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(1946-7). They include these memories of Mr Howe. . .
Gene Masselink, Mr Wright's secretary, assigned me to one of two small upstairs front bedrooms in the old Hillside dormitory. Windows looked out
across the motor court to the living room, and then beyond the serrated roof of the studio building, and up the long prairie slope to the legendary
windtower of Romeo and Juliet. My next door neighbor was John Henry Howe.
Jack Howe, Wright's prodigious chief draftsman and production super-intendent, was taxed beyond his limits, and desperate to commandeer all
the help he could get. I had worked for an architect for a few months before coming to Taliesin and showed Jack some of my drawings. By his
standards, I was woefully inexperienced. But seeing that I could at least draw and letter, he took a chance and shanghaied me right into the
studio, installing me at a drafting board next to his. He was as determined to make me useful to him, as I was to learn. Besides the nearly
unbearable burden of his responsibilities, Jack was plagued with failing eyesight -- which he later overcame -- and the aftermath of a harsh four-
year incarceration in a federal penitentiary as a wartime conscientious objector. At night, I often heard him moaning and sobbing and calling out
in his sleep through the wall that separated our rooms. He was a demanding mentor, but, for all his tics and terrors, he treated me gently
and with infinite patience.
The side walls of the great oak-scented drafting studio were lined with banks of broad-drawered drawing files containing virtually Wright's entire
oeuvre, dating from the dawn of his career. Many of the early drawings were done on linen vellum and illuminated with many-splendoured inks --
like monks' manuscripts. Accessible to all, they were casually kept, sometimes worn, torn and stained -- always subject to the uncontrolled
outer and inner climate of the forest-like interior space. This collection was a treasure trove for students, but would become a nightmare for
future archivists. Jack urged me to immerse myself in it, even as he had done 14 years earlier when he joined the Fellowship right from high
schoo!. "It was my university," he said.
One day, he asked if I had a favorite among Wright's hundreds of executed and unexecuted projects. It was an impossible choice, but I
finally selected the little Winkler/Goetsch [sic] Usonian dwelling in Okemos, Michigan. He nodded, as if he had anticipated my answer, and
asked me to make exact copies -- not tracings -- of the entire set of working drawings. I assumed that he wanted to put them in the files as a
fresh backup-set for the much-handled originals. Although it was against the rules, he allowed me to take the portfolio to my room where I had a
small drawing board. I labored for weeks by what midnight oil could be spared. When I presented the copies to him, he looked them over
carefully and exclaimed, "Well done!" -- then rolled them up and handed them back for me to keep, saying, "Here is your diploma!"
. . .
But the central force in this swirl of urgent productivity was Jack Howe. He was the sorcerer's consummate apprentice, interpreting his master's
dreams and visions, translating them into limpid, poetic renderings and beautiful, down-to-earth construction documents -- while teaching us
along the way. He was taken for granted and largely unsung. Yet, I can still see -- from a perspective of 50 years [this is written in 1997] -- that
Jack, though faithfully serving as Mr Wright's "pencil," was, even on his own, the penultimate architect's architect.
. . .
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That said, my modest collection of Howe photos would hopefully pique interest for some: http://www.flickr.com/photos/esaed/sets ... 525116951/
A 10-minute trailer is expected by April 2010, and a 1-hour version hopefully for PBS ready for by fall 2010. Five client interviews are already conducted, several more in the planning stages. Most of the Twin Cities area homes will be photographed in the coming weeks as fall color is ripening now.
Lu Howe, Jane King Hession, Tim Quigley, John Clouse, Barbara Bezat and Eric Saed amongst numerous others have all been very kind and helpful.
If anyone has contact information for original clients, or current homeowners (willing to allow photography), referrals always appreciated. Repeat information always welcomed.
It's long overdue... and hope to recognize John for the true talent he was.
chance to be the first on the scene, at least !
I certainly look forward to a revealing and factually reliable record of Jack Howe's work and life, to whatever extent these are able to be revealed in
the allotted run time. Thanks for taking on the project, and best wishes.