us excited for the season;
  3. Refresh our memories on the architect whose buildings we worked in;
  4. And hopefully guilt the staff (many who did this job part-time) to come in and open the building despite the cold, dirt, and exhaustion.

Class Trips Itinerary

eventually broke down this way: we’d meet at the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center early in the morning, divide ourselves into cars with drivers, and carpool to a destination. Most of the trips were places we could drive to and from with a trip for lunch.

If you don’t want to see over a dozen Class Trips, click here.

The Class Trips got me to:

            Remember we started this in 1995.

  • One time to the Chicago Art Institute so we could see the exhibit on architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh
    • That might have been the time we saw Wright’s remodel of the Rookery

            Somewhere in there           

and

Then

And maybe on that trip we also saw

            Because they’re about 35 miles away from each other.

We got into the Greenberg House because a staff member’s mother knew the owner, Maurice Greenberg, an original Wright client!

And

We saw

We got to these houses because the owners of the Heurtley house invited guide Margaret Ingraham. She contacted them and they consented to us all coming to their, and their neighbor’s, houses.

Others:

And here’s the “and more” of the list

3 above-and-beyond trips due to the work of one of my supervisors.

Chris was evidently working with the idea of “go big or go home

We went to:

And, finally:

That last big trip was probably because Chris knew he couldn’t get away with it anymore.

The Class Trips took place before and after Fallingwater,3 but House Opening did eventually end.

The End of House Opening

In anticipation of getting heat back into the Living Quarters, I think March 2014 was the last time we opened.

After that we didn’t have to mini-mothball Taliesin every winter.

And Taliesin Preservation now has a Lead Custodian who takes care of the buildings.

I should ask her if she’s ever straddled the top of a shelf on the northwest corner of the Garden Room to clean the wood up to the windows…. Or cleaned the batsh*t on the Loft in Taliesin’s Guest Bedroom.

Yet

For all my b*tching, I looked forward to two things during House Opening:

  1. The cookies that Tom W. brought in during the first week

(I think he got the cookies at the Cenex Station in Mount Horeb and they were fantastic).

  1. Getting to sit in Taliesin’s Living Room on the last day of Opening, when everything was ready. Those were moments of profound privilege.

Contemporary. Looking southwest in Taliesin's living room at the fireplace.

 

 

First posted April 13, 2024.
I took all of the photographs you see in this post.


Note:

1. Songs from the album, Bruised Orange, by Prine still make me think of cleaning in Taliesin’s Living Room. Thanks Craig!

2. not his real nickname

3. Other staff trips not related to House Opening/Class Trips were:

Black and white photograph looking up at stone and plaster at Taliesin. Taken by William "Beye" Fyfe (1910-2001). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York).

More Things I Learned at Taliesin

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Beye Fyfe took this photo while looking up at Taliesin, either in the late fall or early spring. It’s a close-up of that balcony I talked about in my last post.

That is: what is carbide gas?

I discovered this while researching the history of Taliesin’s lighting and electricity and will write about it in this post.

            Plus, this gave me a chance to remember what a “mole” is from Chemistry class.

Taliesin’s lighting:

In Taliesin’s earliest years, Wright got light for his house by making his own Acetylene gas and piping it into gas light fixtures in his home.

And I’ll write below what this has to do with the photograph at the top of this post.

I probably read about Taliesin’s old light system while researching the dam at Taliesin.

So,

I gathered information by reading oral histories from members of the Taliesin Fellowship. That gave me a clue of what was going on at the dam.

Some of these oral histories were done by Indira Berndtson, the (now retired) Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Administrator of Historic Studies. This was great, because she interviewed former Wright-apprentice, Wes Peters, who died in 1991.

While “Wes” had never seen the system, he told Indira (in his July 26, 1990 interview) that Wright created his own acetylene gas for Taliesin, starting after about 1913.

But Wes didn’t call it Acetylene. He called it Carbide gas.

Because:

you got Acetylene gas by dropping water on calcium carbide.

And I think Wes was right about the year 1913.

How do I know?

The first page of the June 19, 1913 edition of Spring Green’s newspaper, The Weekly Home News had this:

Work has started at Frank Lloyd Wright’s summer home. B.F. Davies has a crew of men laying water mains, which will supply all the buildings with water and also irrigate the gardens, vineyards and flower beds.

I thought he had the hydraulic ram at his dam earlier than that, but getting the water supply could have done more than just water the garden.

I don’t know how Wright came up with this idea, but he had to get something for his home he was building in the country, away from any settled area.

And he could have gotten local help.

After all,

about a mile away, his aunts had their Hillside Home School. They started it in 1887 and it had gas light, too.

It says so in their school prospectus:

The school building is a fine stone structure, with a well-equipped gymnasium, shop, home-science kitchen, and music-rooms. The Lawrence Art and Science rooms are equipped with the most approved appliances, and so thoroughly equipped that they meet every need of the work. The entire plant is heated by steam, lighted by gas, furnished with numerous bath-rooms, and supplied with waterworks.

Hillside Home School prospectus for 1913-14 school year, 6.

You can see some gas light fixtures in this an old interior Hillside photo:

A black and white photograph of an assembly room at the Hillside Home School with wooden furniture and a wooden balcony on stone piers. From a school prospectus owned by Peggy Travers.

Looking west in the Assembly Hall at the Hillside Home School, 1903-1908. If you took a Highlights or Estate tour at Taliesin today, you would see the balcony and the stone piers, but everything else in the background is different, because of the 1952 Hillside fire. You can see a current photo looking in the same direction in my post, “Charred Beams at Taliesin“. It’s the eighth photo down.

Returning to what Peters said:

He said that when he first became an apprentice under Wright in 1932, Taliesin had electrical light.

Wright expert Kathryn Smith and I realized the hydroelectric generator was constructed in 1926.

But the tank where they used to put the calcium carbide was still there.

I think the entrance to the tank is in the photo at the top of the post. You see the black rectangle in the stone at the bottom of the photograph.

Like I said:

This is another thing learned at Taliesin: carbide gas.

When you look for that in Wikipedia, it directs you to the page for Acetylene.

… shoot, I don’t think anybody even covered Carbide or Acetylene in Chemistry class in high school.

                I just remember learning what a mole is, which I still think is totally cool.

I mean: you could figure out how many atoms there were in a gram of any element. The certainty of this was intellectually satisfying.

