on April 30, 2010
I have mentioned before, I am a tremendous fan of master architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. So I am debating between flying into Las Vegas or Phoenix and driving in. Vegas by myself didn’t sound much fun. Though if they had the Sky Jump from the Stratosphere at the time, this might have been a totally different journal. I really wanted to come to Phoenix to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and check something off my bucket list. While here I took the day time and evening tours of the home. Taliesin located in Spring Green WI, is Frank’s original home (and it is also open to the public to tour). That home was built in 1911. By the late 1930’s, Frank’s health was declining and his physician suggested he escape the climate of Wisconsin’s winter. By 1940 the initial work to the home was complete. The work to the building was completed by apprentiances. He lived here in the winters with his 3rd wife Olgivanna (Olga) Lazovich Hizenburg until his death in 1951. She lived on at the home until her death in 1985. After her death she turned her home over to the school to continue on. Frank was ahead of his times in many ways. One of those ways was that Frank used only natural made supplies in his construction. He wanted his homes to blend in with the natural surroundings rather than overpower or destroy them. So originally the roof here was made out of natural canvas and the windows did not have glass. This meant when Frank and Olga would return to their winter home the local wildlife had summered in the home and it would take weeks to clean up the place. Olga begged Frank to install glass in the home so their house was ready when they returned. Eventually Plexiglas was put over the canvas not only to preserve the canvas but when it rained the canvas allowed water to pour into the home destroying the wood floors. The road to Taliesin brings you up past cacti and amazing views of the McDowell Mountain. The home sits at the base. Wright originally picked the site for the once amazing views. While the views are still very nice, they are also mired by phone wires, cell towers, and sprawling development. While I was here, I took both the daytime and evening tours, attending the evening tour first. I arrived at the home in time for my evening tour. I check in and get my ticket and then proceed to the front of the house. Once our group is all together we take off to the home. There are a couple of things here that are unique to the home. Unlike most other homes, you can take photographs here with the exception of a few inside rooms where they ask you not to. And you get to touch things here and you get to sit where Frank once sat. We hear stories of many of the objects de art that are here and how they were acquired. Our group goes past the studio where students hoping to be the next Frank study. We start at what used to be Wright’s office. You can to see photos, blue prints and what was a design he worked on. From here we move to the outside of the home. We see inside the reception room which is still used for that purpose today. There had been a reception previously and we were offered cider and cookies as we mill around looking around while they try to get the dragon going. On the outside there is a dragon that spits fire at night that was a gift to Frank and Olga. After several times we finally get to see the fire breathing dragon which is just amazing. From here we are ushered into the living room. It is simply beautiful and tastefully but minimally decorated. We are invited to sit down as our guide tells us plenty of information about the room. As she is speaking, I temporally zone out. As I sink into my chair I start to wonder how often Frank sat here. Then I think about the fact that this was Frank’s house, not a home he designed for someone else. This is where he lived, laughed, and where that genius mind of his worked. Having admired he work since I was young, I felt this was a rare privilege indeed. From here we went into bedrooms and then move back outside. We pass by a small pool that is highlighted by glowing light at night. We are moved back inside to a room that was used as a theater. This is also where Olga had Franks Ashes mixed in with the grout! So a part of Frank will always be here. We go through the sculpture gardens, but which are hard to see in the evening. The last building we go into is another theater which Frank and Olga used to entertain guests. We thank our delightful guide and head back out. I come back the next day for the shorter hour daytime tour. Most of what is on the evening tour is on the 90 minute daytime tour as well. I am here mainly to photograph the outside and check out the gardens. Travel agents with an IATAN card can tour the home for free during the day. If you get a chance to tour the home both during the day and evening, you should. For my daytime tour, I once again wait at the beginning were I started the night before. Our guide once again meets us and this time my guide looks like Penny Marshall. This time we have to wait on some slubby Yankee and what I assume is his mail order bride as they take their time arriving. On this tour you get a lot of the same information you just do not go inside except into the 2 theaters. You miss the fire breathing dragons. Instead you get to see the gardens and the sculpture gardens. The gardens here are also listed in the book 1001 Gardens to See Before You Die . The front sunken garden surrounds the wonderful pool. The back gardens incorporate the equally beautiful sculpture gardens and in the background, the amazing mountain ranges. After your tour, make you sure you stop back in at the massive gift shop. Here you will find all things Wright related. Stock up your FLW library; decorate your home with home accessories, and stock up for folks back home with post cards, book marks, business card holders, jewelry, etc. I walked out $150 lighter. Today the home multitasks. It serves as the headquarters for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives of Frank’s drawings, letters, and designs. The school is an accredited program and only the best of the best from all over the world come here to work. Many of the students go on to work for the foundation. Very often when work needs to be done on Wrights work, they often use the architects on the projects. They also offer summer camps for grade school students. The home was featured on A&E’s America’s Castles . You can purchase the DVD at the gift shop. The home also serves as a house museum allowing the public to tour the home and they offer a number of tours for the public as well as private tours. There are 2 tours offered during the day with and hour and a 90 minute in depth tour. Advanced reservations are not required. You just show up and wait for the next group to go. They also offer other tours such as evening tours, desert walks, architect tours, and if you’re lucky and students are on hand they lead tours of the home and homes designed by the students. Check the website for current tours, rate, and if reservations are required. Oops..I have more than 1500 words (it's Frank, I have alot to say) so keep reading.
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