Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Taliesin Road Trip Day 2 Part one: Four Hours with Frank Lloyd Wright

        Tuesday morning we got up bright and early, checked out of our hotel and ate breakfast. We made a quick stop at the gas station to pick up sun tan lotion and bug spray and we were off. Once we had decided to go to Taliesin we knew we wanted to take the best tour available. The Taliesin people provide 4 different tours of the Taliesin property that range in price from $16.00-80.00 and last from one to four hours. Of course since we didn't really plan on coming back to Taliesin we decided to do the whole shebang and go for the four hour $80.00 (a person) Estate tour. The Estate tour meets at 9:15 at the visitor center and charters a small bus to the Lloyd Jones'
cemetery and chapel.

       The Chapel was actually designed by Louis Sullivan whom Wright began his career working under and whom was a mentor to Wright. Because they contracted Sullivan's firm to design the chapel the outside is a Sullivan design but the inside (which we didn't get to see) was designed by Wright. The chapel and the land around it is owned by the Lloyd Jones' who are Wrights maternal descendents. It's grounds are also host to a cemetery for the family.

                        Wrights grandparents and possibly his mother were buried here.

Mamah Borthwick Cheney's Grave
      The cemetary is also the burial site of Wrights mistress and girlfriend Mamah Borthwick Cheney who was brutally murdered along with 6 others in Taliesin at the hands of a male servant that worked there. The book my mom read before the trip Loving Frank is a fictionalized account of Mamah and Frank's affair as well as the murders. FLW was in Chicago working when the murders occurred and when he came back he demanded no one touch Mamah's body and buried her under a tree in his family's plot. The grave wasn't marked until later when Wrights third wife put the marker (show above) on the site.
Frank Lloyd Wrights grave, minus his body.
     Frank Lloyd Wright was also buried in this cemetary. When he died in 1959 he was buried here per his request, but when his third wife Olgivanna died in 1985 she wanted her ashed to mixed with Franks and used in the walls of a memorial garden in the couples other home Taliesin West in Arizona. So someone took the body from the grave in Spring Green, cremated it and did just that. So now this is just an empty grave.

Part of the Hillside school includes and sort of lounge area, theater and dining room.
       After we saw the chapel and cemetary we hopped back into the bus and were driven to Hillside. Frank Lloyd Wright originally designed these buildings as a private school for his aunts. Building the school bankrupted his aunts, and though it did live as their school for awhile they weren't bringing in enough money to pay off their debts and they ended up selling the land. Frank lloyd Wright bought the land and didn't use it really until the great depression. During that time money was tight,  FLW wasn't very good at managing his money and there was a depression going on, and he needed a source of income so he and his wife came up with the idea of creating an architecture school. It wasn't a traditional school, it was more of an apprentice commune of sorts. Students came and paid to live there (and later Taliesin west as well) and would work on the property and help with Wrights projects. With this he invited a bunch of fellows to help teach the students and Taliesin became kind of an architectural commune. It stayed like that after FLW's death until the 80's when money got tight and they had to reluctantly open up Taliesin to the public to get moeny flowing. There are still fellows that live in Taliesin, most of whom are in their 90's. Taliesin used to be controlled by these fellows but since they're all in their 90's a non-profit group Taliesin Preservation Inc. now controlls the estate.

Other part of Hillside, now they're dorm rooms for the students that currently attend Taliesin Frank Lloyd Wright school of Architecture and also houses their main workspace. 

      The school is actually still running and when we visited we could see the students at work in the building on the right. They stay in the Spring Green, Wisconsin Taliesin during the summer and move to Taliesin West in Arizona during the winter. The school is no longer an apprentice commune and has become more traditional school as later on all schools had to be accredited. Although, if you look on the website the schools accreditation is on notice. I guess that means that they're doing something that the accreditation agency doesn't like and if they don't change it they'll lose their accreditation.

Small sky way-ish  bridge connecting the two building

       I did get a couple pictures of the inside of Hillside but won't share them. I'd like to, but one of the rules of the tour was no photos inside the buildings. When we went inside Hillside pretty much everyone was ignoring that rule (or forgot it) but as soon as we got to the part of the building where the students were and our guide noticed someone taking pictures all that fun was over. I'm not really sure why they prohibit photos inside the building but you can google Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconisn or check out a book of pictures of Frank Lloyd Wright homes/designs and I'm sure you'll find a bunch of photos of the inside of the buildings.

Side of the Hillside school. This is the dining, lounge, theater building.

Farm land where I believe one of Frank Lloyd Wright's sons still lives. The foundation bought the land so their view wouldn't be obstructed/developed.
      After we toured the school we went up a small hill and saw the Romeo and Juliet Windmill tower. According to the Taliesin website this is the oldest structure on the estate. It was built and rebuilt a couple of times since, but still looks pretty good. This structure used to pump well water from the ground into the school but no longer works. We weren't allowed to go in it, but people who live and work on the property have ventured in. There's a reason it's called the Romeo and Juliet tower and I don't exactly remember why. Something about romeo being the octagon and protecting Juliet the circle.

Romeo and Juliet Windmill Tower.