While I was reading up for this post, I found this page from “Old House Web” on people generating their own gas for their homes outside of the city.

Lastly:

in regards to the interview with Wes Peters.

During the interview, he said that he thought the tank for the calcium carbide was under the pier where the Birdwalk is today.

While I researched the Birdwalk, I realized the stone pier under the balcony was not in exactly the same place as the stone pier that holds up the Birdwalk. It doesn’t match up with old photographs, and I can’t figure out if the stone matches up.

So,

since I didn’t have exact measurements of where all of these things are, and were, I put two photographs together on a page on my computer, then drew a rectangle and moved it pixel by pixel to approximate the positions I could see in photographs.

This resulted in the drawing below. In my picture, the stone is dark gray and the plaster is light gray:

Black and white graphic illustration of Taliesin balcony, 1925-51, vs. present Birdwalk. Illustration by Keiran Murphy.

It’s not perfect, but it gives you a sense of how the Birdwalk and the balcony stood in relation to each other.

You can compare the photos from my last post, or below:

Black and white photo by John Gordon Rideout looking at exterior plaster and stone at Taliesin with leafy trees in the background.

Looking northeast at Taliesin's "Birdwalk" during hte summer, with the hills in the background.

 

The photograph at the top of this post was taken 1933-34 by William “Beye” Fyfe (1910-2001 at age 90) while he was an apprentice at Taliesin. His photograph helped me to date a change made at Taliesin’s Guest Bedroom.
Posted March 24, 2024


Oh, and if you want to go further down the hole, you can watch this for information about Acetylene gas. I found this on YouTube from “Tractorman44”. He explains how acetylene gas is made from carbide with water:

And then you can read about carbide lamps in miner’s helmets.

Looking northeast at Taliesin's "Birdwalk" during hte summer, with the hills in the background.

When was Taliesin’s Birdwalk built?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry. I’ll explain it, then tell you when it was built.

I’m writing this because a website subscriber wrote me that question after my last post.

You can can also subscribe, by hitting the subscribe button at the bottom of the post. It doesn’t cost anything and you get to read my posts earlier than others.

The Birdwalk is the long, thin, balcony at Taliesin that sticks out from the building. You can see it in the photo above. Below I’ve put a photo I took in May 2008 looking at it from the ground:

Color photograph of Taliesin Birdwalk taken by Keiran Murphy on May 8, 2008

You can also see the Birdwalk in the distance at the top of my post from last April about Wright buying the land where he later built his home. So, yeah: it’s a Birdwalk-a-looza.

And people have asked:

What was it used for? What’s its purpose? Was it a pool?

No, it wasn’t a pool. It seemed to be just a balcony that the Wrights could walk on to enjoy the view, both away from the building, and looking back at it.

But, most of all, they ask:

why is it called the Birdwalk?

The story goes:

that one morning the Wrights were in Taliesin’s Living Room listening to the birds sing outside. Mrs. Wright

(the third Mrs. Wright, Olgivanna Lloyd Wright)

said it would be wonderful to “walk amongst the birds.”

That inspired her husband to create a 40-foot balcony off of the house.1

However

the Birdwalk wasn’t the first balcony there.

Originally, Wright built a small balcony close to Taliesin’s living room when he rebuilt the house after its 1925 fire. You can see it in the drawing below.

I originally put this into the post, “Things I don’t know at Taliesin“.

I put a rectangle on what I was talking about in that post, but you see the balcony on the left side of the drawing. There’s a dark vertical post under it:

Elevation showing Frank Lloyd Wright's Wisconsin Home and Studio, Taliesin.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York), #2501.015.

Unfortunately,

There are barely any photos looking from the same direction as the drawing, because the ground drops away too quickly.

Mr. “build your house on the Brow of the Hill” grumble grumble

However, there are photos that show that balcony from the south.

Here’s a photo

from the early 1930s.

Black and white photo by John Gordon Rideout looking at exterior plaster and stone at Taliesin with leafy trees in the background.

A visitor to Taliesin name John Gordon Rideout took it. He was looking out of Olgivanna’s Bedroom window at the time. I showed one of Rideout’s photos before, in my post, Mortar Mix.

And the balcony appears in a photo that Ken Hedrich took in 1937 for the Architectural Forum magazine devoted to Wright the following January.2 You can see the balcony all the way on its right-hand side:3

Photograph of east facade of Taliesin by Ken Hedrich. Taken in 1937. In the Hedrich-Blessing Collection at the Chicago History Museum, ID: HB04414-2.

It’s online at the Chicago History Museum along with others that Ken Hedrich and his brother Bill, of Hedrich-Blessing photographers, took of Taliesin and other Wright buildings. Many images from their collection are at that history museum.

So, the takeaway

is that Wright had a balcony there. But not the Birdwalk.

Keiran: get to the point—

You told us the what and why. But when was the Birdwalk constructed?

After years of asking members of the Taliesin Fellowship, and looking at photographs to narrow down the date, it was confirmed by two former apprentices of Frank Lloyd Wright’s. These were David Dodge and Earl Nisbet. They both entered the Fellowship in 1951.

What people remember when they enter the Fellowship is always a good way to figure out what was going on and what was there, as people often remember their first experiences at Taliesin (just like I do).

David’s first construction experience was on the terrace perpendicular to the Birdwalk. That’s now called the Loggia terrace,

because that room, the Loggia, opens onto it.

David didn’t remember the Birdwalk in September 1951, when he entered. And since it’s so close to the Birdwalk, he probably would have remembered it if it was there. Earl Nisbet, though, remembered the Birdwalk really well, because that was the first big construction job he worked on.

So, that gave a date:

The Fall of 1951.

Nisbet wrote about it, too, in his book, Taliesin Reflections: My Years Before, During, and After Living With Frank Lloyd Wright. I would write his entire description of the work on page 60-61, but it’s long in this format. But it gives you details and adds info on Wright’s reactions to their construction:

Day by day, Mr. Wright could be seen in the living room viewing our progress. When we finally got a plywood floor down, he came from the living room to appreciate seeing Taliesin from another viewpoint. Although pleased, he was impatient to get the job finished.

Taliesin Reflections: My Years Before, During, and After Living With Frank Lloyd Wright, by Earl Nisbet (Meridian Press, Petaluma, California, 2006), 60-61.

I listed his book in my post, “Books by Apprentices“.

