Robert Leary

Mark Hertzberg has noted another passing this weekend: Robert Leary.

Mark has has a detailed remembrance (here , and a bit more here ) of Leary, who died Sunday at the age of 52, that you ought to read. Put simply, Leary energetic advocate for the Ennis House, serving as first chairman of the Ennis House Foundation when the survival of the house itself was in question (here is a 2005 article from The New York Times on the creation of the foundation).

Robert Leary did not work tirelessly to restore a unique Wright property, he worked to literally save one from destruction. But he didn’t just want to save the house, he wanted to understand it:

“Wright called a lot of his supports ‘dead men,’ joists, support beams, load bearing walls under the properties. I wanted to see just how the Ennis House had originally been supported. I was crawling in the guts of the house in the mud and the dirt, and there was this rusted piece of metal that was just sicking out of the dirt. I was wondering what it was. I dug and dug more. I saw it was a square with metal supports on both sides, holding two pieces of wood. I realized it was a mold for the negative space or the inside of a block. Obviously, when the workers were finished, they just left it there, so we have this wonderful cultural artifact of the craftsmanship of these four wonderful (textile block) houses, but especially of the Ennis House, of the 27,000 blocks, produced one at a time. They were not cookie cutter, not mass produced. Here was material that they used; that they used to build the Ennis House!

“That sort of thing…is priceless. It is like finding the Raiders of the Lost Ark Holy Grail. Historians and researchers and craftspeople in the future can see that this was in effect just one on one, a worker producing his art.”