Frank Lloyd Wright’s Legacy

American Artisans, Iconic Communities, On the Road, People
on January 14, 2001

Some towns struggle for a sense of identity. Spring Green, Wis., (pop. 1,434) has always had Frank Lloyd Wright and his architectural legacy.

People from all over the world come to Spring Green because of Wrights reputation, says Bill DuPuy, director of public programs for Taliesin Preservation Inc. Fans of Wrights have even taken taxicabs from Chicago.

Wright, one of the most influential architects of his time, was born in nearby Richland Center on June 8, 1867. His mothers large Welsh family were the first white settlers in the area, and Wright spent summers on a farm owned by his uncles near Spring Green, where he eventually built Taliesin (Welsh for shining brow), his renowned home, studio, and architecture school.

From the turn of the 19th century until his death in 1959, Wright took an organic, natural approach to architecture and design that was almost unheard of in an age of Victorian embellishment and massive European-inspired structures.

Spring Green is, in many respects, a showcase of Wrights architectural legacy. For example, House on the Rock, a 40-acre complex of buildings, exhibits, and gardens 10 miles south of town, was built by Alex Jordan and his son as a parody of Wrights work. The complex is one of Wisconsins top tourist attractions.

A number of other structures in the area were designed by Wrights apprentices and associates, many of whom moved to Spring Green from across the country and became part of the fabric of life in the community.

There is an intermingling and mutual enrichment among members of the Taliesin Fellowship, an in-residence apprenticeship program founded in 1932, and the Spring Green community, says Jura Silverman, an art gallery owner.

Members of the fellowshipmany of them artists in their own rightshow their work locally in galleries, give concerts as part of the Rural Musicians Forum series each summer, and participate in local poetry and book readings, Silverman says.

This is all in addition to regular formal Saturday evening get-togethers at Taliesen, dating back to a Frank Lloyd Wright tradition, which usually include musical and artistic performances.

Wrights effect on the community is profound, says DuPuy.

And you can still talk to people who have personal remembrances of Wright, DuPuy adds. The oral history in this area offers locals and college students who work at the visitor center more background than scholars who have studied Wright from afar.

Spring Green was the recipient of both Wrights genius and his eccentricities, including wearing a dramatic cape everywhere he went in the town, not paying his bills to local merchants, and an extravagant penchant for self-promotion. Case in point: according to DuPuy, When Wright was asked to state his occupation under oath in court, he responded Im the worlds best architect. Questioned about the audacity of the statement, he explained, I was under oath, so I had to say it.

The cooperation of the Spring Green community has helped Taliesin remain the inspiration it was in Wrights day, and in return Taliesin has boosted the artistic and cultural offerings of the entire community.

Wrights ancestral home remains part of the rolling hills of southwestern Wisconsin, where cows munch mounds of grass on rocky knolls and sandbars shift with the river. Thanks to Taliesin, Wrights legacy will always be a part of Spring Green.

Because theres been very little development in the surrounding area, you get a chance to see what Wright saw when he was living here, DuPuy says.