After getting my new crown installed in Kalamazoo, an over-night in one of Ohio’s great rest areas, I arrived at my sister’s house in Williamsville. It is so great to see everyone!
When I say that Ohio has a great rest area, I mean it from the bottom of my heart. I was on I-80 – the Ohio Turnpike, just across the Indiana border – and I noticed that I was getting tired. I had originally planned to stop at a municipal campground nearer to the Ohio/Pennsylvania border, but I was tired. I saw a sign for the rest stop, and decided to pull over and see what might be in the area.
BE STILL MY HEART! The rest stop had a place set aside for RVs with electric hook ups, as well as a place to get fresh water and empty the holding tanks, if needed. It was only $20 and it was right where I needed it! I pulled up to an electrical post and hooked up. Then I went over to the ticket dispenser, inserted a twenty dollar bill and got the ticket that would entitle me to stay the night.
I turned on the AC, found the local broadcast TV channels and settled in for the night.
Just in case you are interested in the particulars of the Ohio Turnpike RV sites, there are east bound and westbound at the Blue Heron Service Plaza near Genoa, Ohio, which is where I stayed. There are also facilities and the east bound and west bound Vermillion Valle Service Plazas, which are near Berea, Ohio.
I found this information just now by consulting an app I have on my iPhone. It’s called The Ultimate US Campground Project, and it costs $6.99. I have found it to be very useful.
I arrived at my sister’s house the next day and set up shop. I’ve been having a good time with family and friends.
Nothing like visiting doctors when you get to be a “certain age.” They always want to see you again.
I was able to work in the visits after the wedding. I was planning to pass by en route from Milwaukee to Buffalo but I ended up spending almost three weeks enjoying the hospitality of Kalamazoo Country Parks and the company of my friends.
But first, a stop at the Mars Cheese Castle on my way out of Wisconsin.
The first few days, I stayed at Cold Brook County Park in Kalamazoo County. It’s a pleasant, older park with lots of mature trees. The sites have electrical hook ups and there are water spigots within reach of each campsite. I had enough water on board to last me, so I didn’t bother to get out the hoses. At $22 per night, it is quite reasonable. The sites at Markin Glen are $26 per night, but include full hook ups. If you would like to book a spot at either park, contact Kalamazoo County Parks.
Health care was the main reason for my return. I had hand surgery done as well as some dental work.
I also needed some body work done on my truck. I smushed the bed on the passenger side into one of those posts they put up to keep you from running into buildings. They need to come up with a solution to the problem of people running into the posts!
After my time at Cold Brook Park, I moved back to Markin Glen and then dropped my truck off at the body shop. I got to drive a zippy little rental car around Kalamazoo for a week! That was fun.
I met up with friends and visited places I had missed while I was on the road. One thing that Kalamazoo has is a fantastic Farmers’ Market. It is almost like a carnival, with music, crafts people and food vendors in addition to the farm products for sale.
There were celebrations, like this going away party for Brittany. She is heading to China to teach English.
And a party to celebrate Susan and Cush’s wedding, which took place last winter. Imagine my surprise when I ran into a former student at the party!
She was so excited to introduce me to her daughter, telling her that I was the reason she loved to read. What better tribute can a teacher receive?
Speaking of “my kids”, met up with a brother/sister team that I had in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s. They were so disappointed that we didn’t get together when I was in town earlier in the summer that we made a point of it during this trip. Facebook is such a great tool for catching up with people from your past.
I was going by Deb and Mike’s house after I met up with Stephanie and Steven. On a whim, I stopped and rang the bell. They were home! They were on their way out of town, but we got to chat for a few moments and post for a selfie. Deb was the dance teacher when I taught at Woods Lake. It was good to see them, even if the visit was brief.
There are always fun things to see. For instance, one of these trees is not like the other…
It is a cell phone tower dressed up to look like a tree. I saw towers in Arizona disguised as palm trees.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Kalamazoo just loves festivals and celebrations. While I was in town, there was a festival in Bronson Park to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Kalamazoo Promise. For those of you who haven’t heard the word, the Kalamazoo Promise provides a college education for its students at any public university – and many private ones – in Michigan. If a student who lives in Kalamazoo attends and graduates from Kalamazoo Public Schools, they have get to go to college. This tremendous gift was made by anonymous donors. These people are heroes in my book!
