The Mitchell House, Racine, WI

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outside in
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The Mitchell House, Racine, WI

Post by outside in »

I thought I would post historical interior photos of the Mitchell House in Racine. These photos were taken during the time of occupancy of the second owner, a physician. Chatters may enjoy seeing the details that Wright undoubtedly added to this Cecil Corwin commission (Corwin's father was the local preacher). I think you will see that Wright's involvement was extensive, though it is also easy to believe that Corwin and Wright were working together - after all, they shared office space.

In this first entry hall photo, one can see Wright's characteristic spindles that were omnipresent in his works of the mid-1890's, as well as the horizontal board and beaded batten that was used on Sullivan's brother's house on the South Side of Chicago. the entry hall columns are articulated to a partial height, as the abstract spindles at Charnley second floor

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This is the shot of the reception room, which I believe was used as a doctor's office when this photo was taken. Although the ceiling/trim arrangement is a is fairly mundane, the important detail is the height of the base which conveniently matches the height of the window seat (not used on Charnley, but on the Albert Sullivan house)

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Then there is the library at the end of Living Room. The grain of the wood matches the Tabasco Mahogany used in the Charnley House Dining Room, and the cabinet trim profiles are very similar - also shares similarities with the Blossom House of the same period.

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The dining room is last, and this varies from most Wright interiors of the period. Its painted, but it may have been the second owners doing. The columns at the left are very inventive for the period, and the wood paneling matches the Charnley Board and beaded batten. The bracket top rail is unusual, and its difficult to determine if that was original. It may have been added as a plate rail by the second owner, as the brackets do not seem to relate to the width of the boards.

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rigejo511
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Post by rigejo511 »

Outside In, this collection of historic views of the Henry and Lilly Mitchell house interior are wonderful, and reveal the dynamic relationship between Cecil Corwin and Frank Lloyd Wright. Initially, I came across this house while following through on a lead which connected Jens Jensen and Lloyd Wright. That field work did not pan out, but I brought this home to the attention of W.A.S. Eventually we gathered enough material on this history of this beautiful house which convinced W.A.S. to certify it as Corwin and Wright collaboration.

Credit for finding this remarkable house, though, should be given to Barbara Walter. She is gifted historian and a prominent member of Preservation Racine. Walter was the first to cite it as Corwin and Wright's work. We all owe her a debt of gratitude for her hard work and perseverance for her pioneering work in putting the pieces of this puzzle together.

Later on, Walter took her findings to John Eilfer for review. I would like to suggest that someone contact Eilfer for his thoughts regarding Corwin and Wright's collaboration.

Wrightgeek
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Post by Wrightgeek »

rigejo511-

Since you are relatively new to Wright Chat, you may be somewhat surprised to find that our "outside in" here on the forum is actually the renowned restoration architect himself, John Eifler.

Just thought you might be interested to know.

BTW, great work on the Ross and Adams residences, John, and thanks for keeping those of us here on the forum updated and well-informed on the progress of both projects.
Last edited by Wrightgeek on Thu Oct 27, 2011 6:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

rigejo511
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Post by rigejo511 »

Wrightgeek, thank you so much for that insight. Well then, I probably paid John the best compliment by acknowledging his expertise (which I always thought was formidable).

By the way, I realize that you initially expressed skepticism regarding the authorship of the William Heald house, but my offer for you to take a tour still remains open.

Wrightgeek
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Post by Wrightgeek »

rigejo511-

You may have me confused with another poster here on the forum, as I have yet to express my opinion on the the authorship of the Heald Residence or any of the other 28 commissions in question, and I have not done so for a number of reasons. First of which is although I am an avid fan of architecture in general, and FLW and his followers in particular, I am neither a scholar nor an expert in the field. And while I have had the pleasure to experience dozens of Wright's built works in person, I will leave the issue of determining the provenance of these works to the true experts in this field of study, many of which we are priviledged to have as members here on our Chat Board.

As to your very gracious offer for a visit to tour the Heald Residence, I would love to take you up on that on my next visit to the Chicago area, at your convenience of course. Although I live in Central Ohio, I do manage to get up to the Windy City 2-3 times per year. When I plan my next visit to the area, I will be sure to contact you well in advance in the hopes that a tour can be arranged.

Thanks again for the invite, and I'll look forward to following this thread, and hopefully seeing the Heald Residence in the not-too-distant future.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Researchers would typically initiate a discussion of an historic project by specifying the date of the work -- either inception, or completion. What date(s) are given to the Mitchell house ?

SDR

outside in
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Post by outside in »

sorry, 1893-1894

pharding
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Post by pharding »

The photographs are fascinating. The top photograph shows running head trim that appears in Louis Sullivan projects and that later became a signature trim detail in FLW Prairie Houses.

This is another house that WAS wants to attribute to FLW, even though the drawings carry Corwin's name. WAS comes up with a goofy rationalization for this one also that ignores known facts. WAS's strategy of attributing a commission to FLW because "it looks like" and pontificating that his conjecture is fact is wrong. It is even worse when he self-certifies his conjecture as being fact. In this case even if FLW contributed to the design and there no certainty of that, ultimately it was Cecil Corwin who may incorporated those ideas into his project. Or Cecil could have seen drawings or a completed project of FLW's and then incorporated it into his design. Architects have incorporated design elements and details from other architects for time eternal. I can walk through Chicago and look at buildings in the modern period and identify the likely sources. With WAS's approach many beautiful buildings by Skidmore Owings and Merrill, would be credited to Mies van der Rohe.

