The best tour ever, of a F.LL.W. building?

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The best tour ever, of a F.LL.W. building?

Post by dtc »

I'm sure many of us Wright chatters have toured F.LL.W designed buildings.

Just wondering which of the original clients, or present owner, in your opinion, gave a superior tour?

Which public site tour was your favorite?

Jeff Myers
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Post by Jeff Myers »

It to me has to be Price Tower tours and Residential in a way was Taliesin West Behind the scenes tour. That was a delightful tour and got to see Frank Lloyd Wright's personal bedroom and meeting room. It was a great tour.
Price Tour tour was with the apartment and office tour that was wonderful and very insightful.
Can't wait to go back to the Price Tower and Taliesin West and more future tours.
Jeff T

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

For the tour guides at T-West, an article in the L A Times travel section this Sunday titled "Wish We Weren't Here" included this letter:
WHAT I EXPECTED: "I was in a wheelchair, so I had serious concerns about accessibility. We called ahead and were told that the general tour was wheelchair-accessible."
WHAT I FOUND: "This is a beautiful and interesting site, and it is still Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural institute. But paths were made of loose gravel. Ramps were metal sheets laid over stairs, their pitches so steep that ascent was nearly impossible and descent rammed me feet-first into the ground. I had to get out of the wheelchair so my husband could wrench the footrests out of the ground. (Thank goodness I was able to get up. I might still be there otherwise.) At several points, I was asked to detour and meet up with the group elsewhere, and once was placed so far away from the group I could not hear the guide's remarks. Taliesin West is a remarkable site and everyone should be able to experience it. Many of the fixes would not be difficult, especially with all those architects-to-be on hand."
Allowing for some hyperbole coming from someone who was obviously dissappointed with the tour, it sounds as if T-West has some fine-tuning of its tour to do. Accommodating wheelchairs is one of the most pressing challenges any house tour has. At Hollyhock, there was pressure to install an elevator so the upstairs could be experienced. In other words, destroy the house so people could see it. Ginny Kazor put together a video of the upstairs which the tourist could watch while the others went upstairs, and no one ever complained. The ramps at Hollyhock are removable, so on those exceedingly rare occasions when they are needed, they can be hauled out of the closet and put up, and afterward put away again. Not a big deal.

For my own experiences, private owners Reisley, Oshiewitz (Sol Friedman), Lovness and Palmer were all memorable. But I knew all of them personally. Mrs. Mossberg, whom I did not know, was not only gracious and generous with her time, she even invited Ginny, Betty Wagner and me to sit in the dining area for a cordial so we could experience the space as it was intended to be used. But the most extraordinary experiences were at Westhope, where the owner opened her house to the Conservancy board and a group of Deco fans with virtually no limits, and later on that same trip, Caroline Price's dinner at Hillside, a house I had always dismissed as ungainly until I actually experienced it first-hand.

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Post by PNB »

Never had the privelige of a tour by an owner, and never expect to, but for a public site the old Tea Circle Tours at Taliesin were the best. Seldom seen parts of the estate, an excellent tour guide I never wanted to correct, and the pastry and refreshment breaks were the best.

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Post by DavidC »

It's tough to beat Dr. Christain's tour of Samara. An original client who opens up his home and grounds - and sits with you answering all of the many questions posed.

The tours my wife and I just did of Marden and Llewellyn-Wright were truly wonderful. Homeowners who care greatly for what they have and are willing to be very open and accommodating. And meeting Mrs. Kinney was very special. And Auldbrass sure is something spectacular. But, perhaps my favorite was touring Rosenbaum - and getting to meet and spend time w/ Mrs. Rosenbaum.

As for a public site, we did the behind-the-scenes tour of Pope and thoroughly enjoyed that. Welzheimer was very enjoyable (with a large part of that enjoyment coming from getting to meet Wright Chat's Palli and Michael). The day we toured Cedar Rock we were given pretty much free reign - and very much appreciated that. And Krauss was a very enjoyable tour, too. But, my personal favorite public tour would be the one I had with BBF at T. West - along w/ his house (based upon Jester).


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Post by Wrightgeek »

Those are some difficult questions, dtc.

Among the public sites, I would probably have to say my best tour was at Kentuck Knob. I live about 4 hours away from KK by car, and we had scheduled an in-depth tour, which was the last tour of the day to depart. After getting just a bit of a late start, we then ran into major traffic issues on the way, and once it became obvious that we would miss the start of our tour, we called to let them know we were going to be late and to please start without us. I was quite disappointed, by we decided to still head to KK to look around and see what we could see.

When we arrived, our tour had been gone for about 45 minutes. The gift shop was still open, but just about to close. When we mentioned that we were the couple that had called to cancel earlier, the staff person offered to run just the two of us up to the house after she closed the gift shop, for a private tour. We enthusiastically accepted, and got to enjoy the house by ourselves, which was fantastic. The tour guide was very knowledgable and quite chatty, and so we ended up being up at the house for about two hours, and got to experience the transition from late afternoon daylight, to dusk, to nightfall, which was magical. Needless to say, a nice tip was in order for our guide, who went way above and beyond what she needed to do.

