What Taliesin Looked Like: 1911-1912 | Wisconsin Public Television

What Taliesin Looked Like: 1911-1912

What Taliesin Looked Like: 1911-1912

Record date: Oct 12, 2017

Jack Holzhueter, Former Editor at the Wisconsin Historical Society, shares the history of Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home located near Spring Green. Holzhueter discusses how the Wisconsin Historical Society acquired the photograph albums that contain rare and historically significant images of the original Taliesin, built in 1911.

University Place Subjects: 

Episode Transcript

We're all so excited

tonight to have someone

who is really an institution

at our institution.

(laughing)

I just met Jack for

the first time,

and it's remarkable

to meet somebody

who spent 36 years at the

Wisconsin Historical Society.

I never worked anywhere

for more than a few years.

So, I'm always amazed.

But when you find

the thing you love,

that's the key to being happy.

And he certainly did a lot

through his career with the

Society, too much to mention in

an introduction, but I was quite

amazed at the amount of work he

did as a researcher and editor.

I don't know if any of you've

ever looked at the six-volume

history of the State of

Wisconsin that was produced over

a number of years using a

lot of different authors.

It's truly-- It was an

amazing accomplishment

and serves a resource

for our whole staff here

and for everybody

across Wisconsin.

Anytime you have a question,

you go to it.

Well, this fellow next to

me was both a researcher

and an editor on that

six-volume history,

among the many other

things he does.

But he's also a musician of

quite significant accomplishment

from my understanding.

He can restore

historic buildings.

He knows something

about railroads.

He's what you'd find

as a Renaissance man.

So even if he wasn't

going to talk

about Frank Lloyd

Wright tonight,

he'd probably be interesting

on any subject we put to him.

So...

But, we'll limit him,

we'll limit him to Frank

Lloyd Wright tonight.

He's going to talk about what

Taliesin looked like in

1911-1912, and I'm going to let

him talk about it, but I will

say that for those of you

that've gone to see our exhibit

and seen the small photographic

album that sits in that enclosed

case, safely ensconced and

regularly with pages turned

so that they don't get too

much exposure to light.

Oftentimes you don't

know the backstory

behind the acquisition and

those types of things,

and Jack has a little

history on that.

It's much more than someone

just handed it to us and said,

"Keep this for safekeeping."

It was quite an

achievement to acquire it.

So, I think he'll

touch upon that

and whatever else

suits his fancy.

But, we're happy

to have you here.

Thank you, Jack, and good luck.

(applause)

It's good to be here.

Who's to say when

Frank Lloyd Wright first began

to think about building a

house on the brow of the hill

overlooking the Wisconsin River

on his maternal family's

ancestral property in

Iowa County, Wisconsin?

It certainly was not in the

year or so leading up to

construction in 1911 of the

house he called Taliesin,

a Welsh word meaning

"shining brow."

Cogitation about something

so grand and important

took much more than a year

and involved much more

thought about a building,

than took place in

a single year.

Wright's published thoughts

about Taliesin, too, are far

more grand than that and take

into consideration site,

purpose, materials, an

overarching contextual statement

regarding architecture and its

place in American society,

plus his changing

personal circumstances

that could not have

been predicted at all in 1900.

Wright's thought processes for

this site had only just begun

to percolate back in 1900 or

so, when he himself took this

photograph of the hill on

which he built Taliesin

eleven and twelve years later.

He included this

image in a packet of

collotypes he assembled to

promote Hillside Home School

which was a coeducational

preparatory school that two of

his mother's sisters ran just

south of the site of Taliesin

from the middle

1880s until 1915.

Wright sent some of his

own children there,

and I believe he may have

helped pay their tuition

by producing this

collotype folder.

Today, hardly anyone is familiar with the word collotype.

It refers to one of several

related photographic

reproductive processes by which

are made many high-quality

prints from a single plate

before a new plate

has to be made.

