Friday, October 27, 2017

Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center Nominated to National Register of Historic Places

During the years Frank Lloyd Wright operated the Taliesin Fellowship, he was dedicated to purchasing farmland near Taliesin and expanded his holdings to over 2,000 acres. For more than a decade, he had attempted to acquire the riverfront site adjoining Taliesin at the Highway 23 Bridge, but was thwarted in his efforts. After finally obtaining the property in 1953, he announced his plan to build a casual restaurant that also would provide a scenic tourist destination. Drawings were completed that year for the Wisconsin River Terrace & Restaurant for the Taliesin Fellowship and construction began in 1954. Work proceeded in stops and starts over the next four years. With assistance from at least two apprentices, Wright continued reworking the drawings into the summer of 1958. All work ended following Wright’s death in 1959 and did not resume for another seven years.

In 1966 the Wisconsin River Development Corporation purchased much of the property Wright had accumulated to be developed as a resort complex. Taliesin Associated Architects (TAA) was retained to develop a Master Plan and complete the unfinished building as the Spring Green Restaurant. TAA assigned architect James Pfefferkorn to oversee the project, and construction documents were signed on March 1, 1967 by William Wesley Peters. Kraemer Brothers, the builder that assisted Wright with the project in the 1950s, was hired as general contractor. The restaurant opened in the fall of 1967 with a great deal of positive press and a visit from the First Lady.

Now understood with greater clarity as a hospitality facility Wright designed for his personal landscape, the building represents a provocative end-point in the evolution of his architectural form as demonstrated over the decades at Taliesin. Its streamlined Usonian character places it as reflecting Wright’s mid-twentieth century architectural and planning interests as were being carried forward by the Fellowship. Since Wright intended the building for his community of architects and apprentices, there could have been no better outcome than TAA overseeing its completion. Wright’s successor firm also designed minor interior modifications in 1993 when the building was put into use as the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center. Consistently in use since 1967, the building is in excellent condition and retains remarkable authenticity.