If you're planning a visit to the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania to see the architectural sights, you'll be glad to know that as of March 6th Polymath Park and Kentuck Knob are opening up for public tours again. Closed for the majority of 2020 thanks to the pandemic, this spring sees the sites accessible again (with new safety protocols, of course.)
Kentuck Knob is not only a chance to visit a classic Usonian design by Frank Lloyd Wright, but also a world class sculpture park on the surrounding grounds. You can learn more about Kentuck Knob's tour options and plan your visit here.
Polymath Park features a chance to see several wonderful architectural works in one place, including two Frank Lloyd Wright designs: The Duncan House and Mäntylä, The R. W. Linholm House. There are also two more houses by Wright apprentice Peter Berndtson that showcase organic design principles. Follow the link to learn more about their tours and plan your visit here.
One of Springfield, Ohio's most distinctive architectural landmarks will reopen to the public this weekend following a shutdown due to COVID-19 safety precautions.
The Westcott House, located at 1340 E. High St., will begin docent-guided tours at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, March 13, 2021. Tours the remainder of March will be 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 and 3 p.m. Sundays. Hours will expand starting next month.
The Westcott House is a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Prairie Style house in Springfield, Ohio. The house was built in 1908 for Mr. Burton J. Westcott, his wife Orpha, and their family. The Westcott property is the only Prairie style house designed by Wright in the state of Ohio. The grounds include the main house and a garage with stables connected by an extensive pergola.
“It will be nice to have the house open and get back to having visitors,” said Westcott House executive director Marta Wojcik. “The difference is now we’re experts on how to reopen safely. It’s not as stressful this time and we hope this will be the final reopening we have to do.”
House volunteers have spent much of the week cleaning and several have gotten vaccinations. Safety restrictions will continue including guests being asked to wear masks and the number of guests being limited to eight per tour. This allows more space for social distancing and gives the docents have better control.
Pre-registration is suggested for tours. The Westcott store hours will be 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1-4:30 p.m. Sundays, no appointment necessary.
The shutdown allowed staff to do interior painting throughout the house. A recent grant will be used to purchase new furnishings along with other changes over the next year. More here.
Frank Lloyd Wright designed 11 houses in the state of Ohio—including the Louis Penfield House in Willoughby Hills, the Charles Weltzheimer House in Oberlin, as well as houses in Madison, Canton, Cincinnati, Dayton, and Springfield.
By the mid-20th Century Wright developed the concept of the Usonian house—different than his earlier designs in terms of simplicity and scale—providing an opportunity for the working class and middle class to live in a Wright-designed house. Wright designed approximately sixty such structures starting in the mid-1930s. The houses lacked basements, attics, and garages and were often one story. Wright coined the term “carport” to describe a roofed space to shelter a car. The facade they present to the street is often very plain with emphasis on living space integrated with the outdoors on the opposite side of the house.
A great example of a Usonian house stands with the Louis Penfield House in Willoughby Hills. This house is the result of a chance meeting between painter Louis Penfield and Wright in the mid-1950s. While traveling through Wisconsin Lou and Pauline Penfield stopped at Taliesin East. While an apprentice talked with the couple Wright happened by and Penfield asked Wright if he could design a house for someone his size. Wright assured that he could indeed design a house for Penfield’s six-foot, eight-inch stature, so Penfield requested a plan.
About six weeks later it arrived in a mailing tube and in 1955 the life of the Willoughby Hills house began. Work on the original house design stopped when the $25,000 construction budget was reached—leaving certain pieces of Wright-designed furniture and cabinetry cut from the plan.
The house was built on a 30-acre tract of farmland owned by the Penfield family for generations. It seemed ideal, but there was a catch. Shortly after the Penfields moved into their new home, they were informed that it would have to be destroyed—it stood squarely in the middle of the right-of-way of the proposed new interstate highway I-90.
The Penfield house was reprieved when the path of the road was shifted 500 feet north, allowing the interstate to proceed around the house. The Penfield House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Read the rest of the article by Tom Matowitz here.
When Rebecca Graff, a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago in need of a dissertation, was told by a professor that the view before them, from the school’s Ida Noyes Hall, was “a hundred years ago the center of the world,” she saw more than the bucolic splendor of Jackson Park hugging the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Instead, her sights went to what lay beneath — evidence of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, an unexcavated but huge part of Chicago’s history. Held in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the New World, the exposition attracted 27 million people.
Designed by noted landscape architect Frederick Olmsted, the 630-acre park had more than 65,000 exhibits from 46 countries, and introduced to the public such new inventions as a 250-foot Ferris Wheel, Aunt Jemima’s Pancake syrup and Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Gum. Electricity, still rare back then, was used to light up the expo at night.