Single collotypes of Wright's

Hillside photographs were

offered for sale at $10,000

apiece back in 1994

in a New York City gallery.

The photo of the hillside

was not one of them;

at that time the location

was not even identified.

A few years later, Ann Whitson

Spirn identified all of the

landscapes in the series and

wrote a distinguished article

about them for a catalog that

accompanied an exhibition

about Wright and the landscape

at the Canadian Centre

for Architecture.

Here is another of

the collotypes.

It depicts Wright's Aunt Nell's

room in Hillside Home School,

one of the first buildings

Wright designed and built.

The Taliesin site and its

potential for building

had been evolving

in Wright's conscious

and subconscious for about ten

years when the opportunity,

and perhaps necessity,

arose for him

to create a something for it:

a combination dwelling,

studio, and farmstead.

This coalescence began in 1909

when Wright's private life

erupted into public scandal.

He had been conducting

a fairly open affair

with Mamah Borthwick Cheney,

the wife of Edwin Cheney,

a couple for whom he had

designed a house in

Oak Park, Illinois.

That year he and Mamah

fled together to Europe.

While there, Wright produced

his famed portfolio

of 100 lithographs known

as the Wasmuth Portfolio,

named for its Berlin publisher.

The most famous and familiar

print in it is probably that of

the Hardy House in Racine,

drawn by Marion Mahony Griffin.

I think it's

pronounced "Ma-nee."

Many architecture

historians consider this

portfolio the most important

architectural publication

of the twentieth century.

It also includes a print of

a new Hillside Home School

building, a 1902 creation by Wright, and a building long

used as part of the Taliesin

complex, particularly for the

Wright's architectural

practice and for the school

of architecture and public

events at Taliesin.

Given Wright's long personal and

architectural connection to his

family's properties along the

Wisconsin River near Spring

Green, it is no wonder, then,

that he turned to it in 1910 and

1911 as a source of refuge for

himself and Mamah Borthwick.

There they could

both see their

children regularly in a neutral

environment; there they could

work relatively undisturbed,

Mamah at her translations of

Swedish feminist Ellen Key's

writings as well as at her own

writing, and Wright at his

architectural work with the help

of resident draftsmen; there

they could have a farm to

sustain themselves and some

resident workers, plus grow some

crops for sale; there they could

live out an American ideal of

independence and freedom; there

they could escape much of the

public glare and opprobrium; and

there, through the example of

their lives as lived

amidst many fewer people,

they could hope to achieve relative acceptance and respect.

Wright acquired title from his

family to the hillside on whose

brow he could meld hill and

home, a structure "of" the hill,

not "on" the hill.

His design combined the

functions of farmstead,

homestead, studio, and dormitory

for his draftsmen.

It bore no relationship whatever

to the dwellings or buildings

of Wright's Welsh ancestors,

the Lloyd-Joneses or Joneses

on whose land he was building

and which had been in the

family since the 1860s.

He spoke their language,

loved their oatmeal

and other dietary elements,

and he chose the name of a

legendary Welsh poet for his

home as well as its being a

descriptive noun for the site.

But for an architectural

precedent, he seemingly turned

to something from a

more recent experience:

the hill farms and villas

of Tuscany near Florence

where he had created

the Wasmuth Portfolio.

The lovely stone assemblages of

the Tuscan countryside evidently

had impressed Wright favorably

with their oneness with the

landscape, the materials drawn

from the immediate region,

and the melding of spaces

for living and work.

I say "evidently" because

he never said so.

But he also had never said that

his moves toward abstraction in

his design were affected by his

trip to Japan in 1905, but after

his return he quickly designed

both Unity Temple and the

Yahara Boat House Project,

completing a breakthrough

in that direction that had been

in the budding stage

for several years.

Construction of Taliesin

seems to have moved swiftly,

taking probably eighteen months

from groundbreaking in 1911

to completion in time

for gardening in 1912.

