Saturday, June 03, 2017

#726 Happy 150th, Frank Lloyd Wright!

Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150 birthday is coming up on June 8, 2017.   

In celebration of that important event, I interviewed Kelly, the Wright expert in my life. 

When did you first learn of Wright?
It was Wright’s furniture, not his architecture, that first grabbed my attention.  My dad was a carpenter and I remember becoming interested in old oak furniture through my folks and their friends Jim and Phyllis.  I started looking at books about oak furniture and came across Wright’s furniture designs.  I’m lucky to have had such an early introduction to carpentry through my dad. 

What do you remember about your first visit to a Wright house?
In 1995, I visited Wright's last Prairie House, the Allen house in Wichita.  From the street, the red tile roof and horizontal lines stood out.  I remember the large, open living room.  We had to pass through the entry space, a gateway of sorts, and I felt special about being inside the house, standing in the living space, slightly elevated and sheltered from the street outside and still connected to the outdoors.  This house made me even more curious about Wright and the following year, I attended my first Wright Plus Housewalk in Oak Park, IL.

So you’ve been following Wright for more than 20 years.  Would you call yourself a fan?
Yes, I’m a fan of his architecture, his furniture, his entrepreneurial spirit, and his vision.  He foresaw how the auto would change the way we live.  And how it would change the way our cities look.  His Broadacre City urban planning ideas were centered around a mobile, auto-centric middle class which shortly came to fruition.

And how do you think your interest in Wright has changed the way you live?
It has made me more thoughtful about design and about how your surroundings make you feel.  The horizontal line as the line of domesticity is something I’ve thought about when renovating our Ozarks bungalow.  It really does inspire calm. I appreciate how Wright’s architecture blends with the landscape and helps the occupants feel connected to the landscape. 

I’m married to you so I know you may have more to say about this question.  How else do you think your interest in Wright has changed the way you live? 
Learning about how much he cared about the way house design impacts his occupants has made me more thoughtful and more intentional about that same topic.   Eliminating unnecessary clutter and ornamentation from life has simplified and improved it.  To learn about people, look at their buildings. 

You mention the Ozarks bungalow.  Would you say that its 1914 design was influenced by Wright?   
His Prairie houses from that time period blurred the line between inside and out and I think the design of this house does the same.  I see concepts that he popularized with walls of glass and connections to the landscape from each of the rooms. The wide overhangs do deliver that sense of shelter.  One of the reviewers for our National Register nomination commented that our house combines Craftsman Bungalow and Prairie elements. 

What are some of the benefits of your interest in Wright?
Wright connects me with a community of scholars, architects, students, lovers of Wright, haters of Wright, and has given me a reason to visit buildings off the beaten path from Japan to Buffalo. Through Wright, I first learned of Fay Jones, whose large body of work is centered around Arkansas, his home state, near where we live.  Training and volunteering as a guide for Wright’s Bachman-Wilson house at Crystal Bridges Museum upped my game while connecting me with like-minded guides and museum guests.  

What do you wish I would have asked you about Wright that I haven’t?
How many Wright buildings have you visited and which would you most like to see? 

How many Wright buildings have you visited and which would you most like to see?    
We’ve seen about 50 Wright buildings.  There are about 70 open to the public.   I’d most like to see Teater’s Knoll in Bliss, Idaho because of its remote dramatic location overlooking the Snake River and its soaring native stone and glass construction.  It is privately owned and not regularly open for tours. The pictures look fabulous!  

Finally, what are you going to do to celebrate Mr. Wright's 150th birthday?
We have two fun Wright events planned this week and another this summer.  This week, I'll be giving a couple tours of the Bachman-Wilson house at Crystal Bridges - which I love doing.  And we'll also be touring for the first time the Sondern-Adler home in Kansas City.  This summer, we'll be attending MOMA's exhibit, Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive. In between, I'll probably pull a book off one of my Wright shelves for re-reading.  But, as you well know, we celebrate Wright a lot around here even when it's not his birthday.   

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

#725 A Very Mappy Museum

I love maps. I love museums. What if there was a museum about making maps?

We found just such a treasure at the US Geological Survey office in Rolla, Missouri.

Keith is a great guide. He knows his way around these mapping tools because he used them back in the day to create topographic maps. That makes Keith both a cartographer and historian. That's an enviable skill set.

Keith has tracked down and displayed the physical artifacts to document how mapping technology changed over time at USGS. On the second shelf from the top on the right, yes, those are 3D mapping glasses.

Way back when, I took a career test. You probably did too. Your results probably didn't come back saying you should be a "photogrammetrist".  Mine did.  But only today did I follow through. Where have you been all my life you gorgeous Kern PG2 photogrammetric plotter? Ours could have been a great life together.  You and me for eight hours a day, you creamy yellow temptress.

