Charnley and Winslow Houses

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Mark Hertzberg
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Charnley and Winslow Houses

Post by Mark Hertzberg »

New on www.wrightinracine.com...was Frank Lloyd Wright's work on the Charnley House a rough draft for his masterpiece Winslow House, designed when he was only 26 years old?

Mark Hertzberg
Mark Hertzberg

Roderick Grant
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Re: Charnley and Winslow Houses

Post by Roderick Grant »

If so, it was serendipity. Charnley had lot restrictions that limited its plan. FLW's choice to place the principal entrance on the broad side of the house, rather than the narrow side - usually necessitated by most townhouses being stacked, cheek by jowl, with only the narrow side facing the street - was an obvious choice, and thus the bilateral symmetry so too was natural. Much of his work of the 1890s before Charnley (OP home, the Mississippi work) and after (McArthur, Blossom, Harlan, Winslow, Roloson, sundry apartment blocks, Moore, Young, Heller, Geo. Furbeck) was symmetrical, finally extending in 1904 with the Cheney House. Once a principal façade is determined to be symmetrical, much of the planning falls into place.

The differences between Charnley and Winslow are in the entrance, where Charnley features a grand stairway, while Winslow hides its stair behind a door, and the verticality that the Charnley stair establishes, whereas there is no vertical anywhere to be found in the Winslow House, other than the exterior of the stair tower on the back façade. The similarity between the 2 is the location of the entrance fireplace. That both have principal rooms left and right of the entrance would be an obvious result of the symmetry.

Roderick Grant
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Re: Charnley and Winslow Houses

Post by Roderick Grant »

I notice in your photos, the band of trim around the entrance hall has been deleted. Good. I always thought it was out of place, an alteration that didn't belong.

outside in
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Re: Charnley and Winslow Houses

Post by outside in »

at the risk of starting a BIG discussion about Charnley, I believe its commonly accepted that the basic design of the house came from Sullivan. In most architectural firms, the principal (and the person responsible for bringing the job into the office) establishes the basic design parameters, and then passes it on to the project architect for development. I believe the office of Adler and Sullivan worked in much the same way. LHS worked out the basics, and Wright developed his design. Charnley is essentially a LHS building with Wright contributions, so therefore Winslow and Charnley are quite different, yet, Winslow shows Sullivan's influence over the young architect.

DRN
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Re: Charnley and Winslow Houses

Post by DRN »

I recall reading a paper or article by David Gebhard about Sullivan and Elmslie that calls into question some of Wright’s claims of sole authorship of some designs that were produced in the A&S office.
In fact, in this piece by another researcher, the claim by Wright that he had a private office next to Sullivan’s is questioned...George Grant Elmslie it would appear was in the room where it happened as well.

http://chicagopatterns.com/louis-sulliv ... se-part-2/

SDR
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Re: Charnley and Winslow Houses

Post by SDR »

Interesting to find Irving Gill's name mentioned. In the year before Ms. Freundt's piece was published, Donald Leslie Johnson's "On Frank Lloyd Wright's Concrete Adobe," concentrating on the Textile Block houses in Los Angeles, appeared; he too makes something of Gill's presence in the orbit of Wright and others. Gill worked in Joseph Silsbee's office, three years after Wright was there. The two were together at Adler & Sullivan between 1891 and 1893. Gill then went to San Diego where, between 1912 and 1914, Lloyd Wright worked for him.

S

Roderick Grant
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Re: Charnley and Winslow Houses

Post by Roderick Grant »

Well, let's beat a dead horse for a while. There isn't much A&S residential work left to examine, but every one of the pre-FLW examples still standing shows no impact whatsoever of Sullivan's involvement, nor is any of it anywhere near the quality of Charnley, just pure late 19th century Victoriana. It appears likely that whoever took on the task of designing A&S residential work pre-Wright didn't bother to relate it in any way to the aesthetics of their boss. Sullivan & Elmslie produced some residential work that looked remarkably like Elmslie's, little like Sullivan's, but a bit of it (Babson) cribbed from FLW (Husser). One other project, the unbuilt Bennett House in Owatonna, MN, has a bulkiness that could be ascribed to Sullivan, but not in a complimentary way. On his own, Sullivan's foray into residential architecture was dismissible. He simply did not have it. Commercial, yes. The banks of his late career are treasures. Residences, no. Not one.

To assume that all architectural firms operated that far back in the way that they do today is pure speculation. It does not prove or support the idea of anything. Charnley and Winslow are similar and dissimilar because of FLW, the nature of the properties and the needs and desires of the two different clients. Sullivan might have said, "Frank, put the front door on the Astor Street façade, not Schiller." Or he may not have. No one knows. FLW understood Sullivan's work better than others in the A&S office (with a nod to Elmslie, of course). Whether FLW, Sullivan or Elmslie contrived the decorative elements in Charnley is another conundrum that will never be solved. But the basic design of the exterior and plan, the space within, the magnificent, purely Wrightian stair were not designed by Sullivan.