They were looking for volunteers, so I sent in my name. I got assigned to the Craft area. My craft was applying stickers to mortar boards. Easy enough.
Of course, it was a fun day, running into old friends.
And new friends
The centerpiece of Bronson Park is The Fountain of the Pioneers, which was designed by Alfonso Iannelli. Oddly enough, when I was checking to see if I remembered the name of the fountain and the designer correctly, I found out that he was a “sometimes collaborator of Frank Lloyd Wright. It certainly resembles some of his designs. It was dedicated in 1940, and built with some WPA funds. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
More historic to me is that Abraham Lincoln came to Kalamazoo in 1856. Of course, the event almost seems an afterthought on the memorial. Once you get past the honor to the person who placed the tablet, her affiliations and an honor to the Civil War veterans. From what I remember reading, Lincoln took the train over from Chicago, made his speech and took the train back. The trains must have run more regularly back then.
After my shift at the Craft Area, I took a loop around the park and then I headed back to my car.
In 2002, Kalamazoo Public Library was awarded the prestigious National Library of the Year. The exterior is striking, as is the interior.
Another point of pride for Kalamazoo is that they were the first city in the United States to take a street and turn it into a pedestrian mall back in the ’50’s. It was an effort to increase urban vitality and defend against suburbanization. For a while, Kalamazoo was known as “Mall City”.
It was an interesting experiment, but ultimately one lane was reopened to vehicle traffic in the late 1990’s. The sidewalks are wider than normal streets, there is a parking lane and a vehicle lane. And, it is a lively place.
There is one of my favorite buildings. It had a concave facade covered with mirrors.
I just love walking past it and watching the images change.
After my stroll, I arrived at the garage and retrieved my car.
Eventually, I had all the appointments taken care of and saw most of the people I had hoped to see. I got my truck back and then hitched up and headed east.
When I first started telling people about my plans to sell my house, buy and Airstream and see the lower 48, people kept urging me to start a blog. I had every intention of doing so. I might have gotten around to doing it sooner, except that I got off to a rather inauspicious start.
Believe it or not, I got the house prepped and sold exactly when I planned and at a price that was about what I had planned on. And, that was what I thought would be the hard part. After all, Dad and I were pretty much confirmed pack rats and not too bothered by disarray.
It took hours and hours of work to haul out all the stuff and find new homes for all of it. I sold some, gave a lot away and threw a lot out.
After all the help from friends, and various trades people and my own hard work, I got the old homestead presentable. The realtor even agreed that I should ask for more than she had first thought when she looked at it. She couldn’t believe what I had accomplished! In fact, the first person though the house on the first day it was listed made and offer that day. After the requisite pas de deux, we settled on a price and arranged for the closing.
Oh, loading out the things I was taking with me directly from the house into Flo went smoothly enough. So did setting up camp in Markin Glen County Park in Kalamazoo. It was early in the season and it wasn’t hard to snag a pull-though spot.
There were a few hiccups in figuring out how to hook up and unhook hoses and wires and such. I think it took me almost two hours to get everything squared away and ready to go to the next campground, but I got it done.
The problem came when I had to back in to the site I had reserved at Yankee Springs State Park, just about a half hour away.
Ah, backing in! Ever my nemesis.
Well, I sat there and thought about it. I was hoping someone would come by and offer to help. However, it was pouring rain, and the few campers there were safely holed up in their rigs. I tried to remember all the advice I’d been given. I screwed up my courage and went for it.
It didn’t end well.
I ended up backing the left side of my truck bed into the left front of the trailer. I could tell that I was making a mistake, so I pulled up and gave it another go. This time I really made a mess of things, and I backed the right side of the truck bed into the right side of the trailer. One of the curved glass windows broke from the stress on the metal. I was still finding bits of glass for months afterwards.
By that time, all the noise I was making – crunching metal and breaking glass – got the attention of another camper. He came running out and told me to stop. He asked me if I wanted him to park it. I gratefully accepted his offer.