Formal photography of the house

seems not to have occurred until

the summer of 1912 when Wright

hired the firm of Clarence

Fuermann of Chicago to make

images of Taliesin; seventeen

or so are known to survive.

Proofsheets of these were among

twenty-five Fuermann proofsheets

of the first and second

versions of Taliesin acquired

for the Wisconsin

Historical Society in 2012.

Besides the Fuermann prints

there is the album

of thirty-three

images on exhibition here;

again, there are seventeen

Taliesin images and these were

taken by a single individual,

one of Wright's draftsmen, a man

named Taylor Woolley who lived

the rest of his life in Utah and

whose negatives are divided

between two archives there.

Now I am going to

interrupt and say

that it says "probably"

in the captions,

just down the hall.

There's no "probably" about it!

He took these pictures.

[laughter]

The negatives don't lie!

They are his.

Woolley, the man on the right

is wearing a vest,

likely assembled the photo

album whose images are

on view here, and he

probably made the prints

in the album--

some of the rarest

Wright-related

images in existence.

We do not know for whom the

album was made, but I conclude

this presentation with

some speculations.

You'll have to wait.

[laughter]

Why Wright did not immediately

have more professional images

made of Taliesin is a

puzzle and a frustration.

He reveled in imagery.

He had just spent nearly two

years assembling and producing a

monumental print portfolio of

his work, plus a smaller

photographic portfolio that

served as a less expensive

adjunct to the costly

print portfolio.

The image is of the

large portfolio cover.

The one-hundred prints came in

two such protective folders.

Although, between Woolley and

Fuermann, fewer than fifty

interior and exterior images of

the first version of Taliesin

and its surroundings are known--

a very slight record for one

of the world's most important

architectural landmarks

of the twentieth century.

What was Wright waiting for?

Probably for more cash from his

largest client-the builder

of Midway Gardens in Chicago,

his largest work to date.

Then he could have Fuermann

pull out all the stops.

Unfortunately, the well-known

arson fire and murders

of August, 1914, occurred at

Taliesin before further

truly professional

photography could take place.

Meanwhile, Woolley had done

yeoman's work and filled the

photographic gaps for

later generations' good.

The photographic record for

the subsequent two versions

of Taliesin is vastly

more abundant.

The second, erected after the

1914 fire, stood until 1925,

when fire again destroyed the

dwelling but spared the studio.

Unfortunately, Wright's

half-million-dollar

cache of Asian antiquities-his

retirement nest egg-- in the

basement under the Taliesin

living room was ruined in the

fire as well, condemning him to

a lifetime of architectural

work, not a lifetime

as an antiques dealer,

much to the architectural benefit of mankind.

There are hundreds

if not thousands

of pictures of Taliesin II.

Taliesin III followed

immediately and stands today,

the subject of literally

millions of images,

taken by professionals and

mostly by eager tourists.

Those few images of Taliesin I

are the ones that concern us.

They are original prints, and as

such are the most desirable

for scholars, institutions,

and collectors.

And they fetch the

highest prices.

At this point I

should unmask myself

and tell a story about values.

The album whose images grace the

walls here was acquired in 2005

by the Historical Society

largely through my efforts.

On a Monday night in January

that year I attended a meeting

of the group that was planning

the restoration of Wright's

Model B1 American System Built

dwelling at 2714 West Burnham

Street on Milwaukee's

south side.

At the end of the meeting Mike

Lilek, who headed the committee

and who is an enthusiastic

Wright collector, showed me a

printout of an eBay

offering this album.

It was only a partial print of

the album, but it stunned me.

I said something like, "Holy

crap, that's Taliesin I!"

Mike said, "Yup."

And I said, "We've got

to do something."

We hatched the fund-raising idea

through the Wisconsin Historical

Society that night, and

the next morning, Tuesday,

I set things in motion,

with the auction closing

around 9:30 p.m. on Friday.

