Unitarian Meeting House Prow Restored
The First Unitarian Society of Madison, WI reports that restoration work on the Unitarian Meeting House's iconic prow was completed in December and the results are wonderful to behold. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and completed in 1951 when he was 84 years old, it is recognized as one of the world’s most innovative examples of church architecture and as one of Wright’s most influential buildings. The Meeting House received National Historic Landmark status in 2004 and is one of seventeen Wright buildings designated by the American Institute of Architects as a significant example of his contribution to American culture.
The exterior glass panes of the prow has been replaced with safety glass, wood panels restored as necessary and the more than 160 decorative, Cherokee red wood rectangles have been repainted and replaced. In the interior, the prow has been restored to its early 1951 appearance. New steel structs were machined where old ones had been removed, missing original glass panels were retrieved from the church archives and rehung after all the glass was thoroughly polished. Surfaces painted to match original colors. Windows that haven't worked in years have been replaced and are now operational. The project was funded by a generous grant from the Evjue Foundation.
Work to stabilize the auditorium roof has also been completed. The copper re-roofing work was halted in early November due to the onset of cold weather. This spring work on the Auditorium roof will resume once the temperature is consistently above 40 degrees. To ensure no further leaking occurs, 2 layers of ice and water shield is being applied over the original decking before the copper is applied.
In addition to the new roof, Friends of the Meeting House which is responsible for running tours of the First Unitarian Society campus reports they have developed a new website, www.unitarianmeetinghouse.org to facilitate information and advanced ticketing. This year's tour schedule has changed. Tours will be offered only at 10:00 in May and September. Two tours daily will be available at 10:00 and 2:30 June thru August. These start from the Landmark Entrance Reception Desk. To ensure guide availability, advanced reservations made through the website are requested. One tour continues to be available on Sundays year-round, starting about 10:15 following the first church service.
Friends of the Meeting House is a 501 (c)(3) organization affiliated with the First Unitarian Society of Madison. It was established in the 1970s to help educate the public on the significance of the building as part of Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural canon; to raise funds to help fund the ongoing preservation of this National Historic Landmark structure; and to serve as the building's preservation advocate. The organization is open to all Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiasts whether church members or not. The proceeds from the tours all go towards preservation work. More information here.
Reimagining Wright’s Larkin Building In Color
Through photo-realism techniques done with 3-D computer modeling, Spanish architect David Romero has cast a new light on vintage Larkin Administration Building images by bringing the building’s red sandstone exterior, cream-colored brick walls, and ornate details to life.
Romero said, "Larkin is a key building in the history of architecture. It was a pioneer in many aspects of design and technology that have continued to be used since then, but it was also a very beautiful building. It was consistent with Wright's work, and formally broke with everything that had been done until then. Seen today, it still seems a fascinating temple devoted to work, and an undeniable masterpiece."
The 6 1/2-story-tall building, built in 1906, was also one of Wright's greatest tragedies. The building was altered in later years in ways that betrayed Wright's design, and was torn down in 1950 by a private company with the approval of the City of Buffalo, which had tried on several occasions to sell the building or consider other reuses. Read more and, in the photo gallery, view 15 images of David Romero's work with Larkin Administration Building here.
Take A Step Back In Time At The Meyer May House
GR|MAG reminds us in a recent article to take a step back in time at the Meyer May House. Commissioned in 1908 by Meyer S. May, president of May's clothing store in Grand Rapids, and his wife Sophie. The house is stylistically typical of Wright's Prairie houses, an open plan constructed of pale brick, with hip roofs, long broad eaves, art glass windows and skylights.
Steelcase, an international office furniture company founded and headquartered in Grand Rapids, purchased the house in 1985. Before restoration began, extensive research into the home's original 1909 state was conducted through personal interviews, historic photos, original drawings and documents, and publications about Wright. During this restoration, the 1922 addition was removed, all the plaster ceilings were replaced, the roof was rebuilt, the Niedecken mural was restored, more than 100 windows and skylights were repaired, and an enclosed veranda was opened up. The landscaping was also restored to its original 1909 design. The Meyer May House was placed on the Michigan State Register of Historic Sites in 1986.
It is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. The best part? Entrance is free! So it’s a budget-friendly attraction for everyone. More about visiting the Meyer May House here.
Silsbee Home In Highland Park For Sale
An architecturally significant Highland Park, Illinois, home hit the market Tuesday listed for $1.575 million. The three-story brick and stucco design was designed by Joseph Lyman Silsbee, a prolific architect and one of Frank Lloyd Wright's first employers.