Graff managed to turn that casual remark into her dissertation, “The Vanishing City: Time, Tourism, and the Archaeology of Event at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition,” and then into a book, Disposing of Modernity: The Archaeology of Garbage and Consumerism during Chicago's 1893 World's Fair (University Press of Florida, co-published with The Society for Historical Archaeology). Both were about the archaeological dig she undertook of a site in Jackson Park near the Museum of Science and Industry that seemed most promising for archaeological fair finds.
Teaching a field class at the University of Chicago, Graff and her students excavated the site. Expecting to find those things that archaeologists love — pottery shards, a coin here and a twisted spoon there — she and her team were stunned to unearth a section of the Ohio Building, a stately Beaux Arts-style edifice with an elaborate portico entranceway that served as a meeting place for Ohioans. It was among the best of all the findings they uncovered, which also included simple items like a collar stud, religious medal, cruet tops indicating that food was made on site, and lots of pipes. Though to hear Graff describe them, they’re all treasures and keys to the past.
Graff would like to return to Jackson Park for further exploration, but was denied a permit the second time around. She said it’s surprising that Chicago doesn’t have a city archaeologist, as other big cities do.
But she’s certainly doing her fair share of uncovering urban remains. She is currently excavating the Charnley-Persky House Museum, a National Historic Landmark located on Astor Street in the Gold Coast. It was designed by Chicago architect Louis Sullivan and his young draftsman, Frank Lloyd Wright. More here.
Alan Nowicki got hooked on Elbert Hubbard when he was putting together a documentary about the man for WNED-TV eleven years ago. These days Alan is the program director for the Roycroft Campus. "I just fell in love with the place—I have been here ever since" he says.
After a successful career in business, Elbert Hubbard launched the Arts & Crafts Movement in the United States, and created the Roycroft Campus, a haven for artisans to do their best work. Despite his contributions, Alan says Hubbard is "probably the most famous American that nobody knows anything about."
Alan will share his knowledge about Elbert Hubbard beginning Saturday, March 13th, 2021 in a four part virtual course. He says "It's really a deep dive into Elbert Hubbard's life. We are going to be showing photographs that have never been seen before."
What Alan will share through the course is the connection that Hubbard had with Buffalo, New York, history. He says "Elbert Hubbard is intertwined into so many elements of Buffalo, from the Larkin Soap Company to Darwin Martin and Frank Lloyd Wright."
The course is free for Roycroft Campus members and $50 for non-members. All proceeds go to support the educational programming and restoration of the Roycroft Campus. Members please call the Roycroft Campus to register, or call to become a member at (716) 655-0261. Visit the website here.
Inspired by local mid-century modern architecture and design in and around Detroit, Nicole Hodsdon launched Ciseal in 2013 with just some wood veneer layers, wood glue, handmade mold, and some clamps. Those four things made Ciseal’s first product – the Ray Tablet Stand – and since then they’ve designed additional woodlayered products that inspire with visual appeal. All products are made-to-order by hand in their Troy, Michigan studio out of sustainably-sourced, responsibly-harvested birch tree forests from the state’s upper peninsula. From pencil holders to end tables, each Ciseal product adds function while evoking sculptural forms through dramatic bends in the layered plywood.
The Alden Table, which comes in Oak, Walnut or Maple, is inspired by the intersecting shapes of the Alden B. Dow Home & Studio in Midland, Michigan. The unexpected angles give nod to the residence while offering space to hold a drink or an alarm clock above, and books and magazines below. See it and other products by Ciseal here.
Speaking of The Alden Dow Home and Studio, the foundation recently featured rare finds from their archives, including a selection of Alden and Vada Dow’s Art Print Collection.
"Along with the Georgia O’Keeffe and Vanity Fair portfolios previously highlighted, Alden and Vada Dow enjoyed the vibrant original prints created by the French artist and designer E. A. Seguy. He lived in Paris during the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements of the 1920s. He produced 11 albums of illustrations, most of them focusing on elements from the natural world, such as flowers, foliage, animals, and insects. His patterns were bold and colorful, and reveal his unique interest in the study of nature as a source of inspiration for artistic creation."
"Mr. and Mrs. Dow owned two of Seguy’s 11 albums of prints. Published around 1925, Bouquets et Frondaisons (Flowers and Foliage) is a collection of 20 illustrated plates with semi-abstract motifs inspired by nature, likely meant for textile and wallpaper designs. Executed with bright colors, the prints present an interesting combination of the Deco and Nouveau styles." More here.
In this third segment of a special five-part feature series for the ongoing Willey House Stories, homeowner Steve Sikora explores variations on the theme from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s Spring 2021 Quarterly issue “The Space Within.” In Part 3, titled “Sense of Shelter,” Steve explores three concepts: 1. Neil Levine’s Concentric Triangles, 2. Venn Diagram, and 3. The Labyrinth. Read it here.