Taliesin-Frank Lloyd Wright and A World Watch List
Inspired by my recent return trip to Taliesin West, on this “Frank Friday,” I visit Taliesin, the personal home to renowned Architect Frank Lloyd Wright. With more than one-third of Frank Lloyd Wright homes listed as National Historic places he is probably the most famous American Architect. Having been the father to many iconic wonders, including The Guggenheim Museum, Taliesin was his child, his refuge, his laboratory and his personal home for 48 years. It is his biography, written in “wood and stone.” This home is much the story of success, tragedy, love and life.
With the words of FLW, I introduce you to Taliesin.
“The modeling of the hills, the weaving and fabric that clings to them, the look of it all in tender green or covered with snow or in full glow of summer that bursts into the glorious blaze of autumn,” he later reminisced. “I still feel myself as much a part of it as the trees and birds and bees are, and the red barns.” -FLW
Certainly, you can see how this scenic area could capture a child who loved stories and exploration in the hills and valleys. His mother’s Welsh family homesteaded near this area. FLW spent summers working on his Uncle James’ farm. Later, he chose this spent remembering it as a place of exploration, escape and hope.
Interior photography is restricted in all of the interiors of Taliesin grounds. I visited the 2 hour home tour. Reading the media site rules, they are quite strict and media must sign a contract with the grounds if permission is granted. The photographs that you see here are of course exterior and gardens.
Taliesin is truly nestled in one of the most geographically beautiful areas of the United States. On a site that is 600 acres, there are untouched views in every direction. Taliesin was not built on the top of the hill as not “ruin the best part.” Rather, it was tucked into the hill creating a brow; he named his home Taliesin, a Welsh word meaning shining or radiant brow.
My tour began at the Frank Lloyd Wright Welcome Center, which overlooks the serene Wisconsin River. Home to a bookshop, café and gift shop, this is the place where all tours begin. I left my car at this spot and was driven to The Taliesin grounds. Several tours are offered from May-October. I chose the two-hour home tour. On this tour I was able to see: the gardens, landscaped grounds, the living room, loggia, FLW bedroom, his third wife Olga’s bedroom,and his studio.
Unfortunately, interior photography is restricted in all of the interiors of Taliesin grounds. Reading the media site rules, they are quite strict and media must sign a contract with the grounds if permission is granted. The photographs that you see here are of course exterior and gardens. At the end of this blog, I have provided a few links with visual tours. (Note, since my last visit to Taliesin West in Arizona, interior photographs in that site are allowed.)
Once at the property, the tour begins with the outdoor properties. On the 600 acre property, there are buildings which spanned the life and work of Frank Lloyd Wright. One such building was first built as a gorgeous barn, hayloft, farm barn later turned into living quarters when the fellowship began in the 1930’s.
Frank Lloyd Wright went to The University of Wisconsin and later moved to Oak Park Illinois. There, he married his first wife Catherine, six children were born to them. In 1909, he was involved in a huge scandal when he left his wife and children and moved to Germany with the wife of one of his clients. He returned to Illinois with a bad reputation and no studio.
His happiness at this site changed in 1914. While he was working in Illinois, a disturbed servant bludgeoned people with an ax and set fire to the home, killing his lover, her children and four others. Distraught, he moved to the remaining portion of the home, the re-building process began immediately. It is said that he needed to wipe the scar from the hill.” After another electrical fire in 1925, the building has continued to evolve to this day.
Because this home was a living notebook of FLW works, I noticed details that I saw in other homes.
Those signature squares and his favorite red color. The limestone was from a nearby quarry and when mixed with sand from the local Wisconsin River, a soft brown golden hue adds to it’s uniqueness. Organic Architecture.
The low pitch roof is signature FLW. I read that FLW did not put eaves on this home so that icicles would not be a jewel to the home. LOVE!
This stairway reminds me of an ancient site such as an Egyptian pyramid or Aztec temple.
As I walked around the exterior, I also got a sense of how the windows were the “art” and framed the natural view. I just love the compression-expansion principle. Imagine walking in from the rocks and you are standing in the most amazing light filled rooms, large windows frame your view; the art work of nature.
The main house features a courtyard and gardens with stairs that lead to the hillside view.
I love the signature large windows-a natural view from every room.
Being able to completely open windows and have this unobstructed view is one of my favorite things about the house. Corner windows extend the view.
Another of my favorite things would have to be this 40 foot walkway called “The Birdwalk” that protrudes from the house commanding you to look at the view. This was added in 1953 so that his third wife, a bird-lover, could be closer to them and under an oak tree that is no longer in place. “When I viewed it from the interior, it looked like you were on the plank of a ship. From the small doorway, I can imagine walking out on this spot and as the gently sloping hills below leave my view, I would be floating in the air. I would gaze at the valley,meadows,pond and river below me, and never leave that place.
From that view, it seems as if the walkway was unsupported but of course, it was.
The July gardens at Taliesin are spectacular. While Frank Lloyd Wright began the fellowship, the fellows would have to work on the farm. Today, a small garden is kept for food but much of the acreage is leased to a local organic farmer. The courtyard gardens are also some of my favorite sights on this property. It takes a very dedicated group of volunteers to keep up these gardens, every Thursday morning during the summer months they gather, graden and enjoy this piece of history.
The grape arbor is stunning. When I toured, I took this photo for a future home. I currently have one vine but…
During the tour of the home we saw some magnificent decor. FLW was an Asian art collector. In 1915 the Japanese Emperor commissioned FLW to build The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. After a deadly earthquake in 1923, this hotel was then only large building standing. In this home, walls were built to hang a specific 300 silk screen. Sculptures and Japanese blocks are found in perfect placement. He felt Asian art helped him see the essence of nature and eliminate the insignificant. Below are a few examples outside this home.
The fact that this home doesn’t look it’s 115 year age, is a testament to the genius of FLW and the people who work tirelessly to restore and preserve this legacy for a future of inspiration.
At the age of 91, Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959. This home having been called “The Alpha and the Omega” is the eternal grave for FLW and other family members, resting in the arms of those Wisconsin hills for eternity.
MEGastars 5***** Out of this world.
- Interested but unable to visit. Check out this visual tour Taliesin tour
- Many of FLW buildings and homes are located in Wisconsin; 10 major sites are listed and many of these within an easy drive from Madison, Wisconsin. This is a great read from the perspective of a non-Wisconsite who writes about his FLW visit and newfound love of vacationing in the Midwest. Vacation in the Midwest? Seriously there are so many fantastic things to see and do in SW Wisconsin.
- Do schedule a visit and secure your tickets ahead of time. Taliesin Tour and website information This home is one of “The Thousand Places To See In The United States Before You Die.”
- **Open May-October. These photos were taken during a JULY visit.
- EAT-About 23 miles away is the town of Mineral Point. This area had also been settled by people from Wales who came to this part of the United States to work in the mines. This restaurant haunts me to this day-The Red Rooster Cafe has DELICIOUS Cornish Pasties. For desert get the Figgyhobbin desert treat-raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon and walnuts in a pastry crust. AND the bread pudding topped with caramel and whipped cream. The cafe is located in an interesting downtown with fun shops. The Mineral Point Collection had Cornish items and Celtic jewelry.
- Taliesin has been named as one of 10 World Heritage Watch List Sites. This is a big deal. World Heritage Watch List-FLW sites.
- For more on my last visit to Taliesin West-Taliesin West
- Do not ever chop up people. Stay healthy!