As I recall, Nisbet arranged to donate all of his profits from selling his book to Taliesin Preservation. They might still have it in stock if you want to buy it.

Nisbet also listed the other men who worked on the construction. He explained that they were still working on the Birdwalk when the rest of the Fellowship started going to Taliesin West for the winter. Their work went so late into the cold season that they had to redo things when they returned the next spring.

Really, the flagstone they laid on the Birdwalk’s floor froze and they had to redo it. The Birdwalk retained its flagstone for years but they eventually removed it in the 1960s. In fact, a color photograph by Edgar Tafel shows the flagstone on the Birdwalk in 1959. He published it in his book that I wrote about: Apprentice to Genius. The stone’s color inspired the color on the floor of the Birdwalk today.

Tafel’s photograph is below:

Photograph of Taliesin's Birdwalk taken by Edgar Tafel in June 1959. Property Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, New York City.

 

 

The photograph at the top of this post was taken during a Formal evening at Taliesin. The Taliesin community gave Formals once a month throughout the year at both Taliesin and Taliesin West until 2019.
First published March 10, 2018.


Note:

  1. It doesn’t appear that either Wright or Alex Jordan (from the nearby House on the Rock) were inspired by each other in the creation of the Birdwalk or the “Infinity Room” at that attraction.
  2. I wrote about a discovery I made related to those photos in my post, “Old Dining Room“.
  3. Bonus! At the ground level is one of the windows that future architect, Gertrude Kerbis, climbed through in the 1940s when she spent the night at Taliesin. Here’s my post on her Taliesin experience.
Photograph by Clarence Fuermann, 1926-28 of Frank Lloyd Wright's bedroom (now Taliesin's Guest Bedroom). Showing bed, furniture, and a door on the right to the terrace.

Another Taliesin mystery that I missed:

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I know you think I know everything

at least if I listen to my mom and oldest sister

But,

this post is where I come clean about something I missed about the history of Taliesin.

it’s only one thing in the pile of things that I know I have missed

and I say that and you don’t believe me1

But I’m not being modest. I say I don’t know everything because I’ve seen it happen.

For example:

In my post “A room at Taliesin“, I wrote how when I look at drawings I try to “wipe my mind of preconceptions”, which I put a note “2” on.

What was note 2?

Regarding missing things, I wrote:

“… I remember every damned time I think about the window found in Taliesin’s guest bedroom that was staring me in the face for years in photos. I’ll write about it another time to go over it in detail. It’ll be penance.

I don’t feel like doing penance, but it is Lent

And while I’m not a practicing Catholic, I grew up with it. Remember the ashes on my forehead in my post, “Dune, by Frank Herbert“.

So, let’s do this

For years I worked as the historian at Taliesin.

In addition to answering questions for the public and guides, I tried to figure out the history of the spaces in hopes that I could help the Preservation Crew working on the buildings.

            I always felt lucky that I got to do this

When I didn’t have projects, I researched and wrote about the history of specific rooms, with the possibility of these things being of assistance when projects arose.

A big write-up was the “Slice” of Taliesin that I figured out.

In fact, all of this work was part of my chronologies listed for my Wright Spirit Award.

At the top of the list

Was my research about the rooms on Taliesin’s main floor.

the ones you see on Taliesin tours

One of these rooms

Was originally Frank Lloyd Wright’s personal bedroom. The photo of it while he and his wife slept there is at the top of this page.

The Wrights moved out of the room into their own bedrooms in 1936.2

How to we know this?

Fortunately, this information came out in an “At Taliesin” article. The article by apprentice Noverre Musson published on March 12, 1937 says in part that,

Last summer saw quite a bit of this seasonal growth….

            … [T]he opposite end of the house was found to be unsatisfactory in some ways.  This wing which is passed first by the entrance drive had always turned its back on the approach but now sprouted a new branch to meet all arrivals.  It took the form of a cantilever terrace high in the air commanding a magnificent view of the valley and provides outdoor sunny living space as complement to a sunny new bedroom, also developed from an old one, for Mr. Wright.

At Taliesin: Newspaper Columns by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship, 1934-1937, edited and with commentary by Randolph C. Henning (Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale and Edwardsville, Illinois, 1991), p. 246.

Wright built the terrace for his new bedroom (seen in this post c. 1950), which he’d formerly used as a guest bedroom. His wife took the room next to it (you can see her room down the page in this post of mine).

Their former bedroom remained the Guest Bedroom throughout their lives (and beyond). You can see how he changed the room when you compare the photo at the top of this post with the one below taken by Ken Hedrich in 1937:

Photograph of Taliesin's Guest Bedroom taken by Ken Hedrich. Taken in 1937 Has a bed, chairs, furnishings, and a wooden door. Fire in the fireplace.

Looking northeast in Taliesin’s Guest Bedroom.3 If you walked through the door you would be in the alcove off Taliesin’s Living Room.

The photo also shows the underside of the room’s “loft”, like you see in this photo:

Photograph of the Guest Bedroom at Taliesin. Taken by Keiran Murphy.I took this photograph in 2006. I first put this photo in my post, “My March Madness

When I first started giving tours in 1994, the north side of the Guest Bedroom had drywall so I didn’t think about anything immediately around the fireplace or that north wall. In the winter of ’95-’96, the Preservation Crew worked in this room to fix a leak.

Probably due to Wright’s experimentation and changes over time, the north side of the room had (possibly still has) a leak. They work on it, then water finds its way in through another avenue and makes its way back to leaking. In fact it was leaking in this photograph taken by someone on a House tour in 2018:

A photograph looking north in Taliesin's Guest Bedroom taken while on a tour. Includes the bed, several seats, and lamps. Has masonry in view. Photograph by Stilfehler.

But leaks are not what this post is about.

The thing I should have known (but didn’t) existed in the wall to the right of the leak. It’s a window that was found by the Preservation Crew on December 14, 2017. Taliesin’s Director of Preservation, Ryan Hewson (from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation) excitedly discusses this find on this video, here.

HERE’S THE THING:

I only knew it was there when,

            thank Frank,

John Jensen, then on the Preservation Crew, uncovered it.

Now, to be honest, the window was covered up after Wright’s death in 1959. This is what it looked like when I first started giving tours in 1994:

Photograph by Yukio Futagawa showing the corner of the Guest Bedroom in Taliesin. Has with beige walls, light fixtures and a mirror.

