Chauncey Williams house 1895: Wright? Wright & Corwin? Corwin & Wright?

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DRN
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Chauncey Williams house 1895: Wright? Wright & Corwin? Corwin & Wright?

Post by DRN »

Wright's Chauncey Williams house of 1895 has long been a bit of mystery in that it has no drawings in the Wright archive other than Wright's dormer alterations of ca.1900. I've long wondered if Corwin may have had some connection with this commission.

Chauncey (1872-?) was born in Madison and married Helen McMynn (1874-1902) whom he had met in college at UW Madison. Helen's family was from Racine.
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/175 ... n-williams

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/1893276 ... ams_death/

https://books.google.com/books?id=Msc9A ... ms&f=false

Corwin's father was a minister with First Presbyterian in Racine from 1880 to 1889.
Could the commission possibly have come to Wright through a connection with Corwin? Could Helen or her family have known of a former local minister's son who was an architect in Chicago and suggested him to Chauncey and Helen? Could Wright and Corwin have worked on the project together? Could Corwin have taken the original house construction drawings with him when he left for New York ca.1896...possibly he was the lead architect with respect to the client? Wright and Corwin shared office space at the Schiller Building until Corwin moved away in 1895-96. Was Wright given the dormer remodel job by the Williams' because he was still in Chicago and Corwin wasn't?

The Williams house was built just after Wright's Winslow house; the two houses are on opposite sides of the same block; and Williams and Winslow were friends, even doing some small scale printing/publishing together. I had assumed the Williams/Wright connection was simply via Winslow and his decorative iron business, but Corwin and Williams' wife's "Racine connection" makes me wonder if Wright or Corwin was the lead architect, particularly in light of the original set of drawings being absent from the Wright archive.

A rabbit hole perhaps...

The Stenerag website continually adds photos and ephemera. On this page (scroll up) are two views from 1972 of the rear (west) side of the Williams house which I had not seen before...they resolve questions I had in comparing the plan published in Storrer vs. aerial photos. Awkward or avant garde?

http://www.steinerag.com/flw/Books/Williams.htm#2018.22

I've mused about this house on another thread here:
http://wrightchat.savewright.org/viewto ... y+williams

SDR
Posts: 19813
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Re: Chauncey Williams house 1895: Wright? Wright & Corwin? Corwin & Wright?

Post by SDR »

Corwin, inspired by Wright (perhaps) and God knows who else ? One could look for precedents here and abroad . . .

I've always though the house a bit too much, even for Wright at that (or any other) date. And the carbuncle ! Could that be original ? No . . . I could have lived the rest of my life happily ignorant of that piece.

Steiner really goes deep, and broad, when given the material ! That's a wonderful collection of 'nineties graphic art. The "Mother Goose"---first outing for both Baum and Parrish, in books---must be worth a fortune.

S

DRN
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Re: Chauncey Williams house 1895: Wright? Wright & Corwin? Corwin & Wright?

Post by DRN »

The big box, cube, or carbuncle, at the 2nd and 3rd floor rear of the house allows clearance for a back stairway, presumably for servants, to access the upper floors directly from the kitchen. I believe it may be original. The gabled awning above the back stair’s landing door might be a tack-on...it masks a masonry base supporting the framed stair cube above.

In a photo published in Wasmuth’s 1911 volume, there is a cube shaped mass of vegetation seemingly retouched on the photo to camouflage the projection.

Wright’s published photos of the house focus on the south elevation (both with original dormers (published 1940) & replacements (published 1911)) but avoid display of the rear “cubicle”.
http://wrightchat.savewright.org/viewto ... y+williams

I suppose the rear stair may have been added later or late in the design, but its form adds to my suspicion that the house may have been a collaboration. The original dormers set a precedent of a blocky form containing arched bay fenestration, why wasn’t that design concept employed for this incursion to the steep roof?

The house fascinates me as it appears to be Wright exploring something, but its moments of awkwardness in the extreme and the missing drawings (Wright saved just about everything from 1887 to 1959), and a Racine connection, cause me to wonder if the house was a collaboration.

SDR
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Re: Chauncey Williams house 1895: Wright? Wright & Corwin? Corwin & Wright?

Post by SDR »

Thanks for that. I reproduce the Wasmuth photo from the Bramhall edition of the book, and a Google aerial which, despite being hideously distorted, is still readable and shows a single flat roof extending from the center of the structure onto the stair tower.

