rain chains

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outside in
Posts: 1295
Joined: Sat Jul 29, 2006 9:02 pm
Location: chicago

rain chains

Post by outside in »

there seems to be a belief that FLW installed "rain chains" on his homes, and now the Booth Cottage in Glencoe has been blessed with someone's version of what "Wright would have done", including some odd splash blocks that have no apparent function. Are there any examples of this feature used by Wright prior to 1940?
https://hosting.photobucket.com/images/ ... 892AB.jpeg

DavidC
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Location: Oak Ridge, TN

Re: rain chains

Post by DavidC »

Doesn't the verticality of the chains themselves work against the horizontality of the overall structure?


David

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Re: rain chains

Post by SDR »

Has anyone seen rain chains on a Taliesin drawing ? On vintage photographs of Wright buildings ?

I have not. The only factors arguing for rain chains on conserved Wright houses are A) it seems like something he might have done, and/or because B) he demonstrably did not favor downspouts (or handrails, while we're at it).

It could be said that the rain chain is a more delicate and less obtrusive alternative to the downspout. What is little mentioned is Wright's early alternative to either of these options: he provided for rainwater to be conveyed through the air (and what could be more "natural" than that ?) and into receptacles either at the tops of piers strategically placed around the house at the second-floor level (Heath) or placed on the ground (Martin). The latter are shallow inverted pyramids, the former concealed at the center of planters atop the piers.

These devices are present on the drawings of these two (and perhaps a few other) Prairie-period houses but are easily missed; I wasn't aware of them until just a couple of years ago, and I've been looking at Wright drawings and buildings for decades.

Furthermore, Wright's drawings of the Prairie period display a wide variety of roof gutters, often cleverly integrated into the roof construction so that they would be minimally, if at all, visible from the ground. Yet I have noticed downspouts on only one or two house drawings of the period.

What is missing now is an understanding of Wright's thinking about this issue in the Usonian period. Various scuppers are found on flat-roofed houses, sometimes simply soup-can-sized cylinders descending from the soffits; on pitched-roof houses precipitation is apparently expected to drop to the ground unimpeded. What is not generally in evidence is a means of dealing with the water once, and where, it hits the ground. Was Mr Wright simply in denial about the need to deal with rainwater, from the roof to the ground---and beyond ?

S

DRN
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Re: rain chains

Post by DRN »

I have not yet seen a rain chain on Wright/Taliesin drawing from any era.
I will however 'fess up to installing one full length chain and four chain segments at the Sweeton house (my residence) for reasons of utility.
Prior to my restoration/renovation work, it became clear the drip edges of the sloped roofs aligned well with the inside face of Wright's low walls at the carport, entry porch, and basement stair. The effect was under certain conditions water flowing into the living room, basement, and ice rink conditions on the porch and basement stairs in the winter. Also, the eave at the French doors was only 11" deep...the door bottom rails were getting soaked in most rains and they rotted over time.

My solution was to inset a recessed gutter behind the fascias on the problem locations...the non-problem areas stayed gutterless. How to control the concentrated flow of water from the gutter drains then needed to be addressed...it was irregular, prone to spattering, and caused its own icing issues at times. Downspouts dropping from a point 4' out from the nearest wall (of glass no less) was a non starter. I chose to use 10" long chain segments at each guttered corner. Not fancy copper cup chains, but buy-it-by-the inch at Lowe's utility chain that rusts to an earthy brown. Problem solved; the chain gathers the water to a concise drip/stream/torrent that falls straight. At one location, in the middle of the long west gutter that drains at the carport at the north end and has a crown due to the slight sag of the carport, needed a mid-run drain. I chose to do a full chain at this location more as an ice sculpture in the winter and a fun thing to watch during a storm. I further installed stone beds at two locations, a splash tile at the carport, and concrete ground gutters at the full chain and the low workshop roof's sheet flow drip edge to direct stormwater away from the house.

