Timeline: August 25-26
We rolled out of Milwaukee not long after noon having grabbed a bite to eat at the house before departing. The drive to Spring Green was pleasant, part way on the interstate and then the balance on two lane highways that cut through rolling farmland. Arriving a bit before check in time at our lodging for the night, the Spring Green Motel, we drove the mile or so into town to check it out.
Our first stop was a place that Joanna had read about, the Spring Green General Store, a combination café, market and gift shop. We examined their extensive collection of Smart Wool socks, then went to the counter and ordered coffee and a blonde brownie to split, a little snack to hold us over until dinner. We made note of their full menu, not large but containing a number of interesting looking sandwiches, soups, and wraps, thinking about returning the next day after our tour of Taliesin.
We’d been unable to book a second night at the motel and planned to depart for Albert Lea, Minnesota, about halfway to our next destination, Badlands National Park. A meal at the café would serve us well before the four-hour drive and knowing we’d eat heartily, we picked up some good Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese and a local summer sausage for dinner in our room after the drive.
Finished with our snack we proceeded to the center of town. It’s a small place, with just two streets comprising the downtown core. We walked up and down the blocks eyeing potential dinner locations and as we passed a pocket park, noticed some men setting up equipment on a small stage. We inquired about what activity might be taking place later and he responded that starting at 6pm they would be having a concert featuring three different groups playing big band music and that there would be beer and brats for sale.
Secure in the knowledge that we’d have both dinner, drinks and entertainment later we made way for the motel to check in and relax for a hour or so before returning for the concert. The woman who checked us in there recommended taking our own chairs if we didn’t get there right at 6pm, good advice as all of the tables and chairs were taken when we did arrive at half past the hour. We set up on an elevated planter, got our first drinks, a local beer for me and a lemonade and vodka for Joanna and settled in for some fun.
And so we passed a very pleasant couple of hours hearing two of the three bands, eating a couple of brats (we’d not had any in Milwaukee) and two drinks apiece. It was a fine way to start our swing west and gave us a brief glimpse at life in a small town in Wisconsin. After breakfast at the motel the next morning, we loaded up the car and drove a few miles out of town to Taliesin, acknowledged as the embodiment of American architect the Frank Lloyd Wright’s commitment to the creation of exceptional environments that harmonize architecture, art, culture, and the land for our four-hour tour beginning at 9:30am.
We’re fans of this famous architect, recognized by many as a genius, responsible for the design of more than 1,000 structures, 532 of which were completed, and founder of a school of architecture that bears his name to this day. Wright believed in designing structures that were in harmony with humanity and its environment, a philosophy he called organic architecture.
Taliesin, is a 600-acre property developed on land that originally belonged to Wright’s maternal family. He designed it two years after leaving his first wife and home in Oak Park, Illinois with a mistress, Mamah Borthwick.
The design of the original building was consistent with the design principles of the Prairie School, emulating the flatness of the plains and the natural limestone outcroppings of Wisconsin’s Driftless Area. The structure (which included an agricultural and studio wing) was completed in 1911.
On August 15, 1914, while Wright was working in Chicago, Julian Carlton, a male servant from Barbados who had been hired several months earlier, set fire to the living quarters of Taliesin and murdered seven people with an axe as the fire burned. The dead included Mamah and her two children, John and Martha. Another fire would visit the property in 1925, but Wright again rebuilt and would live out the rest of his life there.
Upon Wright’s death on April 9, 1959, ownership of Taliesin, passed into the hands of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. On January 7, 1976, it was recognized as a National Historic Landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Finished with the tour, we drove back to the Spring Green Café for that meal we’d been looking forward to before hitting the road. We ordered a bowl of carrot ginger soup and fish tacos, which when they were arrived were some of the best I’ve had outside of a little stand in San Felipe, Baja Mexico. Fresh fish, and corn tortillas, just the right amount of cabbage and a light dose of crema. So good we were tempted to order another round, but instead climbed in the car and took off.
Driving was easy once we got to the interstate and we made good time to the Best Western Albert Lea, a nice property just off the highway. As planned, we had an in room picnic for dinner, enjoying the sharp cheddar cheese and summer sausage, accompanied by a bottle of inexpensive chardonnay. It had been two full but very good days chasing the ghost of Frank Lloyd Wright across Wisconsin. We looked forward to our next stop, Badlands National Park and the start of camping. We were more than ready to spend some time out of doors.
Spring Green: http://www.springgreen.com/
Spring Green Motel: http://www.springgreenmotel.net/
Spring Green General Store: http://springgreengeneralstore.com/test/
Frank Lloyd Wright: http://www.biography.com/people/frank-lloyd-wright-9537511
Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation: http://www.franklloydwright.org/