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Wright buildings in their present built environments

Posted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 9:27 am
by Palli Davis Holubar
I thought people might be interested in these archival photographs of the Carr Summer Residence, ca. 1935-45. Recently at the Rush Creek walk, Wrightgeek told us about this experience on one of his Wright pilgrimages. By happenstance he visited the Carr Cottage on the day the demolition crew began destruction. He called the FLWBC on his cell phone but nothing could be done. We are all familiar with the sad remnants of the cottage- on some earlier thread it was discussed, and it is pictured in Storrer. I wanted to appreciate what the building looked like originally. (I’m sending SDR 2 photos ca. 1935-45 to post but these are after some remodeling has occurred. they can be viewed at: ... X=1&REC=17)

One of the remuddling efforts was to enclose (roof and screen) the lake view terrace, another was to enclose and extend the southern open air screened in bedroom gallery (prescient Usonian again). The photo doesn’t clarify if this had already been done.) Can anyone read the brick chimney… that must be an add on also, yes?

Check out the Storrer plan. I would like to see the landscape building sheet for Carr because the entry on Storrer actually is marked on the North façade rather than the south walkway. Imagine how lovely the NW entrance would have been originally before the screen and roof closed in the terrace. The front entrance became a corridor that is much less inviting than the southern rear of the cottage even though it is away from the lake and crammed up to another cottage. The walkway begins close to the property line then angles in. It makes the servant climb more steps than the family visitors. We talk about entrances in terms of privacy, circuitous routes to the front entrance, convenience and grandeur but often miss the obvious psychological implications. (Steps and stairs are worthy of another thread. Richard Wattamaker taught me about steps particularly in reference to museums. The seventies saw the closing grand front doors at the top of lofty steps in order to make new entrances off parking lots. He asked “should culture be made that easy, that convenient, shouldn’t there be some physical and psychological preparation for the study? I still sum it up with the words “body count� but I digress.)

Certainly we can learn from these small early Wright houses how to site a building on a small lot to bring dignity and presence to the built sculpture on the terrain but also among surrounding buildings. A great photo study would be the direct comparison of vintage photos of Wright sites and contemporary photos of those buildings from the same view. A few years ago, when more directly involved with public education, I thought of a title and took a few photos: “To the Right, Left and Back of Wright�. Perfs got me off track but recent posts have made me think of it again. I would like to ask others to think about the idea and submit images on this thread.

More examples and images of building infill around Wright buildings should make for interesting discussion. I already have some thoughts but I hesitate to forward them before dialogue happens.

Posted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:32 pm
by SDR
Image W A Storrer plan



Posted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 3:31 pm
by Reidy
I think the most unfortunate example is Robie, which was on the edge of the residential neighborhood and had a clear view down to the Midway. Coonley has suffered from subdivision and the addition of new houses in what used to be a single, all-Wright estate. Oak Park and River Forest have suffered the least, as the neighborhood density is pretty much what Wright saw (Tomek, too, in Riverside). Hollyhock is still fairly open and will resemble its original setting once the new olive trees grow up. Both Millards - most of the North Shore houses in fact - resemble the old photos.

Storer, with the eucalyptus grown in, looks positively better than in old photos that show it standing alone against dry, empty grass hillsides.

The most radical change I know of for a major building is Schindler's Lovell Beach House. It was originally on the high tide line, with water lapping underneath if the tide got high enough. Ca. 1940 the local authorities dredged out the marshland just east of the house to create Balboa Bay, trucking everything over to the water's edge to build up the beach. The house is a couple of hundred feet further from the water than when Schindler built it.

Posted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 3:43 pm
by Roderick Grant
The chimney extension looks silly. The fenestration of the hallway looks original, except for what appears to be an extention of the roof. It's hard to tell if that is screening or not, but I suspect it is. This is an example (in its original form) of how FLW could make something wonderful out of a very modest commission.

Posted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 3:47 pm
by SDR
Palli's reference to R Wattamaker's comments about museum entrance rearrangements reminds me of the perennial residential conundrum,
wherein a house has a formal entrance, designed for pedestrian approach (typically a central street-facing front door), when in practice the family,
and indeed all but the most remote of friends and relatives, arrives at a secondary entrance convenient to the driveway.

If buildings are not arranged to suit the actual needs and use patterns of the occupants, they will rearrange the design, ad hoc, to suit those needs and
patterns -- architecture be damned !


Posted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 4:40 pm
by SDR
Here are Storrer's photos of Carr, and his text.