After her husband’s death, Olgivanna probably wanted to make the Guest Bedroom more private. Having that open window (and French doors opening to the Loggia on the south) makes the space very light.

And it makes it difficult to sleep if there’s anyone else in the Taliesin living quarters.

Still,

I should have known. After all, I’d studied Taliesin for years and knew I had to “clean” out my preconceptions. Yet I had only seen the window in photos after John Jensen uncovered it.

And I have to say that had John not been careful he could have damaged the window and its frame.

The window you can see in Ken Hedrich’s photo from 1937 should have alerted me. But I let myself think the the light was reflecting off of something else.

Maynard Parker took a photograph in 1955 and the lighting he used cast shadows so you can only see a window shade to the left of the fireplace:

Photograph of Taliesin's Guest Bedroom taken by Maynard Parker in 1955. Has a bed, furniture, and a view out of the French doors. In Huntington Hartford Library--Maynard Parker collection, 1266-047n.

This isn’t even the first time I’ve shown things I’ve overlooked.

Here was the post I wrote about the found window at Taliesin, and how I realized I hadn’t noticed a drawing of it for years. Of course it could also be that I mostly worked by myself.

Which led to a lot of great discoveries, but, probably, oversight.

 

 

First published March 2, 2024.
Clarence Fuermann, of the firm, Henry Fuermann  Sons took the photograph at the top of this post c. 1926-28. It’s been published in a variety of places including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Selected Houses, volume 2. You can see it in the Journal of the Organic Architecture + Design Archives, here.


Notes:

  1. Again: that’s really directed at my mom and my oldest sister
  2. they got separate bedrooms probably because he slept less than she did. I’ve seen one photo of their bedroom when they shared it and the room has a drafting table in it. Makes sense, but if I were Olgivanna after awhile I’d be all right sleeping in my own bedroom after living with someone who would wake up and start drafting in the early-morning hours.
  3. I hear this was also called the “Big Guest Bedroom”.
Two portraits of Ellen C. Lloyd Jones (left) and Jane Lloyd Jones (right). Property of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Unknown photographer.

More on Frank Lloyd Wright’s aunts

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Or, Jennie and Nell Lloyd Jones for those of us who are Wright-fanboys.

like I’m one to talk. Whatcha been doin’ for the last 30 years, Keiran?

That’s because one of my blog readers

you can subscribe at the bottom of the page

asked if I could talk about what led to the demise of the Hillside Home School.

But before I start:

I wrote last time that the Taliesin tour guides created the story that the aunts vowed never to marry.

I was wrong.

Of COURSE

this story originated with Frank Lloyd Wright.

He wrote in 1932 in his autobiography that the Aunts, “made a compact with each other never to marry.”1

Regardless, the Hillside school opened in September 1887. In 1891, their yearly newsletter (“Whisperings of the Hillside Pine”) said,

… a Home Building of thirty-three rooms furnished with all the modern improvements, steam-heating, bathrooms, etc.  There is also a cottage of four rooms, a school building of seven rooms, a laundry with two sleeping rooms, a workshop, a gymnasium, an octagonal barn and the other prerequisites of a well-furnished farm, with its garden, cattle, chickens, etc.   

And in 1896,

The Aunts commissioned Wright for a windmill tower. This is the Romeo & Juliet Windmill, finished at the start of the school year in 1897. Here’s Spring Green’s Weekly Home News on p. 3 in its September 9, 1897 edition:

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Lloyd Wright, of Oak Park, Ill., spent several days in the valley the past week visiting their relatives. The object of Mr. Wright’s visit was to complete the arrangements for a tower and observatory which he has designed, to be erected for the new windmill. The well is finally completed. It has a depth of over one hundred and fifty feet, and has over thirty feet of water.

Wisconsin Historical Society has a photo of the windmill:

Sepia photograph by Frank Lloyd Wright of Romeo & Juliet Windmill. Property Wisconsin Historical Society, 25564.

This version of the photo is backwards from what you’ll see at the Historical Society. What you see above is the correct orientation. I can tell the one at the Historical Society is wrong because the door in their photo faces the wrong way in “Juliet” (the octagonal part of the building).

I’m totally amused with the attention Wright gives to this commission in his autobiography.

He spends over 2500 words writing about its design, and the fights his Aunts had with his Uncles about whether or not it would stand. And he ends the story proudly writing that it stands still!

btw: it was reconstructed and dedicated in 1992 so you see the reconstruction today. A link showing the dedication of the reconstructed windmill is here.

Additionally, you can also see me talking about the windmill from Taliesin Preservation, here.

In 1901

The Aunts commissioned Wright again. Once more, here’s the Weekly Home News:

October 17, 1901

Owing to the increased attendance, the principals have decided to build a new school house.  The plans have been drawn and sent from the studio of Frank Ll. Wright, architect, Chicago, and work upon the construction will begin at once.

The building, with the two classrooms on the north side (now the Dana Gallery and Roberts Room), was completed in 1903.2

In 1907

As the school turned 20 years old, the Weekly Home News wrote a piece on it on its front page on June 27. The Home News reported that:

The past year there were sixty home pupils and ninety day pupils, the day pupils all living within a radius of five miles.

BTW:

See?! Hillside was not ONLY a boarding school!

            Who are you yelling at, Keiran?

one person I used to work with who kept calling it a boarding school and wouldn’t listen to me saying “DAY and boarding….” I’d say he knows who he is, but I’m guessing he never listened to me.

Here’s the Story in the Home News, continued:

The school is on the accredited list for all courses in the University of Wisconsin excepting the ancient classical course, and a diploma therein admits to the Chicago University, Wellesley and other colleges.

And that its students came from:

Canada to Mexico, from New York City to Los Angeles, California.

The Home News reports that,

in addition to the classics, geography, math, science, history, English, French, and German,

the school teaches:

            Music.

            Manual Training.

            Arts and Crafts.

            Domestic Science.

This included gardens that each of the pupils maintained

            The Farm.

                        under the management of James Lloyd Jones and his son Charles.

And the kids lived in:

Home Building.

The home building contains the parlors, in one of which there is a beautiful carved fireplace which at once attracts the attention of the visitor. It is the work of Mr. Timothy. Over this fireplace is carved in the stone a quotation from the bible in Welsh, “Yr Enid hob wybodaeth, nid yw dda,” (“The soul without knowledge is not good,’ [sic]) which was chosen by Mr. Thomas Lloyd Jones, deceased brother of the principals….

