Wright’s American System Homes

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Yesterday I went to Milwaukee where I toured two of Frank Lloyd Wright’s American System Built Homes. In the early 20th century, Wright wanted to design beautiful, affordable homes. He designed a number of components for houses and the idea was that the buyers could choose which parts they wanted in their house.  The house above is 800 square feet and has two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room and small dining area.

A non-profit in Milwaukee bought this home and restored it. On this street there is a duplex by Wright and another Wright home, which is now a VRBO accommodation. There are pictures online and I’m not a fan of the white, modern kitchen. The house above has been completely restored and I could live there happily ever after, though I’d like a different stove.

When built, these homes were priced on par with comparable houses at $3,000 circa 1916.

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Frank Lloyd Wright Duplexes

On the tour we learned about how Wright partnered with Mr. Robinson, a builder. Wright left for Japan and allowed Robinson to start building. While Wright was away, Robinson changed which materials would be used in the homes, swapping Wright’s materials for cheaper ones. They weren’t shoddy, but weren’t up to Wright’s standards.

Down the street was a duplex that this non-profit has purchased. Now the first duplex is about to be restored. It’s bare bones now, but still interesting to see. I plan to go back in a few years when it’s finished.

There are more of these American System Built Homes throughout the Midwest. Our docent believes there are several that are covered up with siding and the owners may not know their significance.

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American Writers Museum

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Timeline

This year the American Writers Museum in Chicago on Michigan Avenue. It was high time I visited so despite the rain and cold, I took a friend from Milwaukee to explore it.

After showing our tickets, which I bought online and got a 20% discount on, we were directed to start our visit on the right where there is a timeline of American writers.

If you look up on the left and you’ll see a timeline of American history. Under that is the main exhibit showing a chronological series of portraits of significant American writers. When you turn the panel, which has three sides, you’ll find more information and background about each writer. Below is information on a well designed panel about various literary movements or authors. It’s a lot of reading, but its well presented. Also, the curators seem to have made an effort to present authors from all backgrounds. Across from the time line is a wall of squares with author’s quotations. The squares move to reveal an panel with more information or a video.

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Parallel to the gallery with the timeline was a photo exhibit on biographies, written by or on authors or celebrities along with their photos. The black and white photos of 50+ years ago were my favorite. There’s something about the crisp gradations and the styles of bygone eras that we just don’t see much anymore.

The next room I saw was the Readers Room which focuses on reading. It highlights different kinds of reading, such as educational, newspapers, magazines and more. There are two interactive screens where you can submit your favorite authors and see the most popular authors or books other visitors have chosen.

Another gallery had a small exhibit on Laura Ingles Wilder with biographical information, maps of where each of her books was set, depiction of her work in other formats and critical responses to her works.

The museum has a table with different typewriters, from the earliest kind to Selectric to a laptop. People were pounding away at the old typewriters while the laptop wasn’t used while I was there.

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Quotation, Octavia Butler

Then there was an exhibit on the skills of writing with interactive exhibits on specificity, making prose active and such.

Finally, there was an area dedicated to Chicago writers like Saul Bellow, Ida B. Wells, Mike Royko, Ring Larder, Gwendolyn Brooks, Carl Sandburg, Theodore Dreiser, Peter Finley Dunne and many more. Here you could listen to short recordings of their work and see these turnable banners with their portraits and information on their work.

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Each month the museum offers several programs including public readings. The staff was very helpful as we went through the galleries. They’d point out little things like the mural in the children’s room which had squirrels in a tree reading Caldecott award winning books and each squirrel had some element that related to the story it was reading. For example, the squirrel reading Charlotte’s Web, had a wisp of a web hanging over it.

All in all, I give the museum a thumbs up and will be back. I’d say allow an hour to get through the museum. If there’s a program, add more time.

Tickets: Adults $12, Students $8, discounts for children and seniors.

 

Night of 1,000 Jack o’Lanterns

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From Night of 1,000 Jack o’Lanterns

This weekend from Thursday through Sunday the Chicago Botanic Garden is holding the Night of 1,000 Jack o’Lanterns. I got tickets in advance which turned out to be essential since it’s sold out for all days.

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The event is well planned. Our time to enter was 7:45 pm and though we arrived at the gardens on time the line to enter was long, so we should have come earlier. After parking, and we lucked out that they directed traffic so well that we must have hit the period when those who came at 5:30 had all left so we got to park in the lot nearest the visitors’ center. After entering we found long lines, but they moved swiftly.

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Sea Monster

Once inside we were delighted by Halloween music and dozens of jack o’lanterns, large and small. Well, huge and mid-size is more accurate. The “small” jack o’lanterns were the size most families buy and the big ones were perhaps 3 feet high. The jumbo ones were carved by artists and were grouped by themes. Themes included musicians, Chicago sports, Flora of Illinois, Fairy Tales, and Classic Halloween.

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After about an hour we reached a fork in the paths. One side led to the exit and the other to the model train exhibit. Though I’ve seen the model train exhibit, which consists of models of American sites like the French Quarter in New Orleans, the Hollywood sign or Wrigley’s Field, we decided to go again. I’m so glad we did. They’d decked out the buildings made of twigs and the trains with ghosts, goblins, witches, pumpkins and such.

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Then after exiting the model train exhibit we got to see two more themes of jack o’lanterns: Fairy Tales and Classic Halloween.

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Tickets are sold out. For members they were $12 and for non-members $14.

Parking for members is free and it costs $25 for non-members.