Then I had to assess the damage. Oh, MY! I really made a mess of things. The bed of the truck was squished. Both tail lights were ruined.
The front of the trailer was dented on both sides and one window was broken. Luckily, the pebble guard on the window didn’t break, so I wasn’t getting wet.
I couldn’t even bring myself to take a picture of what I did to the trailer.
The next day, I went into town to talk to the insurance company. My original purpose was to talk to them about my insurance needs going forward. It came out that I had a problem right now, and she set about getting a claims adjuster to come out to the camp ground to look at it.
It sure does pay to have good insurance. It was kind of complicated, because I was getting the truck fixed in Oshtemo, and the trailer fixed in Grand Rapids. Then, I had to have the bed liner sprayed in again. I think it took almost two months before it was all done.
I took the trailer up to Grand Rapids to my friends at Woodland Travel Center. They did the estimate and made a temporary cover for the window – which you couldn’t even see because of the dark pebble guard.
They got me fixed up good enough to roll and THEN I went to RV Bootcamp where I finally took a driving lesson.
I had intended to do other things, but life got in the way. I was finally on the road by the middle of June. I had intended to be on my way long before that.
And that was my beginning. I am happy to say that I got much more skilled at managing the rig. Not perfect, but I am still on the road.
And, I learned an important lesson from all this. There are always people who will help you, even if you don’t know who they are.
I could have sworn the name of the city was pronounced Mil-WAH-key. However, after listening to the newscasters for a few days, I now know that it is MWAH-kee.
I learn so much in my travels,
The main reason for including Milwaukee in this trip – nay, the reason I came to Wisconsin in the first place – was to celebrate my godson’s wedding.
Oh, wait, that’s an old photo.
Here’s one that’s more up to date.
Me and my godson, Paul.
One thing that surprised me was that there are so few places to camp near Milwaukee. I ended up at the Wisconsin State Fair RV Park. It was another one of those “acres o’ asphalt” places. There were full-hookup sites, but I opted for a more budget-friendly electric-only site. Budget-friendly is relative, though. Supply and demand rules the day.
However, when I would peek out my window in the morning, sometimes I almost thought I was at the shore when I saw the blue privacy cover on the chain link fence.
view out my window
The full-hookup sites did have a bit of grass, picnic tables and the occasional tree. And, if that is not enough to suit you, you can always bring your own greenery.
But, I wasn’t there to hang out at the park, I was there to celebrate with my friends – and celebrate we did!
First there was the shower for all the women-folk. This gave those of us who had never met the chance to meet and greet.
It was a lovely party, with tasty food and the requisite games along with gift opening.
Towards the end of the party, the men-folk joined us. They had been out enjoying a Friday night fish fry.
The next day was the rehearsal, so it was a day off for me. Most of the day, I enjoyed the comforts of my Airstream, electricity, wifi, and good TV reception.
However, I did join up with them later for the rehearsal dinner. It was a wonderful picnic in the park. Here’s something that surprised me: the parks in Milwaukee not only allow beer, they have beer gardens in the parks! Must be part of the beer culture. Pabst, Schlitz, Miller, Blatz.
I have no photos of the picnic, but I would highly recommend Estabrook Park for anyone looking for picnic venue in Milwaukee. Lush and green and well-maintained.
That night, I decided that I should do something in Milwaukee besides take part in wedding events. I googled top things to do in Milwaukee and came up with a couple things to do before the wedding on Sunday.
Surprise, surprise! I found some Frank Lloyd Wright buildings that I had never heard of.
I visited the Burnham Street Historic District.
There was a grouping of Wright’s American System-Built Homes. These designs were Wright’s first efforts to create affordable housing. Essentially, all the materials were cut, labeled and prepared off-site. They were delivered to the job site and constructed there.
These houses were built by Arthur L. Richards in 1914. This grouping was built as demonstrator models. He held the franchise to market these buildings, but World War I interfered with the supply of materials. Then Wright sued Richards for non-payment of royalties and fees, and that was the end of the American System-Built Homes.
This is the view standing on the corner looking right.
This is the view looking left. I assume they were built around the same time, but what a difference in styles!
Some of the buildings were duplexes and fairly well-maintained.