That gave us four days.

Mike and I figured the value

at about $22,000 for the

thirty-three images, some being

worth a thousand dollars each,

others five hundred.

About two weeks later a

dealer called me at home

and said he thought a fair retail price was $60,000,

and asked if I was

interested in selling.

[chuckles]

I told him the album

was now the property

of the State of Wisconsin

and was not for sale.

He pressed a little, I

was firm, and he hung up.

I will tell a more complete

story about the acquisition

of the album at the

end of this talk.

The message is that the album

has extremely high value

because it is filled

with original prints.

We knew of no other collection

of original prints in existence,

since the Fuermann proofsheets

had not yet surfaced.

The images online looked

very nice and appealing,

filled with information.

Kieran Murphy on the staff of

Taliesin Preservation,

Incorporated, immediately

identified the photographer

of many of the photographs

as Taylor Woolley,

who had worked with Wright

on the Wasmuth Portfolio,

and who also was working

for him at Taliesin.

Copies of some of these images

were already at Taliesin,

but none, of course,

were original prints.

Mike is and was an expert

at manipulating eBay

and soon had identified the

seller as Helen Conwell

of Fairhope, Alabama,

on Mobile Bay,

a well-known

retirement community.

We decided to try to convince

her to remove the album from

eBay and sell it outright to the

Wisconsin Historical Society

for $20,000, giving us a

month to raise the funds.

It fell to me to make the

call, with the blessing

of the Society and

its foundation.

Mrs. Conwell could

not have been nicer.

She was a University of

Wisconsin alum, a physician,

and the niece of a biology

professor whose bust adorns

the entrance area of

Birge Hall on the campus.

But eBay has its rules, and

Mrs. Conwell plays by rules.

"Good luck in bidding,"

she said. "I hope you win."

[laughter]

Given the quality of the

photographs, raising funds was

not particularly difficult for

anyone whose Rolodex, like mine,

had the names of Wright

enthusiasts and collectors

around the country thanks to

years of academic work

in the Wright minefields.

All I had to do was

describe the images.

The centerpiece was the triptych

of the fireplace in

the living room.

If the prospects asked

for more time

I sent them to the eBay site.

Then I would pretty

much get a pledge.

The photographs in the album

break down very nicely

into the categories that Wright

employed when designing.

He began with the site, moved on

to the function of the building,

meaning the interior, then

tackled form, or the exterior.

He liked windows, terraces,

and apertures to frame views

as if they were paintings

or photographs taken

from the buildings themselves.

And he liked buildings to be

seen from a distance as if they

were part of the earth, as

if they had grown from it

and always belonged there.

He conceived this relationship

as two forms of reciprocal

conversation, one spiritual

between the building and the

landscape, and the other both

spiritual and often actual

between the occupants

and passersby.

Above all he wanted people to

think about what they were

seeing and to react to it.

This is the same kind of

conversation or inter-reaction

that fine artists desire us all

to have with their paintings,

sculptures, photographs,

musical compositions,

ballets, and on and on.

Engage and react.

Use all your senses and think.

The functions Wright intended

to squeeze into Taliesin were

daunting, but were not all

represented in the album.

Notably missing is the

element of agriculture.

Where are the gardens, cattle,

fields, chickens, workers?

They are missing.

Yet one of the persons for whom

this album may have intended

as a gift, Wright's uncle

Jenkin Lloyd Jones,

was a firm believer in the farm.

He was the most important

Unitarian minister

in the Midwest and headed

the Abraham Lincoln Center

in Chicago's Hyde Park.

He had a cottage a mile

or two from Taliesin.

And he maintained a

small farm there.

He even wrote a notable article

called "The Gospel of the Farm."

Whither, compiler of this

album, is the farm?

Chances are the compiler

had little or nothing to do

with the agricultural

activities at Taliesin

and simply did not record them.

We are stuck, then, with two

functions: a few suggestions

about household life and

architectural practice.

