The Darwin Martin is in the midst of a comprehensive $2 million restoration of all of its interior wood trim — all 8 1/2 miles of it.

For seven months, a team of craftsmen have been working on the wood trim of the first floor with completion expecting in September. It’s hoped that there will be sufficient funds to begin work on the second floor as soon as the current work is completed.

John Hulley, a woodworker for 40 years who owns Hulley Woodworking, put the dream team together. The nine craftsmen range in age from 40 to 60 and they’ve worked for some of the best woodworkers in the industry, including Kittinger Furniture Co. in Buffalo. Two of the Martin House cabinetmakers have been recruited for the finish work.

Hulley probably knows the wood in the Martin House better than Wright did himself. He and his crew have removed every stick of wood trim from the house. Hulley made a drawing of each piece, mapped its location, examined it to see if it could be saved or scrapped, and then either refinished or remade it. And then his workers put it back.

Nearly all of the wood has been saved — either returned to its original position, or saved for patching areas lost or damaged over the years.

The restoration team has gone to extraordinary lengths to preserve the appearance of the trim as well:

“We start with stain,” he said. “Then it’s shellac, glaze, shellac, toner, touch-up, shellac, spray varnish, brush varnish. And between all coats of finish is sanding. It’s like ten steps.”

Hulley makes many of the finishes himself. He buys shellac in 55 pound bags of dried flakes and dissolves the flakes in ethanol alcohol.

“It’s really hard to tell the difference between the new wood and the wood that was here,” Hulley said. “And that was the plan. We’re not trying to fool anybody. If the historic preservation trust comes in and says what’s new, we can show what’s new, what’s old. But we’re trying to blend in, we didn’t want the new to stick out. It would look kind of dumb to have an old board next to a new board and have it look that way. It kind of defeats the purpose of bringing the building back to 1907.”

Wright's Chicago

Calumet 412 posted this 1890 photo taken from the roof of The Auditorium Building:

Looking North from the Auditorium Building

Looking North from the Auditorium Building

After the completion of the Auditorium Building, Adler & Sullivan had offices on the top floor of the tower. This view would have been very close to what Wright would have seen while he worked for Sullivan's firm.

John Christian, Original Owner and Steward of Samara, has Passed

One of the few surviving Frank Lloyd Wright homeowners, John Christian, has died in his beloved West Lafayette home.

Christian and his wife Catherine commissioned Wright to design their home in 1950. The house which Lloyd called Samara was completed in 1956, and sits at the end of Woodland Avenue in West Lafayette.

Samara Trust associate curator Linda Eales said Christian died early Sunday morning, the same day as his 98th birthday.

Monona Terrace in the Wisconsin State Journal

The Wisconsin State Journal has a perfunctory article on the Monona Terrace, the controversial convention/civic center in Madison that Wright had begun to design before his death and was completed in the late 1990s. The article ends at Wright's death -- leaving nearly all of the story untold. But it does include links to PDFs of two newspaper pages that are worth a look: the front page of the Journal on the day after Wright's death and an article from 1941 on Wright's early plans and drawings for the civic center.

Definitely Worth your time.

Sean Malone to Leave in Early 2016

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is beginning the search for a new CEO. Sean Malone, in the position since 2012 will be leaving at the end of his current two-year contract.

Jeff Grip, vice chairman of the foundation and search committee chairman, listed among Malone's achievements during his tenure a mastery for fundraising and making people care about Taliesin West. The foundation's annual fundraising is about $1 million, almost triple the foundation's previous annual fundraising amount, Grip said.

"He's pretty unusual in the world of non-profit leadership," Grip said. "Given the restoration needs at both Taliesin and Taliesin West, I think that skill set is going to be front and center for the search committee."

Malone has made a number of dramatic changes to the organization: begining the move to independance for the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture (controvsial, but needed to retain accredidation), negotiating the deal to protect and secure the archives with partnership with Columbia University and the Museum of Modern Art. He also energized fundraising, tripling the amount raised.


A new Frank Lloyd Wright house has been discovered in Shorewood (as suburb of Milwaukee) Wisconsin. Built in 1917, its an example of one of the American System-Built Homes, a collaboration between Wright and builder Arthur Richards. Buyers could choose between seven standardized models and the Richards Company provided all of the needed pre-cut lumber and the approved contractors to built the house.