This one, however, was more of a Frank Lloyd Wrong. Imagine covering a Wright building with aluminum siding. Horrors!
There was also a bungalow design that was purchased by the Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin Program and was renovated in 2010. I read on the web that they open it for tours several times a month. This wasn’t one of the times.
It looks like pink lawn chairs are the new pink flamingoes.
I found it interesting that the owner of this building added a clear barrier to the back porch. I wonder if that is because Wright designed the porch too low to be safe. From what I have heard from tour guides at other Wright sites, he was “vertically challenged” but designed for his height – which was naturally perfect.
My next stop was the Basilica of St. Josaphat.
The outside is amazing. The interior is eye-popping!
The first church was built in 1888, but destroyed by fire in less than a year. They rebuilt, but by 1895, the growing Polish population had exceeded its capacity. Erhard Breilmaeir was hired to design a new church that was to be built in brick and terra cotta and to be modeled after St. Peter’s in Rome.
In 1896, the U.S. Post Office and Customs House in Chicago was demolished because it was too heavy for the ground it was built on. Father Grutza asked Mr. Breilmaeir if he could adapt his design to the materials used in the Chicago building. He said he could and they bought it for $20,000 and it was transported to Milwaukee on 500 railroad flatcars. The tour guide told us that they managed to use the materials with a minimum of reworking.
They even used the doorknobs!
Artists and artisans were brought to Milwaukee from Rome to handle the interior. The guide told us that the paintings were painted in buildings nearby and that the figures were cut out and attached to the surfaces with the backgrounds already painted in.
Oops. Not all that much marble. Some of the artisans they brought were faux marble painters.
You can see the brush marks so you know that it is a painted surface, but the overall effect is richly veined marble.
In addition to lavish decoration, a basilica is entitled to three symbols that ordinary churches aren’t allowed to use, a tintinnabulum, an umbraculum and to use the papal keys in their symbols.
The guide told us that the first two symbols were used in processions; the tintinnabulum was carried at the head of the procession, and that the umbraculum was carried over the host.
Time until the wedding was going to start was growing short, and Amber, the bride, had told me to be sure to have lunch before the wedding. Just across the street was a Salvadoran restaurant.
They had me at pupusas!
Pupusas are filled tortillas. A little pocket of filling is put into the center of the corn dough and then it is patted into shape. I chose one of cheese and one of bean. The repollo is a spicy cabbage garnish. Horchata is a rice beverage flavored with cinnamon and sugar.
I had a window seat, and while I was waiting for my lunch, I noticed lights mounted on a nearby building to illuminate the dome of the basilica at night.
And then it was time for THE WEDDING!
Everyone is in place, the music is starting.
What’s a wedding without a photographer?
Then, the family photos.
There were many more photos by the photographer, and I went inside to admire the church that had been built by German immigrants.
“But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:14
“And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” Luke 2:49
Okay, so these might not be the literal translation of the German, these are the Bible verses that correspond to the illustrations.
Then it was time for the celebrating. They chose a lovely venue on the shore of Lake Michigan. The reception started with a cheese curd and chicken wing buffet.
After we were sufficiently refueled, there was more photography.
And of course, there were many more photos, much eating, much drinking, and – after I left – dancing and high jinks. I had a lovely time, but left early. I was tired and worn out with joy.
Can I ever get enough Frank Lloyd Wright? Apparently not. And, I am glad my friend, Dina, was also into his buildings, which made for a great visit to Racine.
Actually, not only am I seeing some Wright buildings for the first time, but I am also meeting Dina face-to-face for the first time. We have been Facebook friends, introduced by a mutual friend. It was great to finally meet her!
Our first stop was Wingspread, the home of Herbert F. Johnson. It was built in 1938-1939.
The house has four wings that extend from the central public space.
The central space contains the living room, dining room, sitting areas and places for entertaining. It is capped with a roof filled with multiple skylights.
The light that these skylights provide illuminates the spaces beautifully. However, they did leak. Wright’s designs are always inspirational, but not always practical.
Speaking of impractical designs, have you ever heard of a vertical fireplace? In the central chimney, he has four fireplaces on the main floor and that vertical fireplace on the mezzanine.
