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Wright Restoration Funds

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 2:26 pm
by PrairieMod
I've posted an entry and link on about the proposed earmarking of $3.1 million dollars of Illinois state funds for upgrades and renovations to the Dana Thomas House in Springfield. While this is important I raise the point that an equally important need exisits to have monies earmarked for the Unity Temple in Oak Park...a project that needs a heck of a lot more in the way of restoration and immediate need.

I wanted to raise the question of why it seems the Unity Temple is consistantly overlooked for restoration money. It's need and importance culturally is on par with other major Wright restorations (Fallingwater, Taliesin, etc) but it seems to have been largely overlooked. What do people on Wright Chat thought about this?

Unity Temple

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 3:03 pm
by robertstar
Unity Temple does not receive government money because it would violate the convention of the separation of church and state.

Re: Unity Temple

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 3:46 pm
by FrankFan
robertstar wrote:Unity Temple does not receive government money because it would violate the convention of the separation of church and state.

Wouldn't you think that the cultural significance of this structure would trump that convention? We're not talking about a St. Luke's Church that was built in 1960-something by an unknown architect.


Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 3:59 pm
by Elaine W
Actually, that's not exactly true regarding UT & government funds--there is a separate entity, Unity Temple Restoration Foundation, which is eligible to get funds from such sources.

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 5:11 pm
by PrairieMod
The Louis Sullivan church that burned in Chicago received a million dollars from the state and they don't have an non-secular, non-for-profit organization associated like the Unity Temple. So I don't think that separation point rings true.

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 9:08 pm
by Guest
PrairieMod wrote:The Louis Sullivan church that burned in Chicago received a million dollars from the state and they don't have an non-secular, non-for-profit organization associated like the Unity Temple. So I don't think that separation point rings true.
The state money is for the school and offices, not the church so separation of church and state is maintained. The property is typically subdivided. The "communty facilities" organization is typically separate from the church organization.

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 9:28 pm
by pharding
I made the above post. Sorry.

Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 11:54 am
by PrairieMod
I know that the Unity Temple congregation and LPCI have some sort of shared ownership agreement. Plus UTRF is a secular non-for-profit that is largely responsible for all the restoration projects. Wouldn't that satisfy the church and state separation?

Does it boil down to an image/marketing problem for this building? It's so significant architecturally (the argument could be made that it's Wright's most significant work) I would hope that would trump everything else. If you were in charge of trying to raise money for restoring this building, what would you do?

Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 12:16 pm
by SWSinDC
Another factor we may not be considering is regional politics. Illinois legislators are likely very sensitive to the distribution of public funds between Chicago (and its suburbs, including Oak Park) and everywhere else in Illinois. They probably think giving money to restore an FLLW treasure in Springfield, the state capital, is less likely to raise an issue then sending tax dollars north to Chicago. I know from Michigan experience that Lansing hears a lot more complaints when public money is sent to Detroit rather than anywhere else in the state.

Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 1:24 pm
by rgrant
Dana is walking distance from the Governor's mansion ... even though that house is now on the market.

Posted: Sat Mar 11, 2006 6:36 pm
by Reidy
How sure are we that Unity Temple is neglected? I don't have hard numbers, but they've done a lot of work in recent years restoring exterior concrete and interior colors, finishes and fixtures. It appears to be in much better shape than Taliesin, though comparisons are difficult because it's a much smaller property. Fallingwater probably did spend more money, but the building was in much more trouble.


Funding for Unity Temple

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2006 9:27 pm
by Unity Temple
It's wonderful to see people asking questions about this.

In fact it is very difficult to raise funds to restore the building because it is a church. If people understood the whole story it might be easier.

It is not correct to say that Unity Temple Restoration Foundation can not receive government funding because of the separation of church and state. In fact we have received over one million in state and federal funding. We project the full restoration will cost between 12 - 15 million dollars.

The fact is the church is owned by two entities -- the congregation which is fundamentally the same client Mr. Wright designed and built the building for -- and he was a member of the congregation.

But there is also a secular control and ownership - the first ever preservation easement on the interior and exterior of a church. The easement is owned by the non-profit Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois.

There is very litle doubt in the minds of most Wright fans and scholars that Unity Temple is of extraordinary influence and significance.

As someone recently pointed out, in Mr. Wright's last recorded interview, at the Guggenheim, he said, "Unity Temple is my contribution to modern architecture".

But we face extraordinary challenges in fundraising because of perceptions. We spend an enormous amount of time trying to express our secular status.

I hope that Wright supporters understands three things:

1.) The building is in dire need of its first, comprehensive restoration in almost 100 years.

2.) Although the building is still used for its original purpose - as a church - it is also heavily used by the public and is open 363 days a year for tours, concerts, lectures, etc.

3.) Everyone can play a role in the restoration - even if it's just coming to visit and enjoy the masterpiece Unity Temple.

I really do appreciate your interest and support.


Keith Bringe

Unity Temple Restoration Foundation


One More Thing: An Opportunity to Help on a Special Night

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2006 10:18 pm
by Unity Temple
Join us for the best night of the year at Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple for the Restoration Gala on Saturday, May 6th featuring

a concert by Spider Salof

dinner, cocktails, an extraordinary silent auction and more.

The Gala benefits Unity Temple Restoration Foundation (UTRF).

Each year, the Foundation gives two awards. The Unity Award is given to an individual or organization that has made significant contributions to historic preservation in the region. Past recipients have been Mr. John Bryan, Mr. Richard Driehaus and Mr. Seymour Persky.

This year's Unity Award will be given to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. The Award will be accepted by Conservancy Executive Director Ron Scherubel.

The Foundation also gives an award to an individual who has made a major contribution to the restoration of Unity Temple. The 2006 recipient of the UTRF Award is Mr. Jack Lesniak.

Call 708-383-8873 or email for more information or to receive an invitation.