Article: New visitor's center planned for Home & Studio

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Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

The plan shows conclusively that there is plenty of space behind 925 and 931 to accommodate however much floor space is needed without so much as a peek of the structure from the street.

Has the board of H&S published a response to any of the persons or organizations that have weighed in on this situation? Do they have any sort of reasoning that is solid?

pharding
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Post by pharding »

The compromise alternate for an L Shaped building that retains the two historic structures has been widely embraced as a reasonable compromise by everyone except for the FLW Trust. It is similar in many respects to what was done for the Darwin Martin Visitor Center which has been widely acclaimed. There the visitor center is a background building. With the proposed Ronan scheme the visitor center is very much of a dominating foreground building that literally overwhelms the Home and Studio and the historic context. It has the look and feel of corporate offices in a historic residential neighborhood. The FLW Trust just doesn't see value in keeping those two historic buildings intact to preserve the historic context of the FLW Home and Studio. This is baffling. To their credit, I and 3 other preservationists met with trust representative and we made our case. We had a polite and frank discussion and interchange. However, they did not budge from their position at this time. Our hope is that they will eventually listen to reason, but that is not certain. So the Historic Preservation Commission meeting on Tuesday evening will be quite interesting. As always we are well organized with strong support. I am sure the FLW Trust will show up with all barrels blasting away.
Paul Harding FAIA Owner and Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, the First Prairie School House in Chicago | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

Matt2
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Post by Matt2 »

I wonder if the Trust just doesn't want to bother with the upkeep of the older homes. Can't be cheap keeping them in working order, and they offer little aside from the context.

pharding
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Post by pharding »

The Italianate House will be income-producing as either rental housing or as office space for a non-profit organization or possibly small business. That income will be more than sufficient to cover its operation and maintenance. The Ann Lloyd Wright House is planned to be used by the FLW Trust.

The two houses are historic houses in the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District a national historic district. The Italianate house dates back to 1866 and is possibly the oldest extant house in the village according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Anna Lloyd Wright House is historic in its own right. Both houses existed when Frank Lloyd Wright lived and worked in the home studio. Both provide important context to the FLW Home and Studio. The demolition of those two houses in strongly opposed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Landmarks Illinois, Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission, OP RF Historic Museum and organization, neighbors, residents of the historic district, historic preservation advocates, and restoration architects.

It sets a terrible legal precedent for a historic preservation organization to tear down historic houses in a national historic district. It is all the more galling because it is not necessary.
Paul Harding FAIA Owner and Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, the First Prairie School House in Chicago | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

While it would be interesting if FLW had anything to do with the addition to Mama's house, it would also be interesting if he hadn't. How long was Anna in the house? Why didn't Frank redo the place? He supposedly designed Taliesin for her (although we all know he didn't really) so why wouldn't he have taken the opportunity to remodel what must have seemed to him an ordinary, ugly Victorian house when he had the chance?

I have always thought there was a love/hate thing going on between FLW and his domineering mother. It certainly showed during the final years of her life. The house on Chicago is definitely part of the overall history of FLW's life, and should be maintained as is.

pharding
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Post by pharding »

The Historic Preservation Commission hearing is this evening.
Paul Harding FAIA Owner and Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, the First Prairie School House in Chicago | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

DavidC
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Post by DavidC »


pharding
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Post by pharding »

The proposed demolition of 40% of the Anna Lloyd Wright House was voted down unanimously by the Historic Preservation Commission. The proposed demolition of the adjacent Italianate House was voted down unanimously also.

Speakers opposed to the demolition included the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Landmarks Illinois and approximately other 30 people. Excluding board members and staff of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, one person spoke in their favor. After the first unamimous vote against demolition, a FLW Trust Board Member threatened legal action against one speaker in the hearing. The same board member publicly commented on one public comment as being insulting. The losing team did not exhibit good sportsmanship.

The FLW Home and Studio was restored back to 1909. The FLW Trust wanted to restore the adjacent Anna Lloyd Wright House back to 1866. That was a bizarre concept to create something that never existed at the same point in time in the name of historic preservation. The would be some kind of a historic preservation zoo. It was unsettling to see a historic preservation organization propose to do things that were anti-historic preservation.

Now it goes to the village trustees, who will consider the vote of the Historic Preservation Commission, the evidence and the statements and do whatever they deem to be appropriate.
Paul Harding FAIA Owner and Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, the First Prairie School House in Chicago | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

outside in
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Post by outside in »

thank you for the update - this is what happens when you create a Board of Directors that are recruited primarily on their ability to raise money for the organization. I believe the FLW Trust has lost their soul.

wrightasrain
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Post by wrightasrain »


DRN
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Post by DRN »

Many thanks for stepping up to lend your expertise and efforts to this issue Paul and John.
Here’s hoping the Village concurs, and that preservation organizations balance their boards to support both fundraising AND their core mission.

pharding
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Post by pharding »

The Society of Architectural Historians also wrote a strong letter in opposition to the demolitions. Kudos to them also.

Unfortunately, the FLW Trust is losing credibility and the support of critical stakeholders, including FLW Homeowners, Architecturally Significant Homeowners, their neighbors who put up with a lot of issues, residents of the historic district, preservationists, restoration architects, Historic Preservation Commission, professors of historic preservation in highly regarded preservation programs, Oak Park residents, and nationally prominent historic preservation organizations. That was quite clear last night. In the manner of Donald Trump it appears that they are doubling down and not responding to the input that they have been receiving. Rather than espousing widely accepted historic preservation strategies and looking at successful precedents, they advocate bizarre, contorted ersatz historic preservation strategies. The convoluted strategies sound more like something that was crafted by lawyers just trying to justify dubious activity by an obviously guilty client. Many people have complained about arrogant communication that reeks of entitlement. Threatening to sue a speaker in the middle of the hearing to intimidate them in front of all those people is not a good strategy to win friends and influence people. They would be best served to acknowledge community input and search for a compromise to regain badly needed community support that is critical to their operation and their proposed project. It is inconceivable that the public will tolerate an extremely large assembly building with no parking in the guise of a visitor center. A new assembly building will not be able to claim that it is grandfathered in and therefore the zoning ordinance does not apply to them. Justifying the omission of on-site parking by claims that everyone arrives on tourist buses does not work for the neighbors and the legal integrity of zoning in Oak Park. Not meeting other critical zoning requirements by claiming that the FLW Trust is "special" is dubious at best. It is baffling that this high profile proposed project has gotten into this fine mess. After last night's hearing, it is mind-boggling that they apparently have decided to press on. The community is coming to the realization that "The Emperor Has No Clothes".
Paul Harding FAIA Owner and Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, the First Prairie School House in Chicago | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

...follow the money.

wrightasrain
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Post by wrightasrain »

So, if the leadership/board at the FLWT is being potentially damaging the long-term health of the organization through their actions, is there a mechanism to censure or even oust them that could be exercised? They are not a private corporation that can do whatever they want, correct?

pharding
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Post by pharding »

I am only qualified to offer an opinion about historic preservation matters. I and others disagree with their decisions on this project. Beyond that, who they choose for leadership is their business and not my business. There is nothing personal about these types of issues. I am hoping that the village trustees accept the decision of the Historic Preservation so that the houses can be saved. Beyond that, I wish them the best.
Paul Harding FAIA Owner and Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, the First Prairie School House in Chicago | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

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