I will say the chains are a conversation piece, and I'm quick to point out to those who notice them that they are not original, and are my doing. My drawings and the photographic record of the house documents these changes. Could these give a false impression? Probably, but the chains do solve real problems in a subtle way. I should add that 1 minute with my bolt cutter can reduce the full chain to a 10" segment, and all of the chains are easily lifted out of the gutter(they are each suspended from a carriage bolt straddling the gutter drain).

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Re: rain chains

Post by SDR »

Rain management at Sweeton, per DRN:

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SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Re: rain chains

Post by SDR »

I watched the Woodson Building come into being in the early 1980s, in downtown San Rafael., California. The rain chains were just one of the charms of this office building, which echoes a Craftsman/Asian aesthetic. Paired rafters, visible within the glass line, support a red-tiled roof with generous overhangs.

The chains initially installed looked like those on DRN's house; someone apparently decided that they didn't suit the scale of the building because they were soon replaced by those with elongated links, as seen in the photos. Note mitered corner glass; some real love went into this one.

My photos are slightly overexposed, to reveal detail; the plaster was creamy, not white. The cedar shingles and trim have long been painted or stained, naturally . . .

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Robert
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Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2008 1:34 am
Location: Arizona

Re: rain chains

Post by Robert »

I never even heard of rain chains until now. Judging by a couple of YouTube videos, they don't seem to work too well.
Also, the first boisterous 7-year-old that comes along is gonna grab that chain, swing on it like a monkey and bring the entire raingutter crashing down. :lol:
Robert

DRN
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Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Re: rain chains

Post by DRN »

S: Thanks as always for posting my pics.

Is the Woodson Building still with us? Is the architect known?
I think scale does come into play with the chains in terms of aesthetics and function. The smaller chain such as I have used, would be willowy in wind I'd think, such that its effectiveness would suffer....the larger link chain looks better visually and I'd expect would stay put in a stiff wind. A rain chain works on surface tension... I'm wondering if the water would just stick to the steel, or if it would "fill" the ovals of the links when the flow is sufficient.

Roderick Grant
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Re: rain chains

Post by Roderick Grant »

The occasional standard downspout seen on some FLW houses, - like Fricke - could at least have been painted the same color as the background.

SDR
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Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Re: rain chains

Post by SDR »

Good questions. You could argue that there's less metal per foot with long links---unless the gauge is larger ?

The building is there; I've not learned who designed it. A neighboring building was constructed a few years later, mimicking the form but in conventional material and detailing---a sorry pastiche.

Another change was made during or just after construction: framed horizontal panels of hammered metal appeared below the ground-floor windows, and were subsequently deleted. One suspects the client was particular about what he was creating.

S

DRN
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Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:02 am
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Re: rain chains

Post by DRN »

I wonder if wjsaia is familiar with the Woodson building?

Getting back to the core of the thread, I suspect the Japanese origins of the rain chain, and its logical use on broad eave buildings causes people to associate them with Wright by projection.

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Re: rain chains

Post by SDR »

A last detail I can report: inside the upper-story offices, the first two or three feet of the overhead inside the windows is a continuation of the exterior roof structure and (from a distance) cladding, before a wood-trimmed white dropped ceiling takes over.

One has the impression of Bohlin Cywinsky/Olson Kundig-meets-Greene & Greene/Wright . . .?

S

wjsaia
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Joined: Sat Aug 26, 2006 6:53 pm

Re: rain chains

Post by wjsaia »

Yes, I know the the Woodson Building. The architect who designed it was John Erich Christian Nielsen. At the time he designed it, Chris was in partnership with John Lundy, so the architect-of-record for the project would have been Lundy-Nielsen Architects.

Chris and I met in 1948 in first grade in San Francisco and immediately became best friends. We remained so for over fifty years, and my wife and I were at his bedside along with his family when he died in 2000. I didn't know how I might survive without him.

A childhood schoolmate of ours built the Woodson Building and Mike Woodson's residence, which Chris also designed.

I have many stories . . .

Bill Schwarz

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Re: rain chains

Post by SDR »

Thanks, Bill---don't know why I didn't ask you sooner about this commission. Top of a long-time list of questions: are there pictures or other information about the Woodson residence ?

S

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