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When I had toured Hillside at Taliesin it had exceeded my expectations. I'd feared I might be disappointed by finding the place tattered and rough, but to the contrary, its patina and raw character was very powerful, with an aura & wear of creative adventure. Most powerful, of course, was the drafting studio. Where the really, really good stuff happened.
On the way into that great room, one crossed a bridge from the original school building, passing the Call Building model en route. Before entering the great studio there is a little stretch of compression where the hallway passes by a pair of flanking room, each curiously accessed by descending a few stairs that are screened by a half height wall. Entrances hardly noticeable but for a bright patch of red color. And the signage -- each is adorned with Wrightian font: "Dana Gallery" and "Charles E Roberts Room".
It struck me as an unusual thing: Frank Lloyd Wright putting someone else's name on a room in his building. But if he was to thus dedicate a part of his sanctum, Susan Lawrence Dana's name figured plausible -- the Dana house being one of his major accomplishments. But, Charles E Roberts?
Looking at original designs, we find first the 1928 Hillside Home School of Applies Arts:
We see the connecting bridge from the original Hillside school pass thru flanking rooms, on axis with a courtyard surrounded by apprentice quarters.
The flanking rooms are labeled "Painting" and "Sculpture":
Four years later, we arrive at the 1932 Taliesin Fellowship :
Although the overall ambitious scheme is radically different, we find the same pair of rooms flanking the central passageway which leads this time, not to an empty courtyard, but to the holy of holies.
Zoomed in, showing a glimpse of the Dana Gallery signage:
Zoomed in, showing just the top of text for the Charles E Roberts Room:
Futagawa's photo of the inside of the Charles E Roberts Room:
It's my understanding that Roberts was largely responsible for Wright's commission for Unity Temple. Wright understandably owed him a debt of gratitude for that big break.
A Google search lead to a footnote in Anthony Alofsin's Frank Lloyd Wright -- The Lost Years 1910-1922, which referred to both Dana & Roberts as stockholders in the original Hillside Home School back in the teens. Their connection back then manifested itself decades later, memorialized in these galleries.
far as I can tell; I found one photo in my collection that includes this building and have taken a detail of that photo, here.
Simon Clay photo, from "Frank Lloyd Wright, a Visual Encyclopedia," p 302 (detail)
The linear skylight, apparently bridging the centerline of the structure, serves both of the rooms that James considers here; it is visible on one of the view drawings (though not
indicated on the plans) that are posted above. Or is it ? The parallel lines on the second plan---whose view drawing omits the skylight---might refer, if obliquely, to the skylight . . . ?
Hillside is a masterpiece, on a par with the best of FLW's work. The course quality of its construction is one of its main assets. The House, Barn, Windmill and Dams also share that same quality, even while his work for clients was as sophisticated and polished as need be.
There is, in FLW's work, a connection to the humble, Gerry-built Midwestern farmhouse. Not the pretensions of the 'design' of it, but the way the interior ceiling planes of the upper story intersect, seemingly at random, creating spacial liveliness the builder was undoubtedly unaware of. I believe he was affected deeply by those accidental spaces, as likely imaginary as real, and that he incorporated them in his work throughout his career. The buildings of Taliesin exemplify that connection more blatantly than most of his other work, and it all, as a single effort, should be the major focus of study.
Charles's Roberts daughter, Isabele, was Wright's office manager (and client).
https://archives.lib.umn.edu/repositori ... urces/5826
She was born in 1874 in Mexico, Missouri to James H. and Mary Roberts. She spent much of her youth in South Bend, Indiana where her father was a machinist.
http://wrightchat.savewright.org/viewto ... 398da90b56
Isabel was a designer of modest talent, as she proved once she left FLW and went into a practice of her own.
Thanks to Randolph Henning for his transcriptions of the "At Taliesin" articles that allowed me to find this so quickly.AT TALIESIN, July l2, l934
Extensive operations at Hillside have added two new studios to the Fellowship's list of accomplishments and they have been named after two of the old Hillside Home School patrons - The Dana Gallery, named for Mrs. Susan Laurence Dana of Springfield, Illinois, who gave to Hillside the north wing of the school and The Roberts Room dedicated to the patronage of Mr. Charles E. Roberts of Chicago....
And thank you, pmahoney, for pointing out that Isabel Roberts was not the daughter of Charles E. Roberts.
And, Roderick Grant: we're in a discussion (at Taliesin Preservation) right now of how, in ways, the Hillside structure is better than the Taliesin structure. People want to see FLW's studio, but we're trying to emphasize that most photos you see of the older FLW, in Wisconsin, in the studio, were taken at Hillside. And that, if Taliesin were not on the estate, Hillside would be seen as the great building that it is.
So far, we've not figured out how to draw people in on those positive points. The quest continues.