Located on a nearly 1-acre lot on Ravine Drive about a five-minute walk from Lake Michigan, the Samuel Slade House now features six bedrooms in more than 6,000 square feet on a nearly 1-acre lot. The home has an expansive backyard extending into a ravine behind.
Silsbee moved to Chicago in 1886 from upstate New York, where he had begun working as an architect after becoming a member of the first-ever class of architectural students at the Massachutsets Institute of Design. Silsbee and his architects across three practices in Buffalo, Syracuse, and Chicago between 1884 and 1887 designed at least 75 buildings- with seven listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
But Silsbee is likely best remembered as an early boss of Frank Lloyd Wright, who went to work for him in 1887.
"His superior talent in design had made him respected in Chicago. His work was a picturesque combination of gable turret and hip with broad porches quietly domestic and gracefully picturesque," Wright recalled in his autobiography. Read more.
Edgar Tafel Designed Home For Sale
The Carl Albert House in Windpoint, WI, a cypress and limestone home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice Edgar Tafel in the 1940s, has come to the market for $150K.
The real estate listing states that this home boasts an excellent floor plan, generous sized rooms, high ceilings, and architectural details throughout. A warm and inviting diamond in the rough waiting to be brought back to its original glory, the home is being sold in "As-Is" condition so hopefully some brave lover of architecture can restore it. See more here.
How Historic Preservation Saved Palm Springs
Home to the largest collection of midcentury modern architecture in the United States per the National Register of Historic Places, Palm Springs in the 21st century is an architectural tourism destination. The bounty of historic buildings, many of which have been rehabbed, repurposed, and/or saved from demolition, are now a top tourism draw. In a revitalized and preservation-embracing Palm Springs, everything old is now cool again.
At the center of the city's architectural tourism calendar is Modernism Week, an annual celebration of mid-century art, architecture, design and culture first conceived in 2006 and now held every February. Modernism Week has grown to become the "premiere event for the city of Palm Springs" per Mary Jo Ginther, director of the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism. "It focuses on the DNA of who we are."
Organizations like PS ModCom and PSPF have been invaluable in maintaining and promoting the architectural heritage of Palm Springs. But at the heart of its preservation-fueled rebound are the homeowners who moved to the city and began restoring neglected properties at a time when there wasn't a whole lot going on.
And while the city's elected officials are now enlightened to the economic and cultural benefits of historic preservation, challenges remain. PSPF president Gary Johns, who is also a member of the city's Historic Site Preservation Board, specifically mentions the autonomous nature of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (a sovereign nation headquartered in Palm Springs) and the Palm Springs Unified School District as being problematic. Both operate independently of the city and have the power to raze architecturally significant structures at will. And both have.
A particularly grievous loss was the 2014 demolition of the Spa Hotel complex. Johns notes that this '50s-era collaboration between several top Palm Springs architects including Donald Wexler and William Cody was "second to the Kaufmann House, the most defining pieces of midcentury modern architecture in the city." Read more here.
Midland's Treasure Trove Of Modern Architecture
Michigan Radio features a Stateside conversation with Craig McDonald, director of the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio in Midland, Michigan, about the city's architectural treasures and the two-year effort to document them through the "Mid-Century Modern Midland" project.
"From furniture show rooms to television shows like Mad Men, mid-century modern style has seen a renaissance in recent years. But for the people living in the city of Midland, those clean, sleek lines are a part of everyday life. The city has an unusually large number of mid-century modern structures that include residential homes, doctor's offices, fire stations, churches, and businesses." Hear the conversation and scroll through the slideshow here.
Wright's Boulter House Sold In One Day
The Boulter House landed on the market in Cincinnati for $695,000 in mid-January—and was sold within a day!
Built in 1956, it was commissioned by university professors and classics scholars Cedric G. and Patricia Neils Boulter. The two-story, 2,500-square-foot home sits on a sloping site and is meant to resemble a ship. The four-bedroom, 2.5-bath space was constructed with African and Philippine mahogany, Douglas fir, concrete blocks, and walls of glass.
“We sold it the first day,” says Susan Rissover with Keller Williams Advisors. While she didn’t disclose the sale price, she explains, “to get a Wright house under a million (dollars) seems like a steal.” The sellers weren’t necessarily looking for the highest offer. They were looking for the right buyer. “These houses are 60 to 70 years old. You’re not getting a new house," says Rissover. "You’re becoming a caretaker of a piece of art.”
The Boulter House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. All of the furnishings were included in the sale. More here.
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