Tag Archives | Frank Lloyd Wright

Capitalism on Chicagoland’s North Shore

Spending my youth in the suburbs north of Chicago often made me curious about its origins. There were exotic American Indian names, mysterious trails, woods and tales of corruption, scandal and murder amid the lush, green bluffs and flat, fertile soil, not to mention the lakefront, the railroad and the industry. I know I’m scratching the surface, but I’m enjoying writing about the towns, villages and enclaves north of Chicago in a newspaper history series I conceived and developed with my editor, David Sweet, earlier this year.

The theme is capitalism—the entrepreneurial spirit—on Chicagoland’s North Shore.

Glencoe, Illinois waiting station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

Talking with local and regional historians, curators and scholars, my research yields new takes on local myths and legends, facts about iconic names, dates and places and, above all, clarity about the men who forged new paths, pioneered Northern Illinois, fought for the Union during the Civil War and settled some of the nation’s most creative, productive and wealthiest towns. These men were largely men of vision and reason and they were farmers, frontiersmen, traders, industrialists and, mostly, individualists. Telling their stories, including notorious facts in the history of these towns, is more rewarding than I had thought possible when I first offered to write the articles.

These front page and cover story articles, which include bits on America’s first recorded serial killer, the only bridge ever designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright and the invention of Christmas bubble lights, Girl Scout cookies and Frenchmens’, Indians’ and religionists’ plans for the area near and along Lake Michigan north of Chicago, are currently available online for free. Read about Glenview, Wilmette and Glencoe. Know that there are more stories to come.


Murder in Kenilworth

Feature: Teen Depression and Suicide on Chicago’s North Shore

Sheridan Road: My First Intellectual Activism

Sheridan Road: Former State Senator Roger Keats

Sheridan Road: Interview with Kathryn Cameron Porter

Travel: Taliesin West

Having finally visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park, Illinois houses last winter, the Hollyhock and Ennis houses in Los Angeles and Taliesin in Wisconsin last year, I recently took one more fresh tour, the Insights tour, through his ingenious Taliesin West. Wright’s winter camp is located in Scottsdale, Arizona, though the docent pointed out that he probably wouldn’t have put it there today had he known what the local government would do.

What they did was mar the landscape he had worked so diligently to study, examine, research, consider, develop and integrate into his unique vision for the art of living he called modern architecture.

exterior at Taliesin West photo by Scott HolleranWhere Wright and his fellowship of apprentices had built a home, lab and place in sloping stone walls, redwood beams and sand to align with the foothills of the McDowell Mountains in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, the government has since made several changes including above-ground utility poles and other decisions he would have considered transgressions against art, nature and man. But then the docent on my recent tour, a student whose father is an architect who studied with Wright, pointed out that Wright thought traffic lights were also against man’s nature, too.

Wright created great American treasures from the Johnson Wax Building in Racine, Wisconsin, and an iconic Rodeo Drive building in Beverly Hills to New York’s Guggenheim Museum and Fallingwater in western Pennsylvania. He had discovered Arizona in 1927, when he was contracted to design the Arizona Biltmore. Wright moved to the Grand Canyon State, staying each winter season, until he died in 1959.

He wrote about his design for Taliesin West:

I was struck by the beauty of the desert, by the dry, clear sun-drenched, air, by the stark geometry of the mountains, the entire region was an inspiration in strong contrast to the lush, pastoral landscape of my native Wisconsin. And out of that experience, a revelation is what I guess you might call it, came the design for these buildings. The design sprang out of itself, with no precedent and nothing following it.”

FLW TW CabaretPools, terraces, icicles, dragons, towers, gardens, theaters and living quarters – where I spotted his copy of Animal Farm by George Orwell – are masterfully forged into an angled camp that adheres to his philosophy that buildings be bathed in warm, natural light. Refusing to make it on a strict north-south axis, he once explained to an archivist that tilting the design off the direct compass points sunlight and shade throughout Taliesin West’s rooms and views all year long. Looking toward the Camelback Mountains and over Paradise Valley, he found in this land the wonders of what was once an ocean floor, accentuating unusual Cholla and Staghorn cactus for their resemblance to strange corals.

As Wright wrote in 1937:

We must believe architecture to be the living spirit

that made these buildings what they were.

It is a spirit by and for man,

a spirit of time and place.

And we must perceive architecture,

if we are to understand it at all,

to be a spirit of the spirit of man

that will live as long as man lives…


These buildings were wrested

by his tireless energy from the earth

and erected in the eye of the sun.

It was originally the conscious creation,

out of man himself, of a higher self.

His building, in order to be architecture,

was the true spirit of himself made manifest…

Taliesin West photo by Scott HolleranEach place at Taliesin West, from the sculpture garden to the cabaret, dining room – even the parking lot – bears the mark of Frank Lloyd Wright and must be seen to be fully experienced and appreciated. My pictures are just that. Some photography is forbidden due to copyright issues. There is much to enjoy and explore at Taliesin West. This was my second visit. Each time, I gain something of value. I plan to visit again. Like almost everything in the desert and the American West, it offers strange beauty, grand vistas of earth and sky and it brings out the best in man.

Tours currently range in time from 90 minutes to three hours, and from $24 to $75, with some requiring reservations in advance and most available for booking on site. Tour availability, hours, seasonal and adult/child/handicapped access issues are all addressed on the Web site: FrankLloydWright.org

Accredited architectural undergraduate and master’s degrees are also available through studies at Taliesin West. Tuition is $30,000 for each program. Competition for admission is strong, though applicants with advanced critical thinking and graphic arts skills are encouraged to apply for admission. The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, divided into two season sessions at Taliesin West (October through May) and Taliesin (May through October), is a 12-month calendared, year-round program which requires residency on the campus. For more information, call the director of admissions at (480) 627-5345 or visit Taliesin.edu.

