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Why is it there?
Did a driveway formerly cross that remnant of an earthen dam in the lake?
Somewhere a photo exists (A "Westelin" photo, seen on Page 191 of An American Architecture, c. 1955, edited by Edgar Kaufmann) showing a cow walking on that road, where it crosses the stream. Another photo (probably from the 1950's) taken from Taliesin itself, shows the road and spillway in the distance. Perhaps someone may find that photo.
The spillway was removed in the 70's, when the Lower Dam was increased in height ... a foot or two, as I recall ... so that a boat could travel up-stream. At the same time, and for the same purpose, the western reaches of the stream (and the lake itself) were considerably dredged to increases the depth of both the lake and stream. A "turn-a-round" was also dredged into the far reaches of the stream, to facilitate barge turning.
I believe the impetus for these changes came as a result of boating on Lake Lugano, during the Taliesin-Montagnola years. Drifting slowly on a placcid body of water for a few minutes can be a totally relaxing experience, an advantage in hurly-burly times, which shouldn't be taken too lightly.
The map shows an "Entrance" from County Road C next to the dam with an "Exit" up the road a bit. (The road originally had a curve to it and was probably gravel. At some point, County Road C was straighten and paved.) While the map doesn't extend to the point on Highway 23 where the gate is located, there is no indication of a road headed from the house in that direction on the map. It seems logical to assume that the entrance gate on 23 was built for Taliesin II.
Since the change occurred in the 70's, it was presumably a Mrs. rather than a Mr. Wright decision. Do you think he would've concurred? Somehow, I don't.
It seems like a very intentional thing to do to put that entry portal there in the first place. I imagine passing thru the threshold of the gateway, and, flanked by water, continuing toward the house straight ahead and above - silhouetted against the sky. If the existing land form correctly indicates the likely shape of the driveway, the slight bend to the left halfway across the lake would afford the sudden presentation of the house reflected in the water.
To me it seems like a carefully orchestrated approach, masterfully done. Using the Google earth 3D terrain, the sequence would be something like this (except with the addition of reflection in the water):
It seems intentionally composed, reminiscent of the massing of Fallingwater above the falls. It is a shame to lose this procession toward the architecture with this interesting orientation.
The approach you show, James, is enticing indeed, but FLW wasn't inclined to give the visitor a grand view of things upfront. The way the current entrance sidles along the house seems more like his usual practice. There are exceptions, of course, like Northome and Wingspread, where there were few options, but think of Eaglefeather, for instance: The grand faÃ§ade of the proposed (unbuilt) structure was to face the downhill side, toward the ocean, while the approach was from uphill, giving scant evidence of the spectacular building until rounding the bend to the entrance. Or the plot plan of the first Sherman Booth project with its drive wending its way through a small wood before confronting the grand bridge across the breach, and the revelation of the house.
My guess is that the drive to T-II was deemed an error by FLW, making it a necessity to use the service road as the principal approach in the winter, with the drive circumnavigating the estate reduced in importance.
At first Wes (Peters) had the County merely extend the road from Taliesin straight out to where it met the new County "C" at a right angle, which left Mr. Wright's bridge virtually an unusable "white elephant", and the old portion of County "C" merely an estate road ... extending through the gate (where the mason's are shown admiring their handiwork), and on and around, below Taliesin.
Of course the shorter connection to County "C" made perfect sense to anyone living at Taliesin during winter months, but when Mrs. Wright returned from Europe, she eventually ordered that new road connection severed, Mr. Wright's bridge below the dam spillway reopened, and a new junction with County "C" built where it now stands, near the dam and spillway.
All of this occurred around 1966-67.
I do recall that when the road from Taliesin was rebuilt from Taliesin to Mr. Wright's bridge, that it was at first ram-rod straight, until someone had the foresight to realize and convince Mrs. Wright that a gentle curve would be preferable. And so that road was rebuilt a second time.
Having thought about your assessment, maybe you're right. The idea of a straightforward, grand frontal approach may be too blunt an instrument, lacking in subtlety. Not very organic (to use the cliche), and perhaps a one-liner in its obviousness. (I just looked back at those old photos at the Wisconsin Historical Society website, and in those early days the landscape/hardscape was wonderfully rough around the edges, giving the impression that Nature was in control. Not Man.) Maybe another reason to avoid that driveway would be its mark on the landscape when viewed from the house above.
Yet, there sits that stonework, having been intended for some purpose at some point. No small effort. It would be good to know its history, when it was created and when/why it was abandoned.
Maybe, or maybe not, related would be a similar bit of signage also on highway 23, marking the entrance to the Fritz's place "Hilltop", which was apparently built in the late 40's . Maybe unrelated, but the name carving in the stone is reminiscent.
http://www.bluffton.edu/homepages/facst ... iesin.html
So, if the stone gateway was built prior to 1945, the driveway would not have encountered much water or the need to bridge across it. Later, that driveway would've been easily erased once the waters rose. It's interesting that, from the air, there appears to be a dotted line of trees suggesting a route.
Years ago, guides were taught that the entrance gate from HWY 23 was "the original entrance gate." That's because the person who gave the information was a member of the Taliesin Fellowship, & 1911 is when they thought it had been added. This was corrected, but it takes a while to solidify that information into place (I've heard people - not guides - insist that the curtain in the Hillside Theatre was designed by Mrs. Wright).
I hadn't heard that Hilltop had been on the market. The descendants of Herb and Eloise Fritz run it now (Eloise is still alive, but it's rented for weddings/occasions in the summer & that's a lot of work).