Please select a newsletter:
SPRING 2002 | WINTER 2002 | SPRING 2003 | WINTER 2003 | SPRING 2004 | WINTER 2004
SPRING 2005 | WINTER 2005 | SPRING 2006 | WINTER 2006 | FALL 2008 | CURRENT NEWSLETTER
Frank Lloyd Wright Birthday Benefit June 4, 2006
The FLW Birthday benefit this year will celebrate the art of the original owner, Russell Kraus, as well as the 139th Birthday of Frank Lloyd Wright. The party will be held on Sunday, June 4, from 2-5 p.m. on the grounds of Ebsworth Park.
A special exhibit of paintings by Russell Kraus, including prints of his paintings which can be purchased, will be on display in the Kraus House. The afternoon will also include a presentation of two paintings by Russell Kraus: a self-portrait and a painting of his wife Ruth, donated by Garden View Care Centers.
On display will be two of Russells paintings one a floral, the other a landscape graciously loaned on a long-term basis by Rick and Sheryl Bayers.
Tim Quigley, architect, preservationist, scholar and immediate past president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy (FLWBC), will speak about saving Wright properties nationally. The Conservancy is dedicated to saving Wrights built legacy. Quigleys academic background in architecture includes an advanced degree from the University of Minnesota. He is working on a monograph on the architectural career of John Howe, Wrights main draftsman.
Quigley will be introduced by Christy Gray, Executive Director of the Whitaker Foundation. The Whitaker Foundation has been instrumental in saving the Kraus House and helping the FLWHEP raise funds to build a new road.
In addition, the event features tours of the Kraus House, music by the Carolbeth Trio with clarinetist Mike Buerk, and as in the past, great food by caterers Something Elegant.
Frisky Brigham and Laura Meyer, both FLWHEP board members, are chairing the fund-raising party. Proceeds will go to projects and programs at the House. Tickets are $100 a person and up. Call 822-8359.
A Note From the Chairman
We have had an extremely busy few months. We worked for six months to negotiate a visit from Tokyo-based filmmakers, Karen Severns and Koichi Mori, to show their movie in St. Louis, which documents Frank Lloyd Wrights relationship to Japan. The Saint Louis Art Museum was most generous in providing the auditorium on April 1 to show the film. We shared costs with the Westcott House in Springfield, Ohio.
I want to thank all the individuals and organizations who helped make the showing of the movie successful, namely Bruce Buckland, the Honorary Japanese Counsel who notified the members of Japanese organizations; the AIA; Landmarks Association; the St. Louis Masonry Institute; the Pulitzer Foundation, and the Saint Louis Art Museum.
A special thank you to Rick Bayers and the Jordan Group for their design services, to Esley Hamilton, Jim Connett, Tom Sudholt and Charlie Brennan of KMOX and KWMU who got the word out through the media and Karla Goldstein.
We are extremely grateful to Joan and Mitchell Markow who, following the film, welcomed Karen and Koichi along with benefit patrons to their exciting home. Docents Ann and Hank Bauer hosted a delightful docent reception for the filmmakers the next night.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy (FLWBC) selected St. Louis as the site for its May 4-7 board meeting in order to visit the Kraus House which the Conservancy honored with the coveted Spirit Award in October 2005. Under the guidance of new board member, Sissy Thomas, the FLWHEP provided three architectural tours for this distinguished group of architects, scholars and preservationists.
Tim Quigley, the past president of FLWBC, will return to speak on June 4 at our annual Benefit. We are grateful to Richard L. Winter, President of Garden View Care Centers, for donating two of Russells own paintings to the House, which are a self-portrait and a painting of his wife, Ruth. They will help to personalize the House and connect it to the original owners who lived there for over 40 years.
Thanks to all for your support!
Joanne Kohn, Chairman
The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park
I first got involved in the FLWHEP in 2001. Our family had moved from the Chicago area, specifically, Oak Park. My husband, Rick, and I had spent seven years working with the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in various capacities.
Joanne invited Rick and me for a tour of the House and we were thrilled! Because of my experience with the Oak Park Home and Studio, Joanne invited me onto the House board and to help train docents. I worked with Sharon Croissant to develop a training manual and program for the new docents, and we trained about 15 docents in the Spring of 2002, most of whom are still active docents.
We included not only the interpretation of the House, but some history of FLW and his body of work with emphasis on the Usonian houses. I contacted friends who were still at the Oak Park Home and Studio and several of us went to the Dana Thomas House in Springfield where their staff generously helped us with information, materials and ideas.
One of my favorite things about the House is, despite how late in Wrights life it was designed and built, it so clearly holds to Wrights early principles, even though they are applied with such a different result. I love when people on my tours who have been to several Wright sites will also grasp this.