            Boys’ Dormitory.

Which was that building I wrote about in my post, “Another Find at Hillside“.

            West Cottage.

This building stood for a long time. Those who know folks in the Wrightworld: Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer lived there in 1949, his first summer as an apprentice in the Taliesin Fellowship. Then it was torn down.

            The Home Cottage and The Gables.

The Gables…, contains rooms for the helpers and the laundry, which was added to the institution last year. This is equipped with modern appliances for work. An engineer and four women are employed in this department. From 2,500 and 3,000 pieces are laundered each week, and though the capacity is sufficient to take in outside work it has as yet been confined to the school.

           And it has:

The Green House.

            The Stone Building.

            A.K.A.: Wright’s building

            and,

            The Thomas Farm.

originally owned by Uncle Thomas Lloyd Jones.

William Michels purchased it after the school closed. His son, William Michels, Jr., sold it to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in the late 1990s.

Remember James

Lloyd Jones—brother to the Aunts—who ran the school’s farm?

James died

in an accident in October 1907.

That revealed problems.

See, James had bought a LOT of land, starting in the 1890s. Which was fine when the economy was ok. Then things went south and James ended up owing more money than he would make off the crops he raised.2

And

earlier, the Aunts signed a lot of background papers to help him with his debt.

It might have turned out ok if he’d been able to swim his way out of the debt, but there was the accident.

Andrew Porter, the husband of their niece, Jane, took over as business manager for the school in the summer of 1907.

            That’s when he and his wife commissioned Tan-y-Deri

After the accident, Andrew discovered that James owed

$65,000

            that’s $2,159,068.52 in 2023.

So, two years later, the Aunts declared bankruptcy.

That was in 1909

Uhhh… a little bit happened with their nephew near the end of the year.

Despite the headlines that Wright was making in Illinois in 1909-10, the school was chugging along.

Below is a photo

Looking at the school grounds in 1910:

Campus of the Hillside Home School in Wisconsin in 1910. From collection of Peggy Traverse.

This photo came from Peggy Travers’ collection. Her family had a booklet from 1909-1910 from the school and she let others scan it.

While the School went along, it got worse when everyone found out that Wright was living with Mamah about a mile from Taliesin.  

and what I wrote about here, here, and here.

Here’s an example

of Wright’s effect on the school:

in a letter one parent wrote to Wright in early January 1912:

“I am writing Aunt Nell today that unless you can be persuaded to move from Hillside or vicinity at once that I will have to take my son out of school….

A. Cole, to Frank Lloyd Wright, January 6, 1912. Property: Crank Lloyd Wright Archives. ID: C001A06.

However the school limped along, the fire/murders at Taliesin happened on August 15, 1914.

The school closed

I don’t know how the Aunts kept the Hillside Home School open, but they had the last graduation in 1915. In 1917 Wright assumed the defunct-school’s mortgage for $25,000.3

There is the problem of how well Wright took care of the Aunts in their final years. They moved to California perhaps because they thought they would do better. Although Nell, particularly, wrote her nephew. They missed Hillside horribly. But they weren’t able to go back to Wisconsin in part (or so Wright wrote on letter J002D05) he thought they would be inundated by scandalmongers.

people writing up about his life, at that time with Miriam, of course.

When all’s said and done, though, I’ll leave you with a quote about the Hillside Home School from A Goodly Fellowship, by educator Mary Ellen Chase.5

Chase started her teaching career at Hillside. This is how she ended the “Hillside Home School” book chapter:

We travelled much in realms of gold at Hillside, saw many goodly sights of the earth, entered into many goodly kingdoms of the mind. We were watchers of the skies there. Whatever vision of imagination I have been able to give to my teaching in the years since then, I owe to two women in a Wisconsin valley thirty years ago; and I can only wish in all humility that any words of mine may prolong, if but for a season, their rightful immortality.

Mary Ellen Chase, A Goodly Fellowship (The MacMillan Co., 1939), 121.  

 

The photo at the top of this post was published in the book, Frank Lloyd Wright Collected Writings: 1930-32, volume 2. Edited by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, introduction by Kenneth Frampton (1992; Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., New York City, 1992).
Published February 22, 2024.


Notes:

1. Frank Lloyd Wright, An Autobiography (Longmans, Green and Company, London, New York, Toronto, 1932), 130.

2. The Home News said on February 19, 1903 that they were scheduled to finished the Art and Science building in April.

3. Meryle Secrest wrote about this in Frank Lloyd Wright: A Biography (Alfred A. Knopf, New York City, 1992), 195-8.

4. That was something I found out with Anne Biebel (of www.cornerstonepreservation.com) while we wrote the history of the Hillside Home Building.

5. You can find the book in libraries, or for purchase through www.abebooks.com.

Colored postcard of the Home Building, Frank Lloyd Wright's first design.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s aunts

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Jennie and Nell Lloyd Jones that is.

I have to approach them that way—

As the Big Boy’s Aunts

—or I wouldn’t get as much interest on this post.

They were the first of the Lloyd Joneses born in Wisconsin. Their three brothers and three surviving sisters (including Wright’s mother) had been born in Wales, starting in 1830. Aunt Nell was born in 1845, and Aunt Jennie in 1848.

My post today will be about them. That’s because

on March 9, 1887

Aunt Nell wrote to her nephew

            newly arrived in Chicago

about working on a building plan.

That building (in the photo at the top of this post) would be the newest construction on their planned school; as well as the first structure that Wright ever designed.

Hold on a moment.

before I get to Nell’s letter, I want to write more about the Aunts.

They never married and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Normal School in 1870. Here’s a photo from the class of 1870, below.

A photograph in sepia tone of two young women with dark hair.

25 year-old Nell is on the left, and 22-year-old Jennie is on the right.

This is my screengrab of the photograph by John Robertson, at the University of Wisconsin—Platteville. Archives and Area Research Center. Local Identifier: Record #889.

You can see the page with the whole photo of the class here.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has a photo of them at their school after 1887:

Aunt Nell is on the left with the white hair.

Nell’s white hair:

Wright’s sister, Maginel, wrote about this in The Valley of the God-Almighty Joneses:

Aunt Nell’s face had been badly scarred by smallpox… and her hair had turned snow white during the illness. Once, years later, she told me about it. At the time she fell ill she had been engaged to a young man with whom she was deeply in love…. then,… she was stricken, and lay for weeks horribly ill…..