There are well established academic standards for conjecture and theories versus something that is proven to be fact. I admire the research that WAS does along with that off his associates. I find theories and conjecture about FLW to be interesting. What I find to be wrong, and I know the FLWBC sees it this way also, is to pass off conjecture and theory, as fact.
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 »

The intent of posting the photos was to open a discussion concerning the design elements of this house which make many (including me) believe that Wright was involved, and to hopefully begin a discussion as to the connections to other works of the same period. As you can see, the continuous horizontal picture rail is already prevalent, as are the early board and beaded batten. The entire trim system is developing beyond that used at the Charnley House. Personally I am fascinated with this stage of Wright's career, as each house illustrates his development of architecture and interior design. The period of 1892-1898 is usually dismissed as "developmental" but this is the same period wherein every architect is struggling with Victorian vs. Arts and Crafts. Wright was very deliberate with his work. It would be interesting to arrange architectural elements in a time sequence to see development of what eventually became "prairie".

Mark Hertzberg
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Post by Mark Hertzberg »

As I have written in the Heald House discussion there are two documents which point to Corwin as the author of the house, even though it is quite possible that Wright collaborated. I have not used the 'insert image' feature before. I have a time crunch now, but in the next few days I will see if I can post them. One is Corwin's drawing to remodel the Miles House...he glues a mini-Mitchell onto the back of the Miles home, which I doubt he would have done if he had not primarily done Mitchell.

I am staying away from "looks like" Wright's work, or "conjecture," etc. These are two factual documents from the period.

Mark Hertzberg[/img][/u]
Mark Hertzberg

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

If the photos suggest anything, it is that FLW was even less likely to have had more than casual input in the Mitchell House design. Everything in it that recalls FLW can be found in the Blossom House of 1892, a design Corwin was undoubtedly familiar with and from which he could easily have cribbed. It's unlikely that FLW would have repeated an earlier design of his, especially in an inferior iteration. One detail that comes closest to a FLW design element is not mentioned: The pattern of the leaded glass windows in the library appear to be a match to the ones FLW may have designed for the Blossom entry. I say 'may' because even the Blossom windows could have been 'off-the-shelf' commercial designs (like the sidelights with shields and swags at the entrance of Charnley). Does anyone know of drawings of these windows that would connect them directly to FLW?

I agree that the 1890s work is wrongfully under appreciated. From the Winslow Stable on, there is a direct line of development that led ultimately to the first design for Sherman Booth, including Rollin Furbeck, Wm. Martin, Fricke, Tomek, Robie and the second Booth design, as well as unbuilt projects. Husser evolved into Coonley.... and so on. This is a very important period in FLW's development and needs study.

Jeff Myers
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Post by Jeff Myers »

Does anyone have a close up of the Blossom Windows?
JAT
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pharding
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Post by pharding »

outside in wrote:The intent of posting the photos was to open a discussion concerning the design elements of this house which make many (including me) believe that Wright was involved, and to hopefully begin a discussion as to the connections to other works of the same period. As you can see, the continuous horizontal picture rail is already prevalent, as are the early board and beaded batten. The entire trim system is developing beyond that used at the Charnley House. Personally I am fascinated with this stage of Wright's career, as each house illustrates his development of architecture and interior design. The period of 1892-1898 is usually dismissed as "developmental" but this is the same period wherein every architect is struggling with Victorian vs. Arts and Crafts. Wright was very deliberate with his work. It would be interesting to arrange architectural elements in a time sequence to see development of what eventually became "prairie".
I believe that this type of study would be incredibly fascinating. There are a numerous Adler and Sullivan design elements that were used by FLW and gradually edited down as FLW's Prairie House design vocabulary evolved. The Davenport House has a fair number of Louis Sullivan details that make up a wonderful part of the Davenport House story. FLW borrowed from other architects in addition to Louis Sullivan. There were also aesthetic ideas that Wright developed on his own and then discarded on later projects. The Prairie House didn't just suddenly happen. The new and innovative ideas evolved over time with hundreds of iterations including sketches, design ideas that were published in the LHJ, borrowed ideas from other architects, innovative design ideas in response to unusual demands from clients, and as is the case with every architectural firm for time time eternal, the employees contributed ideas. However all things considered there is FLW at the center of it all with a willingness to experiment with client funds and a drive to do great architecture.
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 »

I did research in some of my own books, and found that Julie Sloan, the last word on FLW glass, has apparently seen FLW drawings of the Blossom sidelights, so that's that. It would be interesting to see a better view of the Mitchell windows to see how closely they follow Blossom.

Not only did FLW use LHS as a source of inspiration, he also got a lot out of his brief association with Joseph Lyman Silsbee: LHS mostly ornament; JLS mostly form. Hickox represents a stripping away of what he learned in the 90s down to essentials.

One should be wary of placing too much importance on all the early work. Blossom exists because the client wanted a Colonial design, as did McArthur. Nathan Moore, a Tudor fantasy...with a porch! Bagley had certain requirements, Geo. Smith apparently did as well. Much of what was done in the early years should be boiled down to details, while ignoring certain overall considerations FLW may not have had control over.

The more fascinating era is between Oak Park and Willey, when FLW was seemingly at odds and ends, looking for new forms to revitalize his work. It was during this period that he turned the burned out shell of Moore into a Sullivanesque fantasmagoria. What inspired this indulgence?

SDR
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Post by SDR »

The Moore rework apparently dates from 1923. In 1921 Wright produced this design, for a Dorothy Martin Foster, of and/or in Buffalo.

These drawings appeared in a show mounted by Fischer Fine Art, of London; the show of "architectural drawings and decorative art" (glass, furniture) traveled to Frankfurt, Zurich, and Vienna in 1985-6.


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William Allin Storrer photos of Moore I and II:

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