I frequently compare this House to the Oak Park house, which was first built more than 65 years earlier. Wright still clings to the horizontal line, which is so evident. He also stays with the use of natural materials and considers the siting of the house as a fundamental issue.
I love giving tours to school groups, particularly grade school groups. Children are so excited by the House; they almost all say they want to live in it, at least at first. They love being challenged to look for things, especially the Wright angles.
The House is such a unique structure, and we in St. Louis are so lucky to have it here.
I had never known a Frank Lloyd Wright house existed here in the St. Louis area. You always hear about the homes that exist in other states, like Taliesin in Wisconsin and the Robie House in Illinois. I had studied pictures of those, but I had not visited a FLW house.
My reaction to the Kraus House upon first seeing it was mixed. As I rode up the rocky road, I thought, how would we ever get school or any large groups here? But, as we got closer, it became evident that we must get them here. I knew that this beautiful house that appeared on the sight line had phenomenal stories to tell. The House in all of its modesty was simply gorgeous.
While Wright believed very strongly in democracy, he was very authoritarian in how he wanted you to experience his work. The rooms are laid out according to the parallelogram floor plan creating a flowing path through the House from one space to the next consistent with his chosen geometry.
It is important to save this House in order that future generations might come to know the genius of America and its cultural values as expressed by both Mr. Wright and Russell Kraus (an artist in his own right). Our love of individualism and deep sense of community are all stories that can be told by the interpretation of this House.
Those stories will help future generations appreciate themselves and in turn might spur them to continue to build a better place and world for those who will follow even them.
As an African-American who comes from a people that has overcome much adversity and worked to help the definition of democracy become a reality, it is a pleasure to serve on the board and to support an endeavor that sustains the story of Frank Lloyd Wright and his understanding that democracy is still the best way, and that our can-do nature must survive.
Russell Kraus Work to Be Donated by Garden View Care Centers
In an effort to develop a collection for the house of the paintings by Russell Kraus, Garden View Care Centers President Richard L. Winter will donate two important works. The presentation of the self portrait I, Russell, oil on panel, 1952 and the artist's portrait of his wife, My Beloved Wife, Ruth, oil on panel, 1992 will be made by Mr. Winter to Board Chairman, Joanne Kohn, and Board Member and Curator of the House, Peter Shank at the June 4 benefit.
In addition, Garden View will present to the FLWHEP a rare, out-of-print copy of Christopher DeNoons book The Posters of the WPA, which features two of Kraus posters from the World War II era.
The self-portrait I, Russell from 1952 was painted by Kraus between commercial art assignments from St. Louis area advertising agencies Gardner and DArcy. The painting was influenced by Kraus mentor and painting instructor at Washington University, Fred Conway. Conway would smile and gesture with his hands in front of his face, a mannerism Kraus imitates in this painting.
The painting My Beloved Wife, Ruth, was painted in 1992, shortly after her passing away. The delicate flecks of white shown on his wifes face recall the artists first vision of Ruth as she approached him in winter with a light dusting of snowflakes swirling around her. This painting is the second version of the composition. The first was painted in the late forties and destroyed on the completion of this painting.
window panels at the
Pope-Leighey House The Inspiration for the Kraus House
Russell Kraus decided he wanted a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house after reading an article by Loren Pope in House Beautiful magazine in 1948. Mr. Pope, a Washington, D.C., newspaper copy editor, decided he wanted a Wright-designed house after reading Wrights autobiography. He, like Mr. Kraus, wrote to Mr. Wright, asking him to design a Jacobs-style house for his family. (The Jacobs House in Madison, WI, was the first Usonian.)
The house that inspired Mr. Kraus request, the Pope-Leighey House (1941), is located its third location in Mount Vernon, VA, on the historic Woodlawn Plantation. Last fall, I had the opportunity to visit again this smaller but in many ways similar house to the Kraus House. This time I purposely looked at the Pope House for its similarities to and differences from the Kraus House.
Many of the similarities of the two houses were pointed out by the docent:
- A Usonian design, affordable for the middle class; for Wright a house for everyman
- Full-length window/doors, all with piano hinges
- Floors that flow onto the terrace
- No paint or plaster
- Red brick and cypress wood Popes bald cypress, Kraus tidewater red, 12-inch boards and interlocking battens
- Horizontal emphasis, to quote Mr. Pope: that ties the house to the earth
- Cherokee red concrete floors with radiant heat Mr. Pope highly praised the warmth and advantages of the system. Radiant heat was something Wright observed in Japan.
- Cornerless brick fireplace shared with the living and dining areas. The Kraus House has two fireplaces, the other in the studio.
