“A Sampling of Wright Sites in the Midwest,” Chicago Tribune (October 28, 2007), 8-11. There are architects—and there’s Frank Lloyd Wright. His legacy is scattered throughout the Midwest, in cities and unassuming small towns. Chicagoans do not have to go far.  There is plenty to see locally, and Oak Park and Glencoe are only a short drive away.  But what if you want to take your explorations further a field? Here is a selection of Wright-related activities.  For information about the many places not mentioned, try the All Wright Site: an Internet Guide to Frank Lloyd Wright (www.geocities.com/soho/1469/flw.html). Taliesin, Spring Green, WI  Where was Frank Lloyd Wright from? He was born in Wisconsin, and spent part of his childhood in the Wisconsin River Valley.  He returned there, when he built Taliesin, the pieced-together compound of houses, studio, and various outlying structures. Wright traveled and lived around the world, but he always came back to Taliesin.  The buildings cover the range of his career, from the Prairie School to the postwar years. Reservations are recommended.  877-588-7900; www.taliesinpreservation.org Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN Where was Frank Lloyd Wright from?  This time it’s not a geography question.  To see the artistic forces that shaped the master’s work head to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, one of the top museums for Modern architecture and design.  The Norwest Modernism Collection has nearly 500 objects, from the Arts & Crafts movement to the International Style. (“Flat chested” was Wright’s epithet for the work of Le Corbusier and his disciples.) Another highlight is the Ulrich Architecture and Design Gallery, which has objects and furnishings by Louis Sullivan and the Prairie School. 612-870-3131, www.artsmia.org Dana-Thomas House, Springfield, IL  Frank Lloyd Wright is so closely associated with innovations in middle class housing that it is easy to overlook the magnificence of the big-ticket commissions. The Dana-Thomas House was built, beginning in 1902, for Susan Dana, a middle-aged Springfield widow.  The twelve-thousand square foot house has 35 rooms, including those Victorian sanctuaries, the library and billiard room. The dining room seats forty, and downstairs are a bowling alley and walk-in vault. In terms of size and specialized rooms it is one of the more old-fashioned of Wright’s designs. The interiors, however, must have been the talk of the town.  At a time when the fashion in decorating was for gold and furbelows, the Dana-Thomas house was a showplace of exposed brick, geometric stained glass, and high-back chairs. 217-782-6776; www.dana-thomas.org Westcott House, Springfield, OH A century ago, the manufacturer lived close to the factory that supplied his wealth; hence the grand architecture of the old industrial towns.  In Springfield, Ohio, Prominent citizen Burton J. Westcott founded a local motor company in 1916.   The automobile industry was the Silicon Valley of the early 20th century, and Westcott, no doubt, enjoyed a reputation for risk-taking. A few years earlier, following his wife’s advice, he had hired Wright to build one of those modern houses in a prosperous Victorian neighborhood. The only Prairie house in Ohio, it has an unusual trellised pergola connecting the house with the garage. After decades of neglect, the house has been restored.  937-327-9291, www.westcotthouse.org Louis Penfield House, Willoughby, OH  It’s a familiar scenario: the historic house tour is winding down.  You want to stay longer, but you find yourself being adroitly shepherded in the direction of the gift shop.   Instead of seeking consolation at the postcard rack, why not make arrangements to spend the night? At the Louis Penfield house, near Cleveland, you can do just that.  Built in 1955, the house was recently restored and is today one of the most desirable holiday rentals in the region.  The first floor is one open space, comprising the kitchen and living area. (It is one of the vagaries of a great architect that Wright omitted to make room for an oven.) On the second floor are the bedrooms and closets.  The Usonian template was adapted to the great height (nearly seven feet) of the patron, Louis Penfield, an art teacher.  The telltale exchange—with Louis asking “Can you design a house for someone as tall as me” and Wright answering “Yes, but we’ll have to design a machine to tip you sideways first”—is part of Penfield family lore. www.penfieldhouse.com Stockman House, Mason City, IA  Avant-garde architects have a reputation for promoting their work in esoteric journals.  Not Wright. The Ladies Home Journal was his choice, in 1907, to publish the designs for “a fireproof house for $5,000.” A year later, he built the house in Mason City for the Stockmans, a local family.  It has a characteristic open floor plan organized around a central hearth, and is furnished with period pieces and reproductions.  641-421-3666; www.stockmanhouse.org  Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank, Mason City, IA The Stockman House was not Wright’s only contribution to Mason City.  The north Iowa town is home to his only surviving hotel, the Park Inn Hotel, which had 42 rooms, when it opened in 1910.  There were separate lounges for men and women, and there was one bathroom for every two bedrooms. In anticipation of its centennial, the hotel is being restored and refurbished to some approximation to how it looked back in the days when William Howard Taft was president. Next door is another Wright building, the City National Bank, which is also undergoing restoration. Ann Mac Gregor, who is the executive director of Wright on the Park, emphasizes that the hotel will not be taking reservations for a couple years. But tours can be scheduled for those who want to know what’s really involved in restoring historic architecture. 641-423-0689; www.wrightonthepark.com   Cedar Rock, the Walter Residence, Quasqueton, IA  Cedar Rock is Frank Lloyd Wright at his most comprehensive. Nothing was beneath the great man’s attention. “Mr. Wright designed or chose practically the entire furnishings, including rugs, drapes, and dinnerware,” recalled the owner, Lowell Walter. The Usonian house was built in the late 1940s on limestone bluff overlooking the Wapsipinicon River. The house is open to the public May 1 through October 31.  Off-season tours need to be arranged in advance. 319-934-3572; www.iowadnr.com Allen-Lambe House, Wichita, KS For this one, you need to plan ahead. The Allen-Lambe House was designed in 1915, the year Wright began work on the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. He had visited Japan and was familiar with Japanese architecture; hence the vaguely Asian look of this Wichita house.  A sunken garden and pond surround the living and dining room, and the garden wall is ornamented with bulbous concrete vases.  One of the last Prairie houses to be built, it was, in Wright’s words, “among my best.”  It was commissioned by a Henry J. Allen, a Kansas newspaperman and politician, and his wife Elsie J. Nuzman.  Tours are available by appointment only and require a ten-day advance notification. 316-687-1027; http://home.onemain.com/~allenlam The Annunciation, Greek Orthodox Church, Milwaukee, WI The Guggenheim Museum is not the only round building designed by Wright.  At the age of 90, he undertook the church design for the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Congregation in Milwaukee.  The reinforced concrete building seats 1,000 and was built at a cost of $1.5 million.  Wright died two years before the groundbreaking and dedication, in 1961. Group tours can be scheduled for Tuesday or Friday. 414-461-9400; http://annunciationwi.com
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