It was designed to be stoked with eight-foot birch logs. The first time it was lit, the logs burned away at the base and then they fell out onto the floor. The Johnsons quickly got the fire extinguished and the logs out of the house. From what I understand, the logs have been purely ornamental since then.
To the left of the fireplace, you see a feature that Wright designed for the boys. They wanted to have an area they could use for a lookout, like the cupola that their grandparents had at their house. At the top of the circular staircase is a room that looks out over the hillside. Sam used to talk with his father via walkie talkies as he would fly by the house.
Another thing that the boys wanted was a swimming pool. Wright didn’t approve of swimming pools, so this was a very deep reflecting pool. The pool was included to get the kids’ friends to make the trek all the way out of town to the new house. To insure that everyone could enjoy the pool, they had “paper” bathing suits that guest could wear in the pool.
This was hanging in what had been the boys’ playroom. With Wright’s fondness for fireplaces, this room has one, too. It is now used as a meeting room.
Wright didn’t leave the daughter out of the design. He designed her room to have a Juliet balcony at the end of it. It’s a small balcony, but it was all hers.
The parents each had their own bedrooms, but shared a sitting room. Of course, it had its own fireplace. Dina told me that Eleanor Roosevelt once took a nap on the couch. She heard that bit of information when she took a previous tour.
You can see how Wright allowed light to enter the private areas of the building. He didn’t use leaded glass windows that he used in houses he built in cities as there was no traffic out in the country. In the wings, though, he did manage the amount of clear glass that he used to preserve privacy but still illuminate the area.
We weren’t allowed in all the parts of the building, as it is used by the The Johnson Foundation. We could see that they were setting up for meetings and events later in the day.
The Johnson Foundation is an organization dedicated to helping to create change that leads to healthier environments and communities. They use Wingspread to hold their meetings and the offices of the Foundation are on the property as well.
Even though we couldn’t see all parts of the building, it was amazing to be able to take pictures inside.
We weren’t so fortunate with the Johnson Wax building, but it was a splendid building to see.
However, before we went to the Johnson Wax building, we stopped off for a bit of lunch at Honey B’s.
And then we zipped by the lighthouse on Wind Point.
En route to the Johnson Wax compound, we just happened to pass another Wright building: a house on the shore of Lake Michigan.
We met our tour guide at the Golden Rondelle, which was the Johnson Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
From there, we walked over to the Administration Building, which Wright designed beginning in 1936. It opened in 1939.
The Administration Building is the lower building. The taller building is the Research Tower. It was opened in 1950. The building to the left in the picture is Fortaleza Hall, which opened in 2010.
A dendriform column is one that has the form of a tree. The Administration Building is supported by them, which give a very light and airy feeling to the interior. Unfortunately, I have no interior shots to share. Interior shots are not allowed here.
However, the lovely parking area gives a bit of a feel of the airiness of the interior.
You can get a sense of the compression and release that Wright is known for. It is absolutely glorious passing from the parking area into the Administration Building.
Wright emphasize the horizontal aspects of his design by raking the horizontal mortar and leaving the vertical mortar flush with the bricks.
At the end of the covered walkway is the Research Tower. It is a fantastic structure that has round mezzanine-like floors interspersed between the square floors. You could look from the round floor down to the square floor below.
The Research Tower is no longer in use. While it was a marvelous structure, there was only one stairway. Not only was it a circular stairway, but it was only 29 inches wide. I can’t speak to the practicality of the work spaces, as I have no science lab experience. It may have been a good place to work. However, as accustomed as we have become to accessible spaces, it seemed quaint.
I was particularly taken with the restrooms that were snugged into small spaces next to the circular stair case. They even had curved doors that slid into place when the facilities were in use.
These sculptures, which paid homage to the Winnebago people of the area, were designed by Wright, but not completed until the late 1970’s. They are carved from granite quarried in Cold Spring, Minnesota. Nakomis is nearly 18 feet tall and weighs 40 tons. Nakoma is 12 feet tall and weighs 12 tons.
After our visit to the Research Tower, we went over to Fortaleza Hall. We got to look at a display of Wright’s work taken from the Wasmuth Portfolio, a book of lithographs, which was published in Germany in 1911.
