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Richard Smith House, Jefferson, WI

Posted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 1:19 pm
by IndianaWright
Does anyone know where there might be some interior pictures of this house - books, websites? I think it was on the Wright and Like Tour a few years back.

Posted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 1:55 pm
by SDR
I don't find interior shots -- Storrer has none, for instance, nor does the book which presents this Alan Weintraub photo: "FLLW Mid-Century Modern" (Hess and Weintraub).

The oak tree around which the house was planned, in 1950, survives. . .


Posted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 2:20 pm
by jhealy
I've never seen any interior shots of this house. Flicker has a series of exterior shots. WAS says that John Eifler did some restoration/rehabilitation work on the house, and Eifler & Associates' website indicates that as well, although there are no photographs.


Posted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 2:40 pm
by SDR
Here is some of Dr Storrer's excellent material. The plan might be compared to Fawcett, in its C-shaped enclosure of private-side space. . .


Image Fawcett (Storrer)

Posted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 2:52 pm
by Roderick Grant
It's more closely related to Mathews. The owner attended one Conservancy conference years ago, and did not seem very enthusiastic about becoming involved. Seems to me I've seen interiors someplace. I'll have to root about to find them. It's a very nice house in a nice location, fronting a golf course.

Posted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 3:32 pm
by SDR
Just so. And Mathews is from the same year -- just a few Storrer numbers earlier than Richard Smith. A nice example of Wright flopping a plan to suit
different conditions -- perhaps, in this case, the existing trees ?

W A Storrer



This photo was accidentally flopped by the publisher, so it more resembles the Smith entry than it should !


Posted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 9:23 pm
by EJ
I saw this house on Wright In Wisconsin a few years back. A very strange, cold house, sort of a Kentuck Knob gone wrong. It could use a good rehab, from what I remember.

If I remember correctly, it was owned by a doctor who commuted to either Madison or Milwaukee every day.

The kitchen is perhaps the worst designed space Wright ever did.

Posted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 1:05 am
by Laurie Virr
I toured the Richard Smith house in 1964.

It is a rare occasion when I find myself disagreeing with the expressed views of Mr Roderick Grant, but this has to be such a one.

I doubt that Frank Lloyd Wright had much to do with the design of this house: I would suggest that it is the work of an apprentice, and a not very gifted one at that.

There is so much about it which is inappropriate. The combination of the 60/30 module and randomly coursed stone masonry for the walls is particularly unfortunate.

The day I was there was cold and bleak. The artificial lighting was totally inadequate, the spaces uninviting.

In my opinion this is the least desirable of any of the Usonian houses attributed to the design of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Posted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 1:33 pm
by Paul Ringstrom
Laurie Virr wrote:In my opinion this is the least desirable of any of the Usonian houses attributed to the design of Frank Lloyd Wright.
I have to disagree. IMHO the Charles Manson House is #1 (with a bullet) as the least desirable Usonian.

It is interesting that Wright's handling of the bedroom wing in the Mathews House is much more elegant than the way the Smith House bedroom wing is configured. This would seem to support the (above) apprentice conjecture, especially since Mathews came first.

Even though there was a lot of windows facing the courtyard the Smith House was quite dark. I do like the double cantilevered carport tho.

Posted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 1:46 pm
by Roderick Grant
I must explain that I saw the Smith House only from the street, did not get inside. From the front, it looks fine. I agree with Laurie and Paul, the house was probably done by an apprentice. The brick of the Mathews House (which I have also seen only from the street) seems to me more appropriate for the design. Stone can look fussy and heavy too easily; it demands more repose. That may be the error in Smith. But I would have to get inside before dissing it.

Posted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 2:00 pm
by Jeff Myers
Smith looks like a Mid Century Modern custom from the street from the stone work. I wouldn't "judge the book by the cover" so to speak,here.
Both look wonderful but Mathews looks better in design. I like that entry in Mathews,the door goes with a 60°,i think that is correct, angle.

Posted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 5:04 pm
by outside in
I don't think the rational of "the apprentice" can be applied here. Wright used variations of this floor plan for a number of clients. Finally, I completely disagree, the Smith House is actually quite nice - one of the few projects wherein Wright created a very private courtyard, and used the building to enclose the exterior space.

Posted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 12:06 am
by Laurie Virr
The Richard Smith house overlooks a golf course, but could not be described as being in a rural setting. More accurately, whilst not being categorized as urban or suburban, it could be considered a township site, and as such the choice of random coursed limestone masonry walls is totally inappropriate.

Taliesin in Wisconsin looks so wonderful for a whole variety of reasons, not the least of which is the choice of materials for the setting. The stone masonry is laid with a skill that is almost akin to cunning, rising from the earth in the most natural manner imaginable. Moreover, closer examination suggests that the stones were used in their natural shapes as they came from the quarry. Surely that was one reason the rectilinear module was employed.

Contrast that with the use of stone masonry at the Smith house, where the demands of the 60/30 module and the acute angled quoins must have necessitated endless cutting and shaping of the material, whilst still attempting to maintain the appearance it possessed in the walls of the quarry.

Given Frank Lloyd Wright’s respect for the nature of materials, and his exquisite sense of the appropriateness of forms, I find it inconceivable that he could have designed the house. The choice of brick masonry for the Matthews house is, in my opinion, far more illustrative of his direct hand in the design.

It is well known thru the writings of Curtis Besinger that FLLW was not averse to using a previous design as a genesis of a new one. I suspect that on this occasion he resorted to the practice he described in An Autobiography as being the practice of many 19th Century architects when offered a residential commission, ‘Boy, take down No.37 and put a bay window on it’.

Posted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 7:55 am
by outside in
however, I believe this is the first time that this plan was used - in earlier sketches the fireplace was set away from the north wall, allowing direct circulation from the kitchen to the dining area - for some reason he changed his mind and used the bookshelf to screen off the kitchen that we see in the plans.

I'm afraid that one's opinion as to the success of the house does not change the fact that Wright was responsible.

Posted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 10:19 am
by peterm
Is the stonework at Smith really so much inferior to, say, Kentuck Knob, which also was originally intended to be brick, then later built of stone, and also designed on the 30, 60, 120 degree module?

Kentuck Knob, generally considered to be one of Wright's finer houses:

Looks quite similar to me...

If, when we decide we don't like a certain house, blame it on an apprentice, doesn't this mean that we are directly criticizing Wright himself? After all, he signed and approved the drawings in full. If Wright felt that stone was inappropriate, wouldn't he have have strongly objected? Shouldn't we hold Wright responsible when we don't enjoy a design, not an apprentice?...