W. S. Carr Summer Residence
Grand Beach, Michigan
Stone veneer over original plaster.
Terrace enlarged and enclosed, and
entry enlarged

This cottage sits just on the edge of a bluff high above Lake Michigan. The original was designed to a 4-foot unit on a flat site. Because of the ridge
topping the bluff, Wright's single-story bungalow was set on a basement below the bedroom with of the structure. The entire structure, in being
resited, was rotated 180 degrees from Wright's intent. The main space (44 feet long) is divided by the fireplace and living room to one side and the
kitchen, servant's room, and bath behind. A gallery links four bedrooms, each 10 feet wide. The rear hall was originally screened and reached only
to the door of the back bedroom; it has been extended to square off the rear and enclosed.

Stucco and wood trim have given way to stone veneer. The terrace and entry have been enlarged, the terrace enclosed, and the kitchen
modernized. The fireplace was to have been slightly to one side of the living room axis, but at some point it was centered.


Comparing the photos shows that the chimney extension was reduced in height at some point. . .


Posted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 7:28 pm
by Palli Davis Holubar
SDR- don't you know- the front door gets heavy use every year on Halloween when all those kids and parents arrive in their ill fitting store bought costumes

Posted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 7:31 pm
by SDR
Ah, yes -- the ceremonial entrance, for a ceremonial use ?


Posted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:28 am
by Palli Davis Holubar
I haven't found a published Taliesin plan of this house. Has anyone else seen a plan from the Archives?

At any rate use the Storrer ground plan above:

Look at the plan; don't remind yourself what house it is.
Wouldn't you think Usonian?

In SDR's note to me:
"The obvious point (or an obvious point) of this design, after looking at the plan, is that the house is a perfect precursor of the Usonian -- isn't it ?"
1916 and a house we have lost...
It makes a great exercise to compare this to Pauson, Lewis or Euchtman, etc.

Posted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 4:13 pm
by SDR
This in turn leads us to ponder Wright's "minimal" houses, of any era -- those stripped to the bone. (Storrer reminds us on the same page as S.199
[Carr -- I forgot to put Storrer's number on the text above] that Wright favored exposed studs on interior walls of cottages like this -- he was
referring to Vosburgh, also at Grand Beach.) We look at this plan, and those of some early Usonians, and see a kinship. May not the minimal house have
brought Wright to some of the same plan strategies and resultant forms, both early and late in the canon ? Surely he must have exulted in the purity of
form and detail resulting (in part) from budget restraints. . .?


Posted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 4:40 pm
by JimM
Exterior decidedly "prairie", but the plan is indeed strikingly in-line Usonian considering the date.

Posted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 4:47 pm
by SDR
What I particularly like is the way the "spine" begins in the front room with exposure to the left, and moves straight through the core of the house, ending with
exposure on the right. And I can certainly see why Wright would end it as soon as it has done its job, rather than continuing it to the end of the
bedroom block. This might complicate the roof -- though, oddly, Storrer doesn't draw it with a roof covering it completely at all -- but the massing is
more interesting, and the passage and its views are enhanced by how it terminates, I would think.


Posted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 10:35 pm
by Palli Davis Holubar
Ending the gallery hall at the door to the last bedroom is particularly nice for the view from the side street. Without that notch in the footprint the south wall would be a foreboding stucco mass 2 stories tall. I wonder if the Lane photo was cropped? I'd like to have seen the notch and roof edge.

Wonder what the basement was like. Such a tall wall despite the windows and a lot of enclosed space.
Do the steps at the South look rounded in the As Is (was) photo rather than the right angle corners on Storrer?

Re: Wright buildings in their present built environments

Posted: Sat Jan 09, 2021 8:13 am
by jay
I came across this earlier plan for the W.S. Carr summerhouse while searching the Wright archives on Artstor: ... 0147044249

In continuation of this thread's discussion....this earlier plan offers a more interesting course of movement in the kitchen and with the bumped out back door... The changes later made seem to remove some of the design's depth and diagonality.

My first thought when seeing this version of the plan was, 'wow, that's a 1916 Usonian'.

(The other drawings of W.S. Carr at Artstor: ... =1;size=48 )

Re: Wright buildings in their present built environments

Posted: Sat Jan 09, 2021 10:32 am
by Roderick Grant
WS Carr, along with Vosburgh and the ASBH Cottage, show how FLW's small houses were as entrancing as the grand ones, even early on, before Goetsch-Winkler.