August 15, 2000

Taliesin East

This hill on which Taliesin now stands as "brow" was one of my favorite places when as a boy looking for pasque flowers I went there in March sun while snow still streaked the hillsides.
Frank Lloyd Wright, An Autobiography

I had the pleasure of visiting Taliesin with my father on our "Frank Lloyd Wright tour" of Madison, Wisconsin and the surrounding area. This was a birthday present for both of us and it was an excellent trip with Taliesin being the high point (well, excluding the dinner at Denny's....) 

The FLlW red tile.
Frank Lloyd Wright's eastern estate is located about an hour's drive Northwest of Madison. There is a western estate located in Scottsdale, Arizona so this Taliesin is referred to as Taliesin East. The estate is maintained by the Taliesin Preservation Commission and I would like to thank the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation for permission to post photographs of the buildings. Alas, photographs of the interior are not permitted so you have an excuse to tour the estate for yourself. See below for some official wording required by the FLW Foundation. 

We started early on Tuesday morning arriving with enough time to drive through Spring Green before the estate tour started at 8:30 at the Visitor's Center. There were about 15 of us on the four-hour tour. A shuttle bus ride started the adventure at the Unity Chapel and the Hillside Home School. We then hiked to see Romeo and Juliet Windmill, Tan-y-deri House, Midway Farm, and then finally on to Taliesin.

The Welsh word Taliesin translated means "shining brow." This refers to the house being built into the brow of the hillside instead of on top of the hill. Wright is of course known for his "organic architecture" although both my father and I felt that his definition seemed somewhat fluid and open to his own interpretation. Taliesin is an architectural lab where he experimented over the years. In fact, it continues to change as it is still an active school for about 30 apprentices. Taliesin has a long and infamous history that goes beyond this simple journal entry. I don't have a recommendation on a book about Taliesin although there are several available. If you know of a good one please send me your recommendation. Taliesin is well covered in a biography of Frank Lloyd Wright by Meryl Secrest that I enjoyed. 

Although you can see the main house from much of the estate, you don't get the full view until you hike past the Midway Farm on the entry road. The "birdwalk" can be seen on the right side of the house. The living room is on the right side and the guest room and master bedroom are located on the left side of this view. We hiked up the hill on the left side and refreshments on the terrace outside the master bedroom. You can see several more photographs of the house exterior.
View towards the hilltop.
The countryside around Taliesin is beautiful and a visit is required to do it justice.
The countryside around Taliesin.
Some more pictures including the "Flower in the Crannied Wall" can be found here
The refreshments after the walk around the estate were welcome.
Ah, this is the life at a country estate!
Refreshment in the garden.
A father and son trip to Taliesin.
A great father/son visit to a wonderful gift from the great American architect. 

Taliesin Exterior
This is the tower located behind the main house. I believe our tour guide (Bryan) said these were now guestrooms although part of this complex used to house chickens. Remember, Taliesin was a working farm.
Guestrooms behind the main Taliesin house.
As we hiked up the hill I took this shot looking towards the "birdwalk" that juts out over the hill.
Side view of the birdwalk from the hike up the hill.
This photograph was taken from the center of the complex looking over the roofs of the main house. The garden where we had refreshments is located to the right near the master bedroom.
View from the center of the hill overlooking Taliesin.
The birdwalk (below) is quite long and standing at the end provides a nice view of the house. The living room is to the right and the guestroom is to the left. Notice that the window to the immediate right of the birdwalk looking towards the house is a normal clear glass window.
Many photographs show this as an artglass window saved from the Heath House (S.105). According to our guide, the Taliesin Preservation Commission has been returning the house to its state when Wright was living so these windows have been removed to the interior of the house. As explained to us, the purpose of the artglass was to shield the interior from the exterior. That would not have been consistent with Wright's wishes at Taliesin.
Looking back towards the living room from the birdwalk.
The guestroom is to the immediate left of the birdwalk, and the master bedroom is further down towards the left end of the house.
Looking towards the guestroom and master bedroom from the birdwalk.

Taliesin Countryside
The estate is located in rolling, wooded hills with a stream that feeds into the Wisconsin River. The river has been dammed creating a small waterfall, but the small hydroelectric plant no longer exists. This picture was taken from the birdwalk looking down the hill.
Looking down from the birdwalk.
I believe this picture was taken looking out from the garden by the master bedroom,
or it might have been taken when we were walking up the hill.
Looking out from the garden by the master bedroom.
Here we are walking down the road from Tan-y-deri to the Midway Farm.
It was a warm summer day (about 90 degrees and humid).
Getting some walking exercise around the estate.

Taliesin Exterior Items
We first saw this splash pool after hiking up the hill. It looked very refreshing....
The splash pool by the garden and master bedroom.
Sherpa is the cat at Taliesin....
Sherpa, the cat of Taliesin.
Some of the oriental artifacts collected by Frank Lloyd Wright.
There was a good story behind these if you happen to know it, please drop me a note.
Dragon #1 Dragon #2
Bryan, our tour guide quoted the poem below by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) that is inscribed on the back of the sculpture. She has seen better days. There is a good picture of the complete statue in 50 Favorite Furnishings by Frank Llloyd Wright.
"The Flower in the Crannied Wall"
"The Flower in the Crannied Wall"
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
– Tennyson

The Garden and the Tea Circle Oak
This is the trellised garden that we entered upon reaching the house.
We sat and had refreshments just to the left of this garden entrance.
The garden near the master bedroom.
Unfortunately, the "Tea Circle Oak" fell on the house in June of 1998 (the house has
been repaired). The picture below is of the only remaining large oak tree near the house.
The last of the three large oak trees.
The Tea Circle remains, but it certainly not the same without the oak tree.
The Taliesin gift shop may still have pen and pencil sets (#920, #921, #923) made
from the wood of the fallen Tea Circle Oak tree.
The tea circle, but without an oak tree now....
This is the bell that used to hang from the Tea Circle Oak.....
The bell that used to hang from the teacircle oak
Taliesin Visitor's Center
The Talisin East Visitor's Center was designed by Wright in 1953 and although construction was started in the 1950's, it was not completed until after his death in 1960. The center has an extensive gift shop and a small casual restaurant with a wonderful view overlooking the Wisconsin River.
The vistors center as seen from the parking lot.
The tour of the estate started at the entrance to the gift shop and restaurant. The roof cantelievered over the entrance has a opening to let sunlight and rain reach the plants.
The gift