        After the Romeo and Juliet Windmill tower we walked to Tan-y-deri, Wright's sisters house. Wright didn't want to build this specific house here. He was very into building sturctures that looked as if they were of the land and complained that a foursquare prarie style house did not fit the rurual Wisconsin landscape. But Wrights' sister was insistant he build her this house, a house she saw he was advertising in a magazine, and he begrudgingly oblidged.

        A lot of the sturcuters on the Taliesin Estate are sort of always in a state of repair. Taliesin Perservation Inc is a private non-profit and therefore doesn't get any money from the government for preservation. Instead they rely on money from tours and private donors. Tan-i-dory got a big donation recently from a car heir that used to be and apprentice in Wright's school. He said he would donate the money to restore the building if the students worked on it themselves. Apparently he believed the students should still be doing the chores etc that they did when he was still going there. Anyway the students agreed and that's what's going on in the photos of the building.

This and the other building below were originally a chicken coup and something else (though I'm not sure which was which). Now it's mostly used for housing.

view near Tan-i-dory
       After Tan-i-dory we walked over to Midway Barns, Wright's barn. As you can see it's a very funky barn, but Wright wasn't much of a farmer. Wright thought more creatively than practically and sometimes that was a detriment to his designs. Some homes he built had leaks etc. because Wright was thinking aesthetically instead of practically. Same goes for this barn. Wright had lots of ideas on ways to make an efficient barn but none of them actually worked. Out guide even told us that he changed the type of cow he owned from a regular black and white cow to a brown cow because his wife thought they were more aesthetically pleasing. The only problem is the white and black cows are better producers than the brown ones.

pile of junk near the barn

The tower. 

       This tower building was ( I think) supposed to be a place to milk cows more efficiently. He dreamed you could line up the cows in a circle along the walls of the building and milk one, let it go, then the milk the next one. Unfortunately the tower was too small and could only fit one cow.

Top of the tower. The balls are actually toilet floats.
side of the barn.

Farm land and pond near Taliesin and the barn
        After viewing the barn we finally got a closer look at Taliesin. But, the view of the front of the building was a bit disturbed as they were renovating one of the rooms in Taliesin.


View of Tan-i-dory from Taliesin
Side of Taliesin
     When we finally reached Taliesin we had a little break for snacks and water, which was much needed in the hot humid weather we were having that day.

Ivy covered pergola, one of my favorite parts of the house. I love things like these and I think it all has to do with the The Sound of Music. Extra points if you know what I'm talking about
Inside that room was the Master bedroom and study of Frank Lloyd Wright. You can also see the snacks they put out for us.
Frank Lloyd Wright was really into Asian cultures from a young age and had a lot of Asian artifacts inside and outside of his home. You can also see an Japanese influence in his architecture. 

view of a river from the patio in Taliesin

       When we started the tour of Taliesin, the home, we started in the Garden. The gardens were beautiful, with nice water features, artifacts and beautiful flowers. The home was built around the brow of the hill, Taliesin means Shining Brow in welsh, instead of on top of it so it looked like a part of the hillside and thus more organic to its surroundings.

The red color you see on the windows is called Cherokee red and was Wrights favorite color. At one time he mandated all Taliesin vehicles had to be painted that color and the bus we road in was Cherokee red.
Wright loved to use materials native to the sites where he was building. I believe the stones you see on the house are made of local  limestone.

view of the house from the inner courtyard

This statue is found in another wright building and when in good condition has arms. Because this version was left outside in Wisconsin's elements it's arms have fallen off.

       Frank Lloyd Wright began building Taliesin in 1911as a refuge from the bad press he was receiving in Chicago about his affair. He caused quite a stir when word of his affair with Mamah got out. Both were married when they started the affair and papers in Chicago and around the country slammed them very publicly when word got out. To avoid the scrutiny Wright and Mamah went abroad to Europe for awhile then moved to Spring Green when Wright's mother offered her son the land Taliesin is now built on. Though Mamah's husband was quick to give her a divorce Wrights wife, with whom he had 6 kids, thought it was just a phase and he would return to her after awhile. He never did and eventually she gave him a divorce. Taliesin has been through many ups and downs including the brutal killing of Mamah and 6 others as well and other fires that have occurred on the property.

I believe (if my recolection of what my bff has told me in the past is right) that this is a foo dog and since it's holding a ball this is the male. There were two on the property but I only got a picture of this one. 

       Taliesin was an interesting place. The house doesn't have a kitchen and I guess its bathrooms are nothing to yell and scream about (we didn't get to see them). We didn't see the kitchen but I guess it's very small and only really equip to make morning coffee. I guess the Wrights and their associates ate at the dining hall in the school.  It was cool to see a Wright building up close and get to see the inside as well. I also learned a lot about Wright. He was a bit of a control freak. When he agreed to build houses he had the home owners sign a contact that they would only move in with their tooth brush and wardrobe and wouldn't change anything about the house. He elected the right to come and visit the home at anytime and restore any changes back to the original design. I doubt he actually did this but it's still a little nutty. He also designed dresses for the lady of the house to wear when she was entertaining. Anyway it was a cool tour and I'd definitely recommend it. I also want to tour some of his other homes, especially some of his houses in Oak Park, Ill. I'm a big fan of Prairie Style homes which is a style he basically invented and there are some beautiful Wright designed Prairie Style homes in Chicago. Anyway since this post was so long I'll split it up into two parts and give you the other part in a few days.

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