Best private site tour might be a little tougher. I think my first choice might be the tour we enjoyed at Samara, led by the original client, Dr. John Christian. Even at his advanced age, about 90, he was very articulate and you could tell that he truly enjoys sharing his home and his experiences with Mr. Wright with his visitors. Another two hour plus tour that was unforgettable.

Close behind would be the tour given by Mike and Sarah, the present owners of the Muirhead Residence in Illinois, which they operate as a B&B. Sarah, who is a Muirhead, and Mike are just two of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, and they are very knowledgable about the house and its history. Mike did much of the restoration work himself, and it is first rate. A stay at their place is an absolute pleasure.

And also at the top of the list was a visit I had to the Tonkens Residence near Cincinnati. We were welcomed by Beverly Tonkens herself, and had a terrific visit and tour of the property with her. She is a very gracious hostess, and the house is in immaculate condition.

All that being said, there is no tour that can match the experience offered by overnight stays in Wright properties. I've done several of them, and they are an incredible opportunity which I very highly recommend.

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Post by rightwaswright »

dtc wrote:I'm sure many of us Wright chatters have toured F.LL.W designed buildings.

Just wondering which of the original clients, or present owner, in your opinion, gave a superior tour?

Which public site tour was your favorite?
I showed up, the docent gave me a little walk round the living room and then said "feel free to go wherever you want except the kitchen or our office". I was the only visitor so I literally had the run of the place.

I've never ever had that kind of free access to a famous architectural site. I think after she found out I was an Architect and probably knew more about the building than she did, she felt comfortable turning me loose.

And it was free!

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Post by dkottum »

As for a public site, I cannot get enough of Fallingwater. It is too bad you can no longer explore and view it from the base of the waterfall.

Many years ago Louis Penfield brought us over to meet son Paul and see his house, as well as a visit to Staley. Lou was a marvelous storyteller and had wonderful stories of his visit with "the Old Man" at Taliesin, as he called him, and tales of construction of both Penfield and Staley.

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Post by Wrightgeek »

The Staley Residence on Lake Erie is an often-overlooked little gem. It is in spectacular condition, and is very well-cared for by the second owners, who live in the area and use the house as a 2nd home/vacation house.
Last edited by Wrightgeek on Wed Feb 10, 2010 4:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by RA »

I have been to Wingspread a few times and there was never a docent. You just checked in at the desk and toured by yourself. You just had to call ahead to see if there was a conference or not. If there was, you had to come another day.

The main room is among his most spectacular rooms if not the most spectacular.

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

I saw Wingspread in much the same way as rightwaswright. Betty Wagner and I showed up, we were told to wander around, but that the playroom was being used. We even got up into the perch by the chimney. I've known Tom Schmidt (former curator) and Lynda Waggoner (current curator) for 25 years, so when I have been at Fallingwater, I have gone down to the base of the waterfall. As Robert Winter said upon taking in the view, "Now I can die!" Just before restoration on Dana began, Donald Hallmark gave a Conservancy group a tour of the house stripped down with all the art glass removed. I noticed something odd, and pulled up an interior pocket window that had been missed, and brought that to his attention. Seeing it in that shape was fascinating. Then after the restoration, former Taliesin apprentice and Dana docent Mark Heyman took me and John Geiger on an extended 2-hour tour, dodging other tour groups, jumping ribbons, looking into everything! He also took us to the shop where the art glass was restored. That has to be tops.

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Post by Craig »

Mine would have to the the Lewis house in Tallahassee, Florida in 2000.

Clifton Lewis still lived in the house (and may be there still). She was as gracious as could be, and as eccentric a person as you might find in the South. She had interesting stories of hearing Wright speak at Florida Southern College and then hiring him as architect. She and her husband were quite the liberal activists in an otherwise extremely conservative part of the country. Having Wright design their "spaceship" like house only added to their notoriety.

The house was in sad shape but no changes had been made at all. The house is a solar hemicycle made of Ocala block, just kind of wilting away in the swampy Florida terrain. I will never forget it or Clifton.
Last edited by Craig on Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Wrightgeek »


I saw an article about a year or two ago from the Tallahasse newspaper about the Lewis Residence. At the time of the article, Mrs. Lewis was still alive, and she was in the process of trying to set up a foundation to care for the property after her death. I'm not sure how that all turned out, or if she is still with us, but the article also made mention of the deteriorated condition of the building and grounds.

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Post by Collinst3 »

Just this past weekend, I got a private tour of the Palmer House. What a treat. Has always been my favorite. It was right up there with our tour of Samara house with Dr. Christian. What gems. Introducing my kids to these homes hopefully will have a lasting impact on how they view architecture. (They always seem to gravitate to the small cabin-like bedrooms.)

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Post by peterm »

Kids get it, don't they? The attic bedroom with the extreme asymetrical sloping ceiling... or the tiny, cave-like spaces of a Usonian bedroom. They intuitively understand scale, and know that a darker space is just as necessary as the window.

We are constantly hammered over the head that quality is measured in square feet, and most of us fail to notice how we use only a small percentage of our houses, the rest becoming a showcase for symbols and storage for useless crap.

To introduce your children to this joyous architecture is such a gift!

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