Mark Hertzberg
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Re: Charnley and Winslow Houses

Post by Mark Hertzberg »

I appreciate the discussion. Unfortunately the Chat no longer sends an email to the poster when someone posts a comment on a particular post, so I am not up to date. I would be happy if the discussion were on the web article that prompts this discussion. Mark Hertzberg
Mark Hertzberg

SDR
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Re: Charnley and Winslow Houses

Post by SDR »

The link to your site is not active this time, Mark---perhaps because the ellipsis is not spaced from the end of the link ?

There is much to be found in the portion of Rachel Freundt's 2017 work on Sullivan and Wright that is published on the linked page. Wright is put somewhat in his place, if everything is to be believed. For me, although Roderick's unbidden input is always of interest, outside in's brief comments above are sufficient for me where the Charnley house is concerned.

S

outside in
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Re: Charnley and Winslow Houses

Post by outside in »

In response to Roderick's comments, I have the following:
To say that the development of projects such as Charnley in most architectural practices is different from the norm, both historically and today, is quite speculative in its own right. Elmslie once wrote : Charnley was a good friend of Sullivan's and he kept close watch on the design of the home" which to me implies that Wright was not left on his own to design the project.

After discounting Sullivan's residential work as being "victorian", which it was not, and implying that he was somehow incapable of creating something as beautiful as the Charnley House, you neglect to mention any work that is comparable to the Charnley House in Wright's work up to 1892. Blossom, McArthur, the Home and Studio, and the other bootleg homes have absolutely no similarities in form, massing, plan or materials to Charnley. Suddenly, in 1892, he independently designs a home with no precedent? I continue to be baffled by individuals who refuse to accept the possibility that the house represents a collaboration between two very talented architects. It is not a Wright design, nor is it a Sullivan design.

Roderick Grant
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Re: Charnley and Winslow Houses

Post by Roderick Grant »

I did not say Sullivan designed Victorian houses. The houses attributed to A&S prior to FLW's arrival on the scene are truly Victorian, strongly suggesting that Sullivan - who was not Victorian - paid little if any attention to the work of his subordinates. There isn't much published on the residential work, but some pre-FLW houses appear in Patrick F. Cannon's book, "Creating A New American Architecture," an ironic title with reference to the residential work, which wasn't new at all.

I didn't say FLW was left entirely on his own during the process of designing Charnley. Sullivan's "close watch" neither proves nor implies that he was active in its design. Probably Sullivan, knowing his deficiencies in the art of designing residences, was just monitoring FLW without kibitzing. Speculation is all we have on that point.

I didn't say that development of projects at A&S differed from the norm of the day, but said that the norm of the day was not necessarily what it has become today, if it existed at all. Remember that architecture well into the 19th century was a very different thing from what it has become. Such architects as Thomas Jefferson were "gentleman architects" who designed on the side. Corporate architecture as we know it today didn't exist prior to the Civil War. MIT, the first university to open a school of architecture, didn't start design classes until 1868, a year after FLW was born. The entire structure of offices had to have evolved after that date.

In the 1890s, FLW was a young, unknown quantity. He had little control over his work and had to take what he could get, which explains such work as Blossom and McArthur. As to his own house, study it. Though it was not 'cutting edge', it was a step beyond what was happening at the time. It's much more sophisticated once you examine it thoroughly than you might think. Geiger wrote extensively about it. He was 22 and poor at the time. Later he added the magnificent playroom, a true masterpiece. Maybe he copied HH Richardson's library, maybe not. All that connects the two is a barrel vaulted ceiling, which neither of them invented. As for the Studio, that is a masterpiece from end to end. Unity Temple could not have been done without it. When it came to Charnley, FLW was in charge, no question about it.

To get a glimpse of Sullivan as residential architect, read Narciso Menocal's book "Architecture As Nature: The Transcendentalist Idea of Louis Sullivan."

Roderick Grant
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Re: Charnley and Winslow Houses

Post by Roderick Grant »

"I continue to be baffled by individuals who refuse to accept the possibility that the house represents a collaboration between two very talented architects."

I take exception to that condescending comment. What you are saying is that you are confounded by people who have the temerity to disagree with you. But at least you have conceded that 23-year-old Frank Lloyd Wright was a "very talented architect," and not merely a youth touching the hem of his hero's garment. It is possible for great and youthful artists to show themselves without the blessing of a university degree. Mozart and Mendelsohn come to mind.

outside in
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Re: Charnley and Winslow Houses

Post by outside in »

Well, I sure regret bringing this up now! Take care Roderick- I guess we have differing opinions, and we truly are beating a very dead horse.

SDR
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Re: Charnley and Winslow Houses

Post by SDR »

Heh. Maybe this one belongs in the Politics and Religion bin ? All we can do is try . . .

S

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