Travel: Taliesin

A summer trip to Wisconsin included a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin. 20130722-220547.jpgEmbarking on the estate tour, which suitably requires a lot of walking across Wright’s estate, the knowledgeable guide fully explained each aspect of the property, which includes many buildings conceived, designed, created and constructed by the world-famous architect and his teams early and at various later points in his career. Among the designs are a school where his Welsh, Unitarian aunts taught, a windmill named Romeo & Juliet, a barn, smaller homes and structures throughout the Spring Green, Wisconsin, estate and, of course, his home – which was burned down and later reconstructed – including his library, office, bedroom, dining room and the birdwalk he made for his companion. At left is the tour bus, which is comfortable. (All photographs copyright (c) 2013 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be used without express written permission).

Below is a snapshot of the home, which is located on a small hill, the terrace in the distance, where the tour group paused for a short refreshment. The picture shows the architect’s use of contrast on the house and Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic approach to design for living.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin. Spring Green, Wisconsin. Photo by Scott Holleran Copyright (c) Scott Holleran 2013 All rights reserved.

Below is a view of Frank Lloyd Wright’s home at Taliesin. My personal tour highlight was being in the dining room where guides confirmed that writer Ayn Rand had dined with her husband Frank O’Connor at the table as a guest in Wright’s home. I also learned that a small bust of Thomas Jefferson was a gift from Gutzon Borglum, the man who made Mount Rushmore. The bust looked to me like it was Jefferson’s likeness at the Black Hills, South Dakota, national monument. To go from room to room in the home where the author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged dined with the man who made Fallingwater, the Guggenheim Museum and the Johnson Wax Building and see and inhabit the spaces, angles, shades and views created by the master artist was an exalted experience. I can’t recommend it more than that. I encourage visitors and tourists to ask the tour guide and interior attendants questions; they often have answers. It takes about 15 minutes to drive to Taliesin from the nearest resort. The estate tour takes about four hours – other tours are three hours and there’s a visitor’s center with gift shop and information – and, for more on this blog about Frank Lloyd Wright, please see my posts about homes in Oak Park, Illinois and the Hollyhock house in Los Angeles, California. [6/8/14: I’ve also visited Taliesin West].


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin. Spring Green, Wisconsin. Photo by Scott Holleran Copyright (c) Scott Holleran 2013 All rights reserved.


The barn; the creamery tower’s top is not a cross; the guide explained that it is intended to symbolize a cow’s udder. Copyright (c) Scott Holleran 2013 All rights reserved.



the wooden windmill Wisconsin native Wright was told would never work (it did, defying experts) named Romeo & Juliet for its distinctively, mutually supportive two-part design. Copyright (c) Scott Holleran 2013 All rights reserved.






Taliesin windmill by Frank Lloyd Wright. Copyright (c) Scott Holleran 2013 All rights reserved.



Taliesin windmill by Frank Lloyd Wright. Copyright (c) Scott Holleran 2013 All rights reserved.


the school Wright built for his aunts. Copyright (c) Scott Holleran 2013 All rights reserved.










Frank Lloyd Wright in Illinois

Having toured the Ennis and Hollyhock houses in Los Angeles and Taliesin West in Scottsdale, I finally crossed an item off my bucket list when I toured some works by Frank Lloyd Wright in Illinois. It was around Christmastime, and the winter in northern Illinois was unseasonably kind, so I was able to embark on the audio walking tour in Oak Park.

The reasonably priced tour comes with an audio electronic device similar to an iPod, which was explained in a tutorial, a map in brochure and a set of headphones. They were all sufficient, though the device didn’t always work as intended and the headphones are one size fits all, so constant adjustments were necessary. The autonomy of walking through Oak Park’s wide, tree-lined neighborhoods is worth the hassle and the package includes a guided tour of Wright’s 1889-1898 home at 951 Chicago Avenue. Here, he raised six children with his first wife and added a studio, where he created a new American architecture, the Prairie style, and designed 125 structures, including such famous buildings as the Robie House, the Larkin Building and Unity Temple. The restored site is presented as it appeared in 1909, the last year that Wright lived in the home and worked in the studio. The house and studio are simple, clearly and thoughtfully planned and everything I’d always imagined they would be. My favorite parts of the home and studio tour were the children’s playroom and the studio workspace, best described as a place designed for man at his best. Standing at the drafting tables is an exalted experience. The whole experience stirs the senses and makes you want to get to work and create.

From there, the audio walking tour, which does require coordination and syncing the pedestrian with the technology, cycles to ten Wright houses and the Unity Temple, which remains an active religious facility that offers a separate tour for a fee. Individually, each is striking in its own way, and I’ve included a snapshot here as a sample. The audio provides a strictly architecture-oriented lesson, not an historical or biographical narration, and I found myself wanting to know more about how the commission was developed and for whom and how Wright regarded each finished work. The tour loops along Forest Avenue to Austin Gardens and up Kenilworth Avenue back to Wright’s home and studio past several other interesting houses designed by various architects. Overall, this is the largest concentration of Wright-designed structures in existence. All the houses are privately owned and occupied by residents and visible from Oak Park’s public sidewalks.