            When her fiancé came to see her he was appalled. He stayed for awhile, and… promised to return the next day. He never came back….

            “Oh,” I said to her, “Aunt Nell, how did you bear it? What did you do?”

        She gave me a grim little smile. “I hoed onions, my dear,” she said. “I just hoed onions all summer long.”…

            Maginel Wright Barney, The Valley of the God-Almighty Joneses: Reminiscences of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Sister (Unity Chapel Publications, Spring Green, Wisconsin, 1965), 118-120.

Onions?

Did Nell have onions on her belt because that was the style at the time?

No.

During the American Civil War, people were asked to raise onions which could be sent to the soldiers to protect against scurvy.1

Did Maginel also write about Jennie’s personal life?2

Here’s part of what Maginel wrote:

   Aunt Jennie… was merry and animated…. It was she who told me stories of the family’s beginnings in Wales, and of their venturing to the primeval forests in Wisconsin…. Aunt Jennie had a romantic heart; yet she never married….

“The Valley of the….”, 119-120.

Some of Maginel’s memories are wrong. She wrote that Jenkin was 16 when he joined the Army. Jenk, the last of the Lloyd Jones children born in Wales, was born in 1843. The Civil War started in 1861, when he was 18. So, they must have been raising onions for the troops at that time, too. Maginel wrote that Nell’s hair went white the summer she had recovered from Small pox and had her heart broken.

Yet

the photo in 1870 of the graduating class from UW-Platteville shows Nell with jet-black hair.

So, either Nell conflated the story of the heartbreak and hoeing onions, or her niece Maginel did. Or maybe Nell had her heart broken twice.

As for Jennie –

Why didn’t she marry? Jennie told Maginel that she just couldn’t say yes to any of the men who asked her to marry them.

Maybe that contributed to the story Taliesin tour guides had created when I was there: that the two sisters vowed never to marry because one was romantically wounded.

Read my correction on this in the next post, “More on Frank Lloyd Wright’s aunts“.

Well, their decision to devote their lives to education is good for all of us.

Because they created and ran the Hillside Home School for 28 years.

1887 to 1915

NOW

I get to why I’m writing today. In early 1887, Jennie and Nell decided to start their school in The Valley.

Nell taught history at the Normal school in River Falls, Wisconsin, and Jennie was then an instructor in a kindergarten teacher training school in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Then Nell wrote to “My Dear Frank“,

Nell wrote “I heard you have been down to Hillside to look the ground over”.

SO, obviously the Aunts had spoken to him before about designing a building.

And while an unknown woman, “Miss Daniels”, had been drawing the beginning of the plan, “Miss D.—” didn’t feel it was finished/good enough.

            Then Nell wrote details about the plan on what they wanted.

The new building

  • Should face east
  • The first floor would have a room of 26 X 28 feet [67.6 square meters] to be used as a parlor or perhaps dining, and have an open staircase
  • One upstairs bathroom
  • Several small rooms – 6?
  • And two larger rooms over the kitchen
    • I’m guessing those rooms were the Aunts’ bedrooms

She wrote a few more things, like that they didn’t need closets. And they hoped to start “in the spring”.

Then Nell finished her letter with,

I hope you are well, happy and satisfying Mr. Silsbee.3

 I write in great haste but with much love

Ellen C. Lloyd Jones to Frank Lloyd Wright, March 9, 1887. Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives, FICHEID: J001A03.

Construction on the building didn’t start in the spring, but they finished it in November.

We know that because of the “Home News”

It tells us that the Hillside Home School opened the week of September 22. And, then there’s this in the Weekly Home News from

the week of November 10

Frank Lloyd Wright of J.L. Silsbee architectural firm of Chicago here to finish up details and supervise the clearing and grading of grounds.  “Mr. Wright is an able young artist and if all had a ‘barrel of money’ with which to carry out his attractive mansion and cottage plans they might be happy yet.”

It’s likely this positive description came from The Aunts. Because Wright himself was just 20 years old.

More links:

Georgia Snoke (a member of the Lloyd Jones family, from the Jenkin Line), crafted a nice write-up on the Aunts from unitychapel.org (the website kept by the Lloyd Jones family). That page is available at this link: http://www.unitychapel.org/the-aunts.

Georgia provides information on the Aunts’ emotional lives, which may help to illuminate why these two women never married.

The photograph at the top of this post looks up and west at the Home Building that Wright designed for the Hillside Home School in 1887.
It’s available in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, Illustrated by Vintage Post Cards, by Randolph C. Henning, 87.
First published February 7, 2024.


Notes

1. “Onions were used to protect against scurvy” is another thing I learned while working at Taliesin.

2. Why do you keep calling her Jennie when The Master called her Jane?

She was known as Jennie all over the place. She was identified as that in the UW-Platteville photo, on photos of her while the Hillside Home School ran, and by Maginel in “Valley of the God-Almighty…”. As I wrote in my first Hillside Home School post, Wright’s sister was named Jane, but known as Jennie. So I think that’s why Wright referred to his aunt as Jane. I’m insistent on this because it seems that she wanted to be known as Jennie.

3. Wright’s first employer, Joseph Lyman Silsbee (1848-1913).


I wrote more about the Aunts and the school in my next post, on February 22, 2024.

Exterior photograph of Taliesin in snow. Published December 1911. Property: the Chicago Tribune.

Another Change at Taliesin

Reading Time: 6 minutes

This part of Taliesin in the photo above is the part that faces the Wisconsin River. A photographer for The Chicago Tribune took this on Christmas day, 1911.

The other night I was thinking about changes at Taliesin and remembered something I haven’t written about: the expansion of Taliesin’s “Front Office”. That is, in the room next to Taliesin’s Drafting Studio, Wright moved the wall to the north.

The First Time

this part of the building appeared in photographs was the photo at the top of this post. The photographer took it on Christmas day 1911, the day Wright gave a press conference that informed the world that Mamah Borthwick and he were living together at Taliesin.

I mentioned the press conference here, here, and here.

Drawing Time!