Taylor Woolley had

made three photographs

of the fireplace alcove

in the living room

which were pasted down

together to form a triptych.

The image has now

become rather famous,

reproduced countless times.

It shows Wright's inventiveness

in using a partial wall

to form a barrier between

an entrance corridor,

a kitchen corridor,

and a living space.

The wall also serves as bench,

bookshelf, and whatnot.

It may also have been a bed.

The fireplace is massive, a

symbol of hearth writ large,

too large, to heat a space

practically, but capable

of making a statement about

the architectural and social

significance of the hearth,

something Robert Twombly

emphasized in his

pathbreaking dissertation

about Wright in the 1960s.

The large birch branches stacked

on the right demonstrate the

fireplace's impractical

pyrotechnical capabilities.

Its masonry is remarkable, with

stones laid "on bed" as they

appear in nature, something

unheard of before Wright

instituted this form of

ashlar in this house

in 1911, both inside and out.

It now looks commonplace.

So, too, with the strips

of wood and color

that emphasize the

structure of the building.

They were innovations,

now ordinary to the eye.

The dining area was

equally innovative.

George Niedecken of Milwaukee,

one of Wright's draftsmen and a

collaborator with him on

furniture and interior design,

is credited with designing

these tables and chairs.

I don't think he designed them.

I think he perfected the designs

after sketches by Wright

and then built the pieces.

They are far too rustic to have

been designed by Niedecken.

And they are astounding.

If a Scandinavian furniture

designer came up with them

today, you'd pay $2,000

apiece and sit uncomfortably.

I think the wood was cypress.

Wright was fond of

cypress at this time.

That was it for living spaces

in Taliesin proper.

No views of bedrooms or kitchen

or bathrooms or basement,

although Taliesin had

plenty of such spaces.

Let us move on to the work and

living spaces for architecture

where Taylor Woolley

spent his days.

This part of Taliesin

has never burned,

but it has been altered

again and again.

One verity through it all has

been this fireplace

in the studio into which Taylor

Woolley persuaded a bunch

of the building crew

to squish itself,

evidently to celebrate completion of something.

We have not identified a

single person in the image,

but we have identified the

stones in the fireplace.

They have not moved an inch.

An oil portrait of Wright's

mother, Anna Lloyd Jones Wright,

has hung above it for decades,

suggesting that she offers a

counterbalance to this

happy occasion,

which occurred in 1912.

Just to the left

of the fireplace

is what is known as

the studio today,

and it has been

greatly expanded.

It is where Wright would have

worked when he was in residence,

and where he greeted clients.

To the right of the fireplace

was the drafting room,

a space which is about

the same size today,

although much rebuilt after

having been crushed by an

oak tree that fell from the Tea

Circle a number of years ago.

The windows on the right face

north, the steady north light

being the preferred

light for drawing.

The painting on the far wall is

a landscape by George Niedecken

of a scene around Spring Green.

At least one of his Spring

Green landscapes survives

and is in the collection of

the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Note that these are not fancy,

tilting drafting tables,

but rather make-do, flat

tables, built on the site.

The draftsmen did

not have to walk far

to their sleeping quarters.

They were just beyond the

drafting room, a bunkroom,

that slept four,

two to a side,

with a narrow aisle

between the bunks.

Gas lights

illuminated the room,

which was fairly spartan,

relieved by another

of George Niedecken's landscapes.

A T-square and table in the

room evidently afforded

an extra workspace

depending on need.

It appears that Wright had

plenty of business in 1912.

It may be possible that these

two photographs of the

draftsmen's sleeping quarters

are actually intended as

record photographs of George

Niedecken's painting.

A central function of Taliesin

was to blend indoors

and outdoors through

views, terraces,

ready access to gardens, walks, woods, nature in general.

Merely stepping from dwelling

to studio afforded

such experiences-a view across

the Wisconsin River valley.