And, of course, exit was through the gift shop.
Before Dina and I parted ways, she had to treat me to some wonderful Danish pastry. I am always up for a bit of culture, and I never knew that the Danes had such a strong presence in Wisconsin.
We stopped off at her place of employment to pick up Bart, and she made up a lovely box of treats for me to take on my way.
Like many people, I consider myself quite knowledgeable about Frank Lloyd Wright, his life and the evolution of his work. After visiting Taliesin and taking the four hour tour, I realized that I didn’t know as much as I thought.
The tour started at the Wright-designed Visitor Center on the bank of the Wisconsin River. After we met our guide, Cyndi, we boarded the little red bus with Taliesin emblazoned on the side that took us to the first stop on our tour.
I have plenty of exterior shots of the buildings, but interior photography is not permitted. However, there are books and postcards available. Exit through the gift shop.
We got off the bus at the Hillside School, which Wright designed for his aunts in 1902. They ran a progressive school that they called Hillside Home School. It was so radical that they even educated boys and girls together. They did a lot of learning by doing, which is the best way to learn – in my humble opinion.
This building replaced an earlier building that Wright had designed for them in 1887. Cyndi showed us the site of the Victorian style building, and told us that it was Wright’s first independent commission.
This was the first building he designed for the school. The second building was a classroom building to the right, across the bridge.
The school is now the summer home of the Taliesin Architecture School, and the drafting room and bedrooms have been added on to the classroom building. The drafting room is lit by the skylights; the windows on the sides of the building are for the students’ bedrooms.
The interior of the drafting room is amazing in its construction. The trusses and rafters support the roof in a way that is reminiscent of a forest. The skylights on the roof face north, to provide even light. There are also windows to the east and west on this wing.
The last building in this complex originally built as a gymnasium, but is now used as a theater.
One interesting feature is a tree that is growing right by the roof overhang. A tree that was planted by one of Wright’s uncles was growing there, and it was allowed to stay. Cyndi told us that it reflected Wright’s attitude that he was designing for now. Problems were in the realm of the future and would be worked out later.
The next commission he received on the family land was the Romeo and Juilet Tower.
The name came from the method of construction. Cyndi told us that it referred to the diamond and hexagonal shapes that interlocked to make the tower strong.
This side operated like the prow of a ship, facing into the prevailing direction of the wind. The wind pressure served to make the structure stronger.
The next stop on our tour was Tan-Y-Deri, which Wright designed for his sister, Jane Porter, and her husband. The name is Welsh for “under the oaks.” She saw the design for his $5000 fireproof house that was published in The Ladies Home Journal in 1907 and wanted to build it. Wright refused. He told her that he would design a house that would fit the land.
The family added an apartment in a mechanical area. Cyndi told us that Wright was incensed about the addition of the apartment, as it added vertical elements that disrupted the flow of the horizontal.
We were fortunate in that we were able to enter the public areas of the main floor. This is the first year it has been open for visits. Taliesin fellows live here – and in many of the buildings here. The preservations and renovation work is continuing, as it is with all of the buildings at Taliesin.
We continued on our track across the property. Next stop was The Farm.
It was difficult to get a view of the total. Wright had designed The Farm as a system where the farmers would be able to care for the animals without having to go outside.
After The Farm, it was on to the main attraction: Taliesin!
After a couple of hours of cross-country trekking, we were offered a light refreshment on the patio.
Taliesin is a Welsh name whig means “shining brow”. Wright placed his home on the brow of the hill, leaving the top of the hill open. The complex circles the top of the hill.
Wright started building Taliesin in 1911, and it went through two major revisions, as well as many smaller ones. Again, his “build it for today and let the future take care of the problems” has caused the Foundation many preservation issues, which they have handled and are continuing to address.
Here you can see the crown of the hill and get a feeling for the manner in which the building encircled it.
The woman in this photo had just gotten married at Kentuck Knob, another Wright building. It is located in Pennsylvania, not too far from Fallingwater. I didn’t ask, but I got the feeling that she and her husband were on a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired honeymoon.