I’ve added some for you, so you know what part of the building you’re seeing in the old photo. The first drawing, #1104.013, is a nice rendition of Taliesin 1911-14. It’s in the book, In the Nature of Materials: The Buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright, 1887-1941, by Henry-Russell Hitchcock:

Taliesin Floor plan. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York), #1104.013.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York), #1104.013.1

And below is a closeup, with the Front Office near the middle of the drawing:

Taliesin Floor plan, The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York), #1104.013

The drawing has the “TERRACE” under a roof, just like you see in the photo (the roof is noted by the arrow):

Exterior photograph of Taliesin in snow. Published December 1911. Property: the Chicago Tribune.

Here’s comparison:

This photograph I took below looks straight at the part of the building that had the “TERRACE” in the black and white photo:

Looking south at Taliesin from Office Terrace. Photograph by Keiran Murphy.

I took this photograph in 2004 while researching the Front and Rear Offices.2

The “TERRACE” was below the wall of rectangular windows behind the trunk of the White Pine tree.

btw: the pine trees (there were two) were removed in 2019. Don’t cry about it: one tree was dying (fixing Taliesin’s drainage took away a water supply); and each of the tree limbs weighed, like, 100s of pounds. Everyone in preservation at Taliesin felt nervous at every strong summer rainstorm.

Going inside

Wright never named the room, really. Moreover, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation staff didn’t call it the “Front Office” when I started at Taliesin.

           At that time (1994), Foundation staff used it as their business office.

The Foundation used the space until 1998 when the Tea Circle Oak tree fell (I wrote about that in this post). Here’s a photo from there:

Taliesin's Front Office. Photograph by Stilhefler in 2018.

Today I’m going talking about the part of the room on the right.

I didn’t work on the restoration of the studio after the tree fall,

—Why? at that time I was just a tour guide

so writing this post gives me a chance to educate myself.

More drawings—

Here’s one showing the other side of the room. It shows that part of Taliesin you see today in the Garden Court when you take a tour:

Taliesin elevation. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York), #1403.020.

Details on the drawing indicate that Wright probably drew it by 1913.

The drawing’s ID, “1403.020”, implies that it’s a drawing from Taliesin II. It’s the “1403”: 1914-25. But that’s wrong because of details in the larger drawing. That drawing can be currently (and until August 2024) be seen online here.

The windows you see in 1403.020 were added in 1913-14. Wright was adding the windows (and making other changes) when the photo below was taken:

Wisconsin Historical Society, Lynn Anderson collection, c. 1901-c. 1987. ID #68047. Looking northeast from Taliesin tower with drafting studio and courtyard in view. Possibly late fall.

The Front Office is to the left of the large chimney for Taliesin’s Drafting Studio.

I’m always happy when I look at this photo because of all the changes you can see going on. While Wright was always doing that, they were rarely caught in photos. Among things happening, there are the windows near the ground and the clerestories in front of the chimney.

If you want to know what a clerestory is:

it so happens I wrote a post about what looks like one at Taliesin (BUT IT’S NOT).

Anyway, back to the Front Office:

in that drawing I added above with the red, you can see Wright labelled the room as “Library”.

And in 1911, when draftsman Taylor Woolley took the photo below, you can see bookcases against the wall on the left:

Taken by Taylor Woolley in Wright's Taliesin drafting studio, 1911. Looking west.

This photo’s also in my post, “Don’t Touch That Stone“.

But he changes his mind and puts in the windows. He designs furniture to be put elsewhere to at least (maybe?) put drawings. The collections coordinator for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation noted there were several pieces of furniture, below:

Taliesin section drawing. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York), 1104.011.

And

This drawing says “1104.011”, when it’s actually Taliesin II (“1104” means Taliesin I: 1911). 

Although, here former Archives Director Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer made the mistake.

There’s a photo looking at a drawer, or drawers. It’s been published a few times. I took a photo from the book, Frank Lloyd Wright, Selected Houses, v. 2: Taliesin, then put in an arrow pointing at the drawers:

Photograph taken in Taliesin drafting studio toward Studio alcove. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York).

 

It looks like Wright gobbled up a bit of the terrace by 1916, where he put that set of drawers. He added a flat roof because he enclosed the terrace when expanding the room:

Taliesin Roof plan. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York), #1403.019.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives, drawing #1403.019.

I added the red outline to highlight the roof, terrace, and descending stairs. So, he pushed out part of the room (expanding it), then added the flat roof on top. There was a door under that roof, so you could walk out to the terrace, then down the stairs.

So he did name the space!

Or part of it. He thought this area was part of the studio, and this was the “studio alcove”. He apparently kept it this way into the 1920s, judging from a later drawing, #1403.023:

Taliesin Floor plan, The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York), #1403.023

The drawing was originally published in Wendingen Magazine (in Holland) during issues it published on Wright in 1924 and 1925.

I’ve posted parts of this drawing before: here, here, and here (I like using it because that bastard didn’t create many drawings for all the changes he made).3

It occurred to me that, by 1924 he perhaps added two “studio alcoves” for the draftsmen that he wanted to live at Taliesin for extended periods of time.

After all,

by the summer of 1924, his personal life was looking up in (what he thought was) the end of his relationship with his second wife. Little did he know how things were going to change.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York). Wright standing at car outside of Taliesin. Mid-to-late 1920s.

This is a photo of Wright standing outside Taliesin apparently in the 1920s when he’s got kind of Knickerbocker-vibe.

actually, I just looked at the link I put up there: those don’t “have” a Knickerbocker look; those ARE Knickerbockers. I don’t know whether I’m proud or slightly disturbed that I instantly remembered that word. I can only imagine he was wearing those long black socks to keep the ticks at bay. 

He’s standing in the space that became Taliesin’s Lower Parking Court. The Front Office is out of the photograph, on the right. A recent photo of the area where he’s standing in the photo is here on Wikimedia Commons.

 

The photograph at the top of this post is printed it with a story “Flashback: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin was a refuge for illicit romance….” and was printed December 4, 2020.
Originally printed January 20, 2024.


Notes:

1. In the spirit of education, I’ve used those drawings from ARTSTOR a LOT on this site. Because I don’t want the fuzz (really, lawyers demanding money) coming after me. Hopefully I’ll figure this out because the site is supposed to be retired in August.

2. I have a feeling that some of you might be jealous and want to go onto that balcony. I’m no expert, but from a liability standpoint I can’t imagine anyone on a tour (or just visiting) being allowed up there. Because the edge of that balcony doesn’t even come up to my knees. If you fell off you’d either drop about 12 feet onto a concrete terrace; or 40-to-50 feet down the hill on the north side of the building.