Image

Image


Airbrushing or painting on photographic prints was not too difficult, 100 years ago; adding detailed features convincingly may not have been so easy. I think the Chicago Architectural Photographic Company's photographer may have been lucky enough to find trees growing conveniently where needed to hide the carbuncle ?

S

Mark Hertzberg
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Re: Chauncey Williams house 1895: Wright? Wright & Corwin? Corwin & Wright?

Post by Mark Hertzberg »

Here are the exact dates that Rev. Eli Corwin was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. I have the information because the church commissioned me to write and photograph an anniversary history book for their 175th anniversary in 2014:

Rev. Dr. Eli Corwin Pastor from Dec. 20, 1880 to Sept. 9, 1888

I have wondered if this is how Cecil Corwin got the commission for the Henry Mitchell House in 1893 (which I agree Wright collaborated on) and the original scheme for remodeling the Miles House in 1899, a commission which passed to Wright in 1901, but was not realized (T. 0107 is the number Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer assigned it when I gave him the documentation I gathered in the fall of 2003, with the help of Brian A. Spencer who pointed me to the Miles files at the McCormick Library of Special Collections at Northwestern University).

Mark Hertzberg
Mark Hertzberg

Roderick Grant
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Re: Chauncey Williams house 1895: Wright? Wright & Corwin? Corwin & Wright?

Post by Roderick Grant »

Seems to me that determining who did what at Williams is contingent upon an accurate representation of the plan and images of interiors being published. The Storrer plan does not convince me. There is also the matter of FLW's association with Williams: When did they meet, and under what conditions? In 1896, FLW worked with William Winslow and Chauncey Williams at the Auvergne Press on the publication of "The House Beautiful," so their acquaintanceship must overlap design and construction of the house, right? But the house stands out from the FLW designs prior to Williams, and not in a good way, or with any indication of advancement. The pitch of the roof alone makes one wonder.

Grant Carpenter Manson seems to have been a meticulous researcher. In his book, "The First Golden Age," he mentions on page 71 that Chauncey Williams had known Wright's family in Madison before moving to River Forest, and that, "The Williams house arose simultaneously with the Winslow house, and both were supervised by Wright as one job -- but they are strikingly dissimilar in design." That certainly does not augur well for a Corwin connection; if FLW had access to a client, I doubt he would willingly collaborate with anyone else on a design.

DRN
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Re: Chauncey Williams house 1895: Wright? Wright & Corwin? Corwin & Wright?

Post by DRN »

"The Williams house arose simultaneously with the Winslow house, and both were supervised by Wright as one job -- but they are strikingly dissimilar in design."
Playing the devil's advocate for a moment, would Wright have had the human resources necessary to produce two highly detailed and complex houses in a single blow alone? Not knowing how many people were in Wright's employ in 1893-95, I ask this: Might the simultaneous scheduling of the two projects have led to Wright need some amount of assistance in getting the two projects out the door at the same time? Could there have been an assessment of the "size of the fish" involved in the divvying up..."the ornamental metal fabrication company owner who I've dealt with and will deal with in the future who can bring me work" (Winslow); and "the moderately independently wealthy publisher of books and old family acquaintance who might not build anything more" (Williams)?

Just my speculation based on an assumption that I'm quite willing to drop...Wright did both, but focused more on Winslow and had a greater level of assistance with respect to Williams.

A parlor game for sure....

SDR
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Re: Chauncey Williams house 1895: Wright? Wright & Corwin? Corwin & Wright?

Post by SDR »

A not unreasonable scenario, I'd say . . .

Might as well give W A Storrer his say, as he was kind enough to provide the only plan I'm aware of:


ImageImageImage
Winslow


Williams pre-1900, as seen in Hitchcock. Did Hitchcock have the final say in re text, in the book ?

Another high-roof design is seen on the same page . . .

Image

Color photo by Simon Clay:

Image
Last edited by SDR on Wed Nov 18, 2020 4:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Roderick Grant
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Re: Chauncey Williams house 1895: Wright? Wright & Corwin? Corwin & Wright?

Post by Roderick Grant »

One tidbit in Storrer's account: "Stone boulders, in the manner of a Japanese garden, set off the foundation and entry."
Maybe so, but FLW later in his career was embarrassed by the inclusion of the boulders, and were he to go back and try again, would not have installed them. He chalked it up to youthful enthusiasm.

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