The Mitchell House, Racine, WI

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Mark Hertzberg
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Post by Mark Hertzberg »

I am not normally technologically challenged, but how do I post images? I see the Img button...what do I do with it? I am sure it is simple, but I am stymied. Clicking on it or dragging the image into the replay field don't seem to do the trick. Should I be drastically downsizing the image? Once I figure this out I can post Mitchell House images that point to Corwin.

Mark Hertzberg
Mark Hertzberg

Mark Hertzberg
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Post by Mark Hertzberg »

I have been going through my notes about interviews I did with people about the house in 2003. Some people, who I will not quote directly, because they are living, and I have not asked for their permission, say that while there are similarities to Blossom and MacArthur, they do not feel Mitchell is as refined. One asserts that the pea-shaped ornamentation was commercially available at the time, and is not a drop-dead indicator that Wright did that detail (Corwin may have seen it in Blossom House). Here is what Edgar Tafel told me on April 7, 2003, "On the very first trip to Racine (for the SC Johnson Administration Building commission) we came down Main Street ...In all the times I was there, we came down the main street, any number of times. He never mentioned anything about any house other than the Hardy House."
Mark Hertzberg

Mark Hertzberg
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Post by Mark Hertzberg »

SR will be kindly posting my documentation pointing to Corwin as the primary architect of the Mitchell House because I cannot post un-hosted files. Some people seem to not accept this documentation, but it seems pretty darn conclusive to me, certainly more conclusive than "looks like" and "it is my conjecture," etc. In the next few days I will send him my color photos of the house, inside and out, from 2003.
Mark Hertzberg
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Mark Hertzberg
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Post by Mark Hertzberg »

I apologize, it should be SDR, not SR. I need to add more background to this. I covered W.A.S. as the photographer for our newspaper when he came to Racine to look at the Mitchell House. His declaration of it as a Wright home was a front page story for us, and then for USA Today. Later, as I delved into Wright and this house more, and found this documentation, I came to the conclusion that while Wright may well have helped his good friend Cecil Corwin, the house is, at least primarily, Corwin's. W.A.S. then forbade me from using any photos of him in the house. You already have read my account of what happened when I invited him to participate in a "debate" about the house with another Wright scholar.

Mark Hertzberg
Mark Hertzberg

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Mark writes:


There are two documents which point to Cecil Corwin as, at least the primary, architect of the Henry Mitchell House at 901 Main Street in Racine. One is a listing of the commission in the March, 1894 Journal of the Inland Architect. This page, which I have highlighted, is courtesy of the Racine Heritage Museum, and may not be reproduced without permission. Frank Lloyd Wright had already left Adler and Sullivan and had no reason to hide his work at this point. Indeed, his Bagley House commission is listed a few lines below Corwin's Mitchell House.

Second is a drawing Cecil Corwin made in 1899 when he was hired by Florence and Herbert Miles to remodel their small home in what is now the 2300 block of Washington Ave., in Racine. This drawing shows a mini-Mitchell House stuck on the back of the existing house, known as "the cottage." Would Corwin have the nerve to do this if Frank Lloyd Wright, rather than he, have designed the house? This drawing is from the McCormick Library of Special Collections at Northwestern University, and I thank Brian Spencer for telling me where the file was located, and urging me to research it. I have a photograph of "the cottage" which I got from two sources, so we know this is the Miles House.

Corwin's design was not implemented. The commission passed to Wright. I have copied a letter of his to the client from 1901, and his accompanying drawings. The (unexecuted) project was given a project number, PR# 0117, by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer in 2003 when I submitted the documentation to him. Incidentally if Wright's handwriting and return address on the envelope are not proof positive of his work in 1901, how about the fact that he sent it postage due to the client!


Image


Image

pharding
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Post by pharding »

Very cool. Physical evidence trumps "it looks Like" every time.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

outside in
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Post by outside in »

I don't think the claim has ever been made in this post that the Mitchell House was/is Wright's commission. I think most people accept that the connection to the Mitchell's was undoubtedly through either Cecil or his family. Wright and Corwin shared office space - Corwin had a commission in Racine, Wright in Hinsdale, don't you think its curious that the two commissions have a lot of design elements in common?

Mark Hertzberg
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Post by Mark Hertzberg »

W.A.S. has declared it a Wright.

Mark Hertzberg
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pharding
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Post by pharding »

This is a prime example of using "it looks like" as a metric is a flawed approach.
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

outside in
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Post by outside in »

no, "looks like" is an extremely valid approach. The Mitchell House was an overlooked building until I noticed that the art glass in the library was similar in design to the art glass in the bookshelves of the Charnley House. I called Tim Samuelson, who remembered the note in Inland Architect as being a Corwin work. I agree that looks like does not validate work being done by one architect or another, but its usually someone who notices the uniqueness of a design element that leads to new discoveries in architectural history.

outside in
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Post by outside in »

and I forgot to mention that two additional houses, located south of the Mitchell House (I believe one was called the Horlick mansion, even though they weren't the original owners) facing the park should be looked into as well. They have a number of interior design elements that resemble the Mitchell House. I'm wondering if these houses were also Corwin commissions as well.

pharding
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Post by pharding »

outside in wrote:no, "looks like" is an extremely valid approach. The Mitchell House was an overlooked building until I noticed that the art glass in the library was similar in design to the art glass in the bookshelves of the Charnley House. I called Tim Samuelson, who remembered the note in Inland Architect as being a Corwin work. I agree that looks like does not validate work being done by one architect or another, but its usually someone who notices the uniqueness of a design element that leads to new discoveries in architectural history.
Let me rephrase what I am saying. "Looks like" is useful for theory and conjecture provided that is properly qualified. However when "looks like" is presented as fact, then that is wrong and grossly inaccurate. Self-certification of one's theories so as to make them fact, is very silly and very wrong. it does nothing to enhance one's reputation. Self-certification is self-serving. I admire and enjoy learning of theories and conjecture by art historians. They are thought provoking. However some totally ignore the realities of architectural practice and they attempt to make an architectural firm into mini-utopias with unlimited fees and unlimited schedules where employees sit around and leisurely come up with new ideas that a strong willed, hard core design architect like Frank Lloyd Wright magically says "that's brilliant let's build it".
Paul Harding FAIA Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, 1941 Lloyd Lewis House, 1952 Glore House | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Certifying a FLW design by "looks like" if it comes from someone of Aaron Green's stature, for instance, would be acceptable; he knew whereof he spoke. Too much deference is given to architectural historians, who are often little more than librarians. It takes more than forensic talent to determine the legitimacy of a claim.

DRN
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Post by DRN »

outside in:
Is this the Horlick Mansion you noted as being "south of Mitchell...facing the park"?

http://www.vindustries.com/racinehistor ... sion_1.jpg

Photo pulled from this page:
http://www.vindustries.com/racinehistor ... /horlicks/

Also, the Racine Christmas House, facing a park south of Mitchell, has some interesting paneling adjacent to the spindles in the photo with the brick arch fireplace. The window recesses are of interest too...scroll at this link:
https://www.christmashouseracine.com/

Are these the possible Corwin designed candidates you noted?

outside in
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Post by outside in »

yes, those are the homes - south of Mitchell, on the corner and across from the park!

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