3. While some of #1403.023 is incorrect, it’s not (as far as I know) in this area. You can always write me if you’re curious about what’s inaccurate.

Keiran Murphy sitting on the couch in the libing room on Ash Wednesday, 1982.

Dune, by Frank Herbert

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Me at the age when I discovered the novel, Dune

As far as I know, this post won’t be about Frank Lloyd Wright or Taliesin. Since Dune, Part Two (the second part of Dune, the movie) will be released on March 1, I intend today to write about the novel.

In particular, my earliest experiences with it.

It begins

when I was a teenager. Like many kids, I had intense loves at that young age.

Although Dune wasn’t on that list. At least, not at that time.

When I was in both grade and early high school, I was addicted to the rock band, The Police.

I could write a long post just about them, but, you know…

If I said that I liked the complex writing and subjects in their music, I would be lying.

I first heard “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” when I was 12 and

like many other middle-aged respectable women today I’m sure

had a total 12-yo’s crush on Sting.

I liked the other bandmates,

and eventually knew a tremendous amount about them –  

            Which is why I mentioned drummer Stewart Copeland’s birthday in this post

But I mean, c’mon – what 12 yo isn’t gonna love this? A few months later I was crushed to find out he was married, but, still:

Screen cut from the video "Don't Stand So Close To Me" by The Police.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNIZofPB8ZM

Screenshot from that video.

Ergo

in 1983, my love of The Police introduced me to Dune.

I found out that Sting was going to play a character named Feyd Rautha in the upcoming movie directed by David Lynch.

I don’t remember how or when I first acquired the book. My mom might have given it to me at Christmas. And while I don’t remember the first time I read it, I’d never come across such complete “world building” before. The entire “Duniverse” had a complex history, vocabulary and culture.

            After all, the book has a glossary and appendices with essays on its fake history.

I consumed

the information about this fictional universe just as I consumed history about The Police and,

—yes—

Frank Lloyd Wright.

In case

You’ve not heard about Frank Herbert’s book, or seen it,1 I’ll give you a short overview:

SPOILER ALERT

not that you can’t find all this information and more all over the internet,
but putting in “Spoiler Alert” has become like covering your mouth when you sneeze

Dune is a science fiction novel taking place in an interstellar planetary system of humans over 20,000 years in the future, after humankind has left our solar system.2

The civilization has 10,000 human worlds, an Emperor, and Dukes in charge of planets.

Space travel between them is possible in part because of a mind-altering and addictive substance known as the Spice or Melange, which exists only in one place in the universe: Arrakis.

Arrakis is a desert planet commonly known as Dune.

And for good reason:

Arrakis has no open water, clouds, rain, fog, mist, or almost any other kind of moisture you can think of. The natives (the Fremen) even have special devices called “Dew Catchers” to gather drops of water in the morning after sunrise.

The only thing Dune seems to have really going for it is the Spice.

Therefore, spice is incredibly valuable and makes Dune a place of intrigue, battles, and death. Yet, what also makes Dune deadly are its sandworms. These worms have crystalline teeth and “swim” through the sand on the planet’s surface. They can reach 300 meters in length and can’t be killed by known weapons. In order to get the spice, you need to go into the desert and as they say, “where there is spice,… there are always worms“.

The story starts

In the year 10,191 A.G.2 The Padishah Emperor, Shaddam Corrino IV, orders Duke Leto Atreides to take over the planet of Arrakis.

Despite the fact that Duke Leto knows that he’s walking into a trap, he uproots his family and entourage from Caladan (the watery home world of House Atreides for 20 generations) to Arrakis.

With him he brings his concubine, Jessica, and their 15-year-old son, Paul.

The Lady Jessica

is a member of an ancient group of women known as the Bene Gesserit. The Bene Gesserit—whose motto is “We exist only to serve”—is sometimes mistaken for a religious group.

They’re a lot more than that and they are, I think, why I first fell in love with the entire story.

I don’t remember, ever before in my young life, encountering female characters that were so strong, insightful, or knowledgeable.

I wanted to be like those black-robed women. I remember trying to move very purposefully and being very quiet. I wanted to have a mind trained to pick up on the slightest things. 

These women could

  • move faster than the human eye if they wanted to in order to kick your ass
  • determine if someone is lying
  • undo any lock
  • survive any poison
  • completely control people through their voice
  • control the sex of their off-spring

While Jessica was ordered to bear a daughter for Leto, she bore him a son, who she had been teaching many of the things she had been taught. He will, by the end of the novel, become the Emperor.

Where’s Sting?

Sting as Feyd-Rautha

Screen grab from an unpulished scene of the 1984 movie, Dune, by David Lynch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCbR0wZWJxQ

The photo above is a screengrab of Sting with one of his two facial expressions as Feyd Rautha in Dune.

That’s not to say anything about his acting abilities.

is the nephew of the Baron Vladimer Harkonnen.

Oh, right:

I forgot them!

The Harkonnens, another Great House in the story, is an ancient enemy of the Atreides.

            as one would expect

and have run Arrakis for 70 years.

What I described

Is explained basically in the first 30 pages of the 500-plus page novel.

I haven’t even talked about Mentats (human computers), which exist only because there are no digital computers (which was either genius on the part of Frank Herbert or luck).

See, Dune is complicated

AND:

I’m old-school on Dune and have cranky opinions on whether the movie — or mini-series — director got the details correct. Or if they made decisions that annoy me.3

Dune Part 1 was the first movie we saw in the theater after vaccines became available; then we saw it once more when it came to our hometown. So I am really excited to see the next one.

 

Published January 7, 2024.
I was in the 8th grade when Mom took my photograph at the top of this post. I can tell by the smudge on my forehead that it was Ash Wednesday. The Persian cat I’m holding, Magoo, was mostly patient in how I used to hold her for so long… constantly. I’m wearing the polyester school uniform of my Catholic grade school. In grade school, the uniform was dark green. In high school, it was dark blue. In a jubilant rally a week after high school graduation, a bunch of us tried to set one on fire. That’s when we discovered that these uniforms don’t burn: they melt.


Notes

1. you need to get out some more.

2. The year is 10191, A.G. which stands for “After Guild”. So it means that this take place over 10,000 years after inter-space travel. In The Dune Encyclopedia the Guild was founded over 10,000 years after humankind left our solar system.

3. Weirding modules!!