- Small well-designed kitchen or workspace, somewhat smaller than the Kraus House
- Furnishings by Wright
- Predominance of built-ins for easy storage
- Office/work space; the Popes, off the kitchen and Mr. Kraus studio, off the hall
- Carport cantilevered extension of the roof where you enter the house
- Low ceiling entrance moves to a high ceiling living space
- Grid floor system dominated by a module that defines the house a rectangle for the Pope House; a parallelogram for the Kraus House.
- Recessed lighting
Dissimilarly, the Pope-Leighey has:
- All right angles, 2" X 4" module like the Jacobs House; only two structural right angles in the Kraus House
- Cypress allowed to gray naturally instead of being treated
- Clerestory windows at the top of the walls abutting the ceiling, and patterned windows (plywood and clear glass), a major source of light which creates fascinating shadows; Kraus House stained glass designed by the owner.
- 1200 sq. ft. compared to the 1900 sq. ft. Kraus House
- A five-step descent to the living area vs. level entry
- A screened-in-porch
- One bathroom compared to the 2 1/2 in the Kraus House
- An L-shaped floor plan vs. two overlapping parallelograms
There were just 27 wood-and-brick Usonian houses built. Two that provide an excellent example of Wrights attempt to provide houses for middle-Americans are the Pope-Leighey and the Kraus houses (FLWHEP).
Wrights Usonian experiment left a legacy of innovative design concepts as applicable today as in 1940; simplified plans and materials; uncompromised functionality; an inescapable integration into the natural setting, (Pope-Leighey House, National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1996.)
It is always enjoyable to tour Wright-designed houses, and a particular thrill to see other Wright Usonians. Try to see the Pope-Leighey House on your next trip to the D.C. area. Located at 9000 Richmond Highway (US 1 & Route 235), Alexandria. It is open Tuesday-Sunday for guided tours on the half-hour. Information: 703-780-4000 or www.nationaltrust.org.
Standing Room Only Audience Sees Frank Lloyd Wright Film
The film MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION: Frank Lloyd Wrights Buildings and Legacy in Japan was brought to St. Louis by the FLWHEP on April 1. Accompanying the movie were filmmakers Karen Severns and Koichi Mori who presented their documentary to an overflow audience at the Saint Louis Art Museum Auditorium.
The film reviews Wrights life, presenting personal triumphs as well as tragedies. Most interestingly, it examines Wrights personal interactions with Japanese, American and European architectural apprentices, including his son, John, who actually was fired by his father and sent back to the United States, where he remained loyal to Wrights legacy.
Wrights most magnificent obsession was his Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. He designed the hotel and an annex, which included his personal rooms over a period of several years. Between January 1917 and July 1922, Wright made five extended trips to Tokyo, often leaving the supervision of the project to his Japanese apprentice Endo Arata.
Wrights floating foundation theory had been scoffed at by Japanese architects, but when the Imperial was one of the only buildings still standing after the enormous 1923 earthquake (only two minutes before its official opening), architects in Japan and around the world viewed Frank Lloyd Wright with greater respect. As incredible as the building was, it was torn down in 1968 to make way for a taller more mundane structure. The entrance and lobby of the hotel were reconstructed for some $11 million at the Meiji-Mura open air architectural museum in Japan, open to the public since 1976.
Severns and Mori fielded questions after the film. David Dodge, a Wright apprentice, said in the film that Wright had created three masterpieces the Imperial Hotel and the two Taliesins in the United States. A member of the audience asked the filmmakers if they agreed. Mori responded that he thought Wright had created many masterpieces and that he felt very lucky to be in St. Louis where he experienced one on that very day (the Kraus HouseFLWHEP).
Severns articulated the challenge of creating the film, which they began in 1992 on a limited budget and with few resources. She credited the World Heritage Trust for its support that made their quest possible.
She alluded to the importance of the timing of the interviews with Wrights colleagues on the project, noting that four of the architects in the film have passed away since the film was made.
Many in the audience came to see the film, not only because of their interest in Wright and Japan, but because of their own experiences. A woman stated she had gone for 12 years to the Freedom School that Wright had also designed in Japan. Jim Mellow, a photographer and early supporter of the FLWHEP, was sporting a tie that he purchased years ago at the Imperial Hotel where he stayed.
For further information, you might want to read:
Frank Lloyd Wright and the Art of Japan: The Architects Other Passion, by Julia Meech. This an in-depth look at Wright and Japan, including his fascination with Japanese art.
Frank Lloyd Wright: The Interactive Portfolio, by Margo Stipe: a fascinating book with copies of artifacts and photos of the the Imperial Hotel and insights into Japan as Inspiration for Wright.
The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park
House Address: 120 North Ballas Road Kirkwood, Missouri 63122
Mailing Address: 40 Upper Ladue Road St. Louis, Missouri 63124