But when you're a rebel like me and the world says you should be a photogrammetrist, you instead take up drafting. Of course, Keith has a hands-on display for my first profession.

I didn't think it possible.  After our USGS visit, I love maps and museums even more. And oh, the gift shop...


Yours in mapping museums,
Kelly

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

#724 Digging in the Dirt

Today, we ask Sam what he wants to do.  His reply, "Dig!"

That's not really a surprise to those who know him, so we, of course, are ready with a digging project.

These hostas are crowding out our beautiful yellow irises, so they're off to a new shady home on the other side of the house.  Since this effort requires much digging, Kelly and Sam find their personal shovels and everyone is thrilled about the work ahead.   
Since one hosta is too large for the bucket, Kelly carries the plant around the house while Sam carries the shovels.
Preparing the new hosta home is the most fun of all.  Sometimes the shovel gets away from you and the dirt flies up on the stone wall.  Some dirt even hits the window and lands all the way up on the windowsill!  
Sometimes after enthusiastic digging, you find the hole is too deep and needs to be un-dug. 
That's just the price you pay to get the job done until you can relax with some shenanigans on the porch and celebrate your efforts.

Yours in digging,
Mary Jo

Thursday, April 06, 2017

#723 The Long Way Home

In 1995, we drove to Alaska - our first 5,000-mile road trip.  We've been hooked on long road trips ever since, especially off-the-beaten-path road trips.  Since then, we've been lucky to find ourselves on three more 5,000-mile trips including the last one ten years ago: our Undaunted Roadtrip in 2007. So we jump on the chance to take the long way home from Yellowstone (and see some men's Final Four games to boot!) on our fifth 5,000-miler.

The road less traveled from Yellowstone to Phoenix is Historic Highway 89 and takes us past the forest of stone at Bryce Canyon National Park which we visited just last year and past Big Rock Candy Mountain Resort.  This, of course, has us singing all the wonderful lyrics to Harry McClintock's 1928 song.

And we've already chosen the place to stay on our next visit: the Caboose Village Train Cars

Since we're in the neighborhood, we visit the Glen Canyon Dam, a concrete dam on the Colorado River near Page, AZ.  The 59-story elevator was out of commission, so we are limited to magnificent views from the top.

The scenic drive through Sedona, AZ is inspiring and

we stop at Montezuma Well, highly recommended by our new Yellowstone friends, to see the cliff dwellings and the spring providing 1.5 million gallons of water each day.


Phoenix and the Men's Final Four are definitely on the beaten path and we enjoy all the hubbub that surrounds that amazing event.  But when heading east for home, we opt to avoid the hubbub of I-40 and stick to US Route 60 for 750 miles across Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas as far as Amarillo.

Taliesin West (Frank Lloyd Wright's desert laboratory) in Scottsdale and the Gammage Memorial Auditorium in Tempe are two must-sees as all Wright buildings are. The origami chair in the Bachman-Wilson house is not for sitting, so Kelly takes advantage of this opportunity to sit in this cool chair designed for the living room of Taliesin West in 1949. (Something tells me an origami chair will soon be on Kelly's list of woodworking projects.) 



http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/location/gammage-auditorium-6473981
I can't help but notice the similar rounded lines shared by the Gammage Auditorium above and the Wes Peters-designed Bartlesville Community Center below. (When writing this blog, I discovered that I attended the first touring production held at the BCC.  I was in the audience on March 5, 1982 to see Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain!)
https://photos.smugmug.com/Architecture/Tulsa-OK/i-2QkfKx6/0/S/030-S.jpg

We notice the numerous Arizona copper mines along Route 60 and the trucks carrying the heavy metal.

We drive down and back up through the magnificent Grand Canyon-like Salt River Canyon.


The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is visible from Highway 60 but, alas, is open for tours only one day per month.

Driving through Fort Sumner, NM  prompts discussions about NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility and the Billy the Kid Museum but we stop at neither.

We come across a train derailment in Melrose, NM about 30 minutes after a BNSF freight train collides with a tractor trailer.
Approaching Clovis, NM, we spy other roadtrippers who have chosen the road less traveled.
http://www.andoffwewent.com/our-vehicle.html
We stop in Clovis, NM at The Lunch Box for - you guessed it -  lunch and anonymously pick up the tab for a couple of American heroes seated near us, air force personnel from Cannon Air Force Base.

We love taking the long way home and creating a boomerang-shaped trip map.