I learned many things I didn’t know about Wright and his work during this tour. One of the things I didn’t know was that Wright had designed his home to be as self-sufficient as possible. We’d already walked past The Farm. During the tour of Taliesin, we saw some other features that showed that desire for independence and self-sufficiency.
I was struck by the arched doorway. I’d never seen something like that in a Wright building. But, it was just in a utility area.
Another was this apartment that houses one of the Taliesin Fellows. The call it The West Wing, but it is not as grand as television’s The West Wing. It was built in the pig pen! Pretty nice digs!
When the property was handed over to the Foundation, provisions were made for the Taliesin Fellows who had worked with Wright to be able to live there for the rest of their lives. The eat with the students in the dining hall at the school and are included in all aspects of the community life. I think that is wonderful!
Another thing that I learned – although I might have figured it out, had I thought about it – was that this building was begun in the era of horse and buggy and was worked on and revised right up to Wright’s death in 1959.
That meant that the building changed to accommodate the technology.
If I understood Cyndi correctly, the main entrance used to be via a porte cochere that was under that triangular shaped roof. When people stopped using horses, he rerouted the traffic to the back of the house where he put in stalls for cars. He filled in the former porte cochere to bring the floor level up and build a meeting area with a tremendous view of the courtyard and the land around it. The corners are mitered glass so that the sense on indoors and outdoors would be undetectable. Cyndi told us that he built this area to pitch his ideas for the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
Apparently, this is a good strategy for getting a job – IF you are Frank Lloyd Wright. I think the rest of us had better stick to resumes.
And, if you are an architect, and you enjoy indulging your children, why not build them something? It the above photo, to the right and just under the roof is the APARTMENT he built for his you daughter. Some kids want tree houses or play houses – she wanted an apartment, and that is what she got, complete with guest bedroom and sitting area.
There are remnants of old technology here and there, however.
I didn’t manage to take a picture, but Wright even generated his own electricity for a time. He dammed a stream and built a generator that was topped with a Japanese pagoda, according to Cyndi. A flood took it out in the ’40’s, if I remember correctly. The dam still exists and water is still flowing over it.
Time is catching up to this lovely building. Repairs need to be made constantly. This is an apartment where a Taliesin Fellow currently resides. They are doing Just enough work to keep the structure sound. When the time comes, they will do major preservation work.
It makes me wonder what percentage of the building failures are due to Wright’s tendency to build for the present and let the future solve the problems down the road, what is due to deferred maintenance due to lack of funding and what is due to the fact that Wright’s buildings are old. It’s hard to remember that they are old when they look so modern.
Wright built around these two trees. It looks good from this side, but on the other side, you can see that the roots are pushing walls over.
Still, what a wonderful building!
At the end of the tour, we got to put on little booties over our shoes and experience Taliesin from the inside. Of course, I have no photos to share, but it was lovely. We are able to enter areas that had been closed for years. Preservation is ongoing, and we got to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
Another thing I found interesting and amusing was that Wright ordered upholstered furniture from Marshal Fields for his house. He insisted on designing furniture for his clients that many found uncomfortable. He didn’t hold himself to the same standards.
And then it was time to go. We slid off our booties and exited the building.
We got back into the little red Taliesin bus and headed back to the Visitor Center.
Okay, I admit it; Michigan doesn’t have a lock on the color green. Wisconsin is downright verdant, lush, burgeoning, bosky and just plain outrageously green.
Well, what would you expect from a town named Spring Green, on the banks of the Wisconsin River?
Actually, the closest place to Spring Green I could find to camp was in Avoca, about 15 miles away. I called the town office to see if they had any spaces in the campground I found on one of the aps I use. She said they had plenty of room – no one was down there, except for some long term folks. That did give me pause. I have seen a few camps with “long term” residents, and some of them were a bit sketchy. However, it was the closest option with electricity, so I decided to give it a look-see.
It was fine, and there really weren’t any other people there. There were a few trailers off to the side, but they looked like trailers belonging to people who came down for the weekends. Since no one was there, I decided to make my own pull through spot. I occupied sites 26, 27, 28 and 29!