The house was discovered by Richard G. Johnson (you can read the full story here) and confirmed by Mark Lilek, Curator of American System-Built Home (and it's not confirmed, but confirmed -- seriously, read the full story).

The interior of the house has been unaltered and well-preserved. The exterior has had some alterations but it still recognizably Wright.

There's a nice gallery of photos at the above link.

Rent a Sullivan

I suspect that most of my readers cannot afford the $1 million + price of a Wright-designed house (if this suspicion is wrong, let me know -- I'll reconsider my lack of a donation button on this site) but if you can swing $2,275 a month, you can live in a Louis Sullivan building (technically, live behind a Sullivan-designed facade).

There's an apartment available in the former Karuse Music Store on Lincoln Ave. in Chicago.

The building was restored in 2007. About the facade, Blair Kamin wrote:

Sullivan gave it this oomph with a deeply recessed entry and, above, an explosion of ornament -- an oversize, key-shaped decoration, complete with the letter "K," which stood for the patron, William Krause. The balance of horizontals and verticals is every bit as effective as at Sullivan's old Carson Pirie Scott & Co. store at State and Madison Streets, but here it bursts beyond the building's frame, as if Sullivan, who late in his career was restricted to small-scale commissions such as small-town banks, could not contain himself.

The balance of horizontals and verticals is every bit as effective as at Sullivan’s old Carson Pirie Scott & Co. store at State and Madison Streets, but here it bursts beyond the building’s frame, as if Sullivan, who late in his career was restricted to small-scale commissions such as small-town banks, could not contain himself

Millard House (I) For Sale

The George Millard House in Highland Park, Illinois has returned to the real estate market (it has been listed off and on for four years) with a new price: $799,000.

The house sits on 2/3 of an acre, has four bedrooms and 68 original art glass windows. It was built for bookseller George Millard. Millard would move to Pasadena, California two years after the completion of the house, where his wife would commission another house from Wright, La Miniatura.

Here's the listing.

Tour Wright in SE Michigan

Lawrence Technoloical University --owner of Wright's Affleck House -- in Southfield, Michigan is hosting a birthday celebration for Frank Lloyd Wright that features tours of three Wright houses in the metro-Detroit area -- the Affleck House, Turkel House and Melvyn Smith House. The tour is June 7, begins at 11:30AM and costs $125 per person. transportation by luxury motorcoach is provided; the tour of each house are guided. It is limited to 150 participants. The tours are followed by hors d'euvres and birthday cake. A portion of the proceeds will go towards the restoration of the Affleck House.

All three houses are Usonian, though the Turkel House is a rare example of a two-story Usonian. The Turkel House --currently undergoing a thorough restoration -- is a private home and generally open for tours. The Smith House is owned by a foundation established by its original owners and is open occasionally. The Lawrence Tech-owned Affleck house is open for tours from April to November.

Henderson House for Sale

Historic American Buildings Survey,

Historic American Buildings Survey,

I think I've got a new favorite Frank Lloyd Wright house.

The Henderson House is on the market for $995,000.

Built in 1901, the house is an excellent example of all the best features of the Prairie Style. Across the street is Walter Burley Griffin's first house. The house has been restored in recent years.

Here is a page with photos of the interior of the house taken soon after construction was complete and some of the earliest surviving photos of the exterior.

David Wright House -- In the News Again

The David & Gladys Wright House -- designed by Wright for his son in 1952 -- is a dramatic precursor to the Guggenheim Museum; it's one of Wright's most interesting, innovative works. Just a few years ago, it was saved from two bozos who planned to demolish it and replace it with two suburban houses. It was saved from destruction by Zach Rawling, who purchased it for more than two million dollars and has spent more money to restore the house to its 1952 appearance and he bought two neighboring houses, razed them, and is recreating the landscape around the house to Wrignt's original plan. His plan is to turn the house into a museum and educational site.

Some of the residents of the neighborhood feel that the plans for the house -- plans that include small scale cultural events and hosting for private affairs like weddings -- will be an intrusive commercialization of their neighborhood. AZCentral has an excellent article on the history of house, the restoration and the plans for its future use.

“They’re quiet people. They’re respectful people. They’re just people who love architecture,” she said. Plus, “There’s a significant buffer around that building.”