Or, a view of the exterior

of the dwelling itself

from a terrace that

afforded wider views

of the entire valley to

the east, south and north.

Wright's blending of the

indoors and outdoors

was not generally heralded

in his earlier buildings,

yet it is apparent

at Taliesin in 1911.

The inner courtyard of

Taliesin has always been a

refined garden, a suburban

showplace for art

and horticulture, and one

of the least tinkered-with

spots in the complex.

The walls are much the same,

even though many of the

plants have changed.

Some believe the peonies

have been where they are

for more than a century.

The masonry walks

and walls, however,

desperately need repair, today.

The original sculpture, "The Flower in a Crannied Wall"

which stood in this

spot for years

had suffered

considerable damage

from weather and has

been put under cover.

A copy stands in its place.

There is a monumental aspect

to Taliesin's springing

from the brow of the hill,

now softened by vegetation

and a cantilevered deck,

and further softened by

the enlarged pond below

created by a dam.

The dam was new construction,

and the resulting

lower pond was a new body of

water that revised the landscape

and provided a different visual

platform for the dwelling.

The east wall was and

is indeed formidable.

At this level the

dwelling is two and a half

stories in height, a gray

mass punctuated by windows

that are not rhythmic

at the lower levels,

not architecturally

pleasing to the eye.

They serve functional, practical

purposes related to laundry,

heating, storage, and the like;

today they have been transformed

into guest rooms, charming on

the inside, less so on the

outside, but sheltered by

foliage and the cantilever.

From a distance, however,

Taliesin passes the test

of appearing to grow

from the earth.

Frank Lloyd Wright was

at the top of his game

as these images reveal.

Finally, there is this photograph of the interior

of a cottage with

a fireplace.

The Historical Society's processing staff

has titled this image

as being of a fireplace

possibly designed by

Frank Lloyd Wright.

I do not believe that

caption for a moment.

Wright did not design

this fireplace.

It is too clumsy.

It is not designed

by an architect.

It was merely built

by a craftsman.

The cottage's windows match

those of the windows of

Westhope, the cottage owned by

Jenkin Lloyd Jones at what is

now Tower Hill State Park, but

what was then a private resort

owned by a group of Jenkin's

parishioners from Chicago.

I believe the photographer

had one or two intentions

in making this image.

First, he was documenting

the interior of a cottage,

perhaps for its owner or

perhaps because someone admired

the owner and Jenkin Lloyd Jones had lots of admirers.

Second, he was making a

record of a painting

over the fireplace,

just as he had made

a record of two paintings

by George Niedecken

at Taliesin in the drafting

room and in the bunkroom.

In those images, too, the

paintings were centered.

The images recorded paintings

as much, or more, than they

recorded architecture,

even though the details

of the paintings were generally

lost in the photographs.

They would not have

been lost on the owners

of the paintings,

nor on the artist.

Perhaps the album was a gift to

the artist, George Niedecken,

or to the owner of one of the

paintings, Jenkin Lloyd Jones,

who loved this valley and

wrote and preached about it

with conviction and even fervor.

Now for a whole

lot of speculation

about this album's history.

I would like to think that the

album sat in Jenkin's church's

library until around 1960 when

a housecleaning took place.

Two parishioners, Helen

and Dale O'Brien,

were retiring to a farm

home near Taliesin.

Dale had been very active in

Jenkin's old parish and was a

Chicago advertising man; Helen

did theater in a big way.

What a nice gift for them from

an appreciative congregation.

In Spring Green they

were active in the arts.

Helen helped get local theater

going, including the creation

of a community company; there's

a plaque on the wall of the

theater downtown with her

picture engraved on it.

After about twenty years,

they left Spring Green

for Fairhope, Alabama.

Warmer winters.

They passed on.

Their kids held an estate sale.

One of their parents' friends

bought the album for $30 or so.

The kids said it was full of

pictures of their parents' house

in Wisconsin, and that their

parents had sold their property

to the group of persons

who started American

Players Theatre.

That part is true,

and what follows is true.

The woman who bought the album

left it to her sister in

Fairhope, one Helen Conwell, who

at age 82 was persuaded by her

children to start paring down

by selling things on eBay.

Among the things she chose

to sell was this album,

for which she specified

an opening bid of $19.95.

[laughter]

She knew it depicted Taliesin

because it said so on the cover,

and she knew about Frank Lloyd

Wright's connection to Taliesin.

Someone bid $25;

then someone bid $500.

And Helen began to suspect

the album was special.

[laughter]

I learned about the album

around 8 o'clock Monday night.

From Tuesday through Thursday

I raised $16,000 to buy it on

behalf of the Wisconsin

Historical Society.

I knew I needed at least

$22,000, and perhaps $32,000.

I had until 9 that fourth night,

Friday, when bidding closed,

and by that time,

after an extremely hectic day

on the phone and on email,

I had $28,200 in pledges.

At the pre-appointed hour I

made the phone call to the head

of the Historical

Society's archives

who was having dinner

at a restaurant.

He in turn made the authorizing

call to Andy Kraushaar

who would place the bid

with his sniper ware.

With 20 seconds to go

before the auction closed,

Andy bid the farm.

We won for $22,100

against two other bidders.

We identified one as the

owner of the Willey House

in Minneapolis who had somehow

missed all the emails about

making pledges sent by the

Wright Building Conservancy

of which he was a member.

[laughter]

The other guy we

never identified,

but I've got a hunch.

Our sniper bid was bigger

than his sniper bid.

I called Andy first

and thanked him.

He wanted to know

how Mike Lilek and I

had pegged the sale

price so closely.

I said we were smart.

[laughter]

Then I called Mike and we

discussed how to maximize

publicity; I told him the

Historical Society would try to

control release of the news and

would drag its feet until it had

the album in hand; he said there

could be other approaches

and the next Wednesday

it was all

over the front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

which had forced the

Historical Society's hand.

Then I called Helen Conwell,

and she read me the text of

an email she was composing.

We both cried.

[chuckling]

We were happy, but the release

of tension overcame us.

And then I went to bed because I

had to spend the weekend at my

church job as an organist

and choir director and also

preparing a highly detailed and

accurate list of the pledgers'

names, addresses, phone

numbers, email addresses,

and the amounts pledged.

Sure enough, on Monday morning

at 8 o'clock, the Historical

Society financial people were

bugging me for just that

information, and they seemed a

little unhappy that I could

supply it without

further nagging.

We tussled about the issue

of a discount.

I wanted them to hold back

some funds for expenses

and contingencies, since I

anticipated that offers of more

material would pop up quickly.

I was vetoed.

Pledges were billed

at 76 percent

since I had raised

more than we needed.

Within days it developed that we

needed $600 to fly an employee

to Fairhope to pick up the

album because shipping costs

were much higher than airfare.

And then someone offered some

rare images of Wright in

Washington, D.C., for $3,000.

Could I raise those sums?

[chuckling]

Fortunately friends and

neighbors whom I had not asked

for money had been calling me

with offers of funds

should opportunities like

this arise again.

Little did they know that

within less than a month

that I would be on the phone.

Since 2005 I have raised funds

to buy more Wright material

on several occasions.

I have bragging rights for the

acquisition of a cardboard model

of a Wright house published by

Life magazine, several hundred

rare postcards and some

drawings, the Fuermann

proofsheets of Taliesin I, and a

set of 30-some promotional

prints that Wright designed for

his American System Built

dwellings in 1915-16.

I am very proud

and I am never embarrassed

about asking for help to

acquire such rarities.

And you are just plain lucky

that the Historical Society has

not sent me on a mission this

evening or I would be passing

the hat or asking for

pledges right now.

Thank you.

Share this page