My first night there, I went for a drive to see what was just a little further down the road. I got to Muscoda, gassed up and then saw a sign for a city campground. I was already set up, so I wasn’t planning to move, but I thought I’d check it out.
What a surprise! I found two Airstreams parked side by side, with some folks sitting together at the picnic table between them. I decided to stop and chat with my fellow lovers of the silver trailer.
I walked up, and I said hello. One of the women stuck out her hand and said, “Hi, I’m Sharon. You must be Kim.”
Well, I was mightily puzzled by that. I am Kim, but how would she know that? It turns out that they were expecting the woman who collected the money from the campground, and her name is also Kim.
We had a good chuckle about that and then they invited me to join them for a beer. It turns out that the couple in the larger model were also full timers who were from Chicago. The couple in the Bambi were from California and they were traveling together. They were planning to travel along the Mississippi.
Just as the bugs were starting to come out, the campfire wood salesman came by.
What service! Campfire wood delivered to your campsite. He was quite the raconteur and full of fish stories. But the bugs were biting so I bid the gathering adieu and headed back to my own Airstream.
The next day, I went to The House on the Rock. Believe it or not, this was a place I remember Sister Jeanne talking about in art history class back at Daemen College.
What is The House on the Rock? Well, in addition to being a house on a rock, it is a display of the builder’s extensive and eccentric collections.
The House on the Rock was started in 1945, when Alex Jordan Jr. blasted off the top of Deer Shelter Rock to create a flat platform for his dwelling. He talked to the farmer who owned the rock, but didn’t obtain the land outright until later. He started out modestly, and built by carrying up materials by hand until 1952 when he finally installed an electric winch. He opened up to paying visitors in 1959.
Mr. Jordan collected everything under the sun and his House was stuffed with his treasures. He created small spaces with sitting areas and fireplaces abounding. The first mechanical orchestra I came across was playing Ravel’s Bolero. Given the dampness and mustiness of the building, it was remarkably in tune.
It was difficult to get pictures, but I did my best.
I wound my way through the House, I came across multiple sitting areas and nooks. It didn’t seem like it would have functioned well as a dwelling, but it was interesting to see what a man working by whim could create.
One of his whims was the Infinity Room. It extended out over the valley and looked like it disappeared into the distance. In fact, I remember Sister Jeanne showing a drawing of the proposed room. It wasn’t constructed until 1985. That Sister Jeanne! She knew about things that hadn’t even happened yet.
As you walk down the room, there is a window in the floor that allows you to look down onto the treetops.
And, here is a view of the room from the outside.
I ‘ll bet that it is an outstanding experience in the fall!
Right outside the Infinity Room, there is an interesting mechanical orchestra that is built to look like a cubist painting. It played Lara’s Theme and the theme from The Godfather.
As I made my way out of the House portion. There was an interesting wall of windows, reminiscent of a Japanese shoji screen.
As I made my way to the rest of the attractions, I looked down on the tops of the covered walkways that wormed their ways around the landscape.
Okay, I have to admit it; I didn’t much care for The House on the Rock. The Infinity Room was the best part of it, in my opinion. The rest of it didn’t work well as a building. But, don’t take my word for it – visit it for yourself.
As much as I didn’t care for The House on the Rock, I really didn’t like the rest of the attraction. Mr. Jordan was really into collecting. REALLY into it. In fact, I would say he was more into amassing things than collecting. There was just too much. Too much of everything. For the most part, is was all very dark and poorly lit. It was hard to make out what I was looking at.
In one section, he had loads of old musical devices that could be played with one of the tokens you received when you paid your admission.
I never used my tokens because I got to listen to everyone else’s music. With all those machines running at once, it sounded like the soundtrack to a nightmare.
Speaking of nightmare, how about the world’s largest carrousel?
Whirling and whirling without passengers.
Not to worry, however. There were smaller carrousels with dolls riding them. And things hanging all over. I was never more happy to see a sign like this before.
Well, actually, there were two gift shops to pass though before I got to leave.
The grounds were very well kept. There were dozens of these enormous planters, as well as dozens of smaller ones. Well, smaller only in comparison to the larger ones.
Hey, well, I’ve done it. And my next visit will be to Taliesin! Oh, I can’t wait!