Yours in starting to plan for the next big trip,
Mary Jo

Monday, March 27, 2017

#722 Loving and Leaving Yellowstone

"It is our Nation's greatest wonder and through some miracle of selflessness in a country too often built on greed, the Yellowstone Park will be preserved for generations to come." - Letters from Yellowstone, Diane Smith

When we arrived at our Nation's greatest wonder at the beginning of March, we drove through the Roosevelt Arch and waved happily at the North Entrance Webcam.  

Then we met some of the Yellowstone park staff who gave us all we needed to succeed.  First, yak trax to keep us safe...

Then, a gate pass for our month-long entry into Yellowstone's Wonderland, ID cards for entry to the Heritage and Research Center, and a Yellowstone Research Library card for getting access to all things Yellowstone...

and finally, a place to call home.

Now, at the end of March, our time at Yellowstone is coming to an end all too soon.  We've enjoyed all of our days, all of the people, and all of the northern section of the park. We are fortunate to have this opportunity to contribute our time and skills in this beautiful place and we are hoping the park will be preserved for generations to come.

If you're interested in volunteering, be sure to check out Volunteer.gov, America's Natural and Cultural Resources Volunteer Portal, for a list of opportunities.

Yours in knowing we'll be back,
Mary Jo

Friday, March 24, 2017

#721 Volunteering in Yellowstone

We actually came to Yellowstone to work.

You wouldn't know - based on our previous blog posts - that we spend four days each week volunteering at the Heritage and Research Center.  We walk in these doors about 8:00 each morning...

and spend our morning hours working with the museum collection.

The museum collection includes more than 720,000 items including many cool arrowheads, i.e. late prehistoric points, biface, obsidian.

In the afternoons, we work upstairs with the library and archives collections.

The archives house several million records (manuscripts, photos, maps, oral histories) including the U.S. Army-era records.  The U.S. Army played an early critical role in Yellowstone.  In the 1880s, the Secretary of the Interior called on the Secretary of War to help protect the park and in 1886, Captain Moses Harris and his company of Montana men came to Yellowstone.  My work in the library has been to scan the US Army correspondence from the 1880s and 1890s including letters to/from Captain Moses Harris.

In this letter of 1889, Captain Harris is granted permission by W. F. Vilas, Secretary, Department of the Interior, to allow for the sale of articles that have been coated with minerals from the hot springs


The Army would maintain a presence here in Yellowstone until the National Park Service was formed 30 years later in 1916.

In his library work, Kelly is documenting the history of Yellowstone's more than 150 backcountry cabins built beginning in the 19th century.  All were intended to provide shelter to those brave souls patrolling and protecting the park's animals and humans.  Along the way, most of these cabins have been refurbished, rebuilt, renamed, moved, burned, or abandoned to nature several times over. So it's fair to say such documentation becomes a challenge. In fact, Kelly's work is building on a massive effort from previous volunteers and he assures me he will leave plenty of work for future contributors. 

Yours in having fun at work,
Mary Jo

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

#720 I am Robert Reamer. I'm kind of a big deal.

I am Robert Reamer.  You’ve never heard of me and I’m kind of a big deal.
http://www.nps.gov/archive/yell/slidefile/history/1872_1918/peopleevents/Images/18181d.jpg
You don’t know my name.  But you know my work.  I’m sure of that.  Have you heard of Yellowstone National Park?  Of course.  Have you heard of the world’s most famous geyser? Old Faithful, certainly.  What about Old Faithful Lodge?  Heard of it?  Guess what? I designed that big pile of logs when I was 29 years old. My hotel opened to raves in 1904. 
http://www.nps.gov/features/yell/slidefile/history/postcards/fjhaynes/Images/11525.jpg
Since nobody had ever done it before, I designed a seven story log lobby that’s open inside all the way to the roof.  
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Faithful_Inn#/media/File:Old_Faithful_Inn_interior_wide.jpg
Way back in 1904, I knew people liked ‘go big or go home’ architecture. In 2017, mine not only remains the biggest log hotel in the world, it’s still the biggest log building in the world.  

And because people absolutely loved my ultimate woodsy design, Old Faithful Lodge started a trend.  Heard of ‘Parkitecture’?  Heard of ‘National Park Rustic’? Yes, I started that. Visited grand rustic lodges in Glacier, Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, or Crater Lake?  All influenced by my work.

In addition to Old Faithful Lodge, Yellowstone hired me to design 40 more projects. Today my buildings stand in five states including a National Historic Landmark, eight on the National Register of Historic Places, and four contributing buildings in National Historic Districts. 

https://www.amazon.com/Weaver-Dreams-Architecture-Robert-Reamer/dp/0976094517/ref=sr_1_1
I am Robert Reamer, the Weaver of Dreams.  You’ve never heard of me and I’m kind of a big deal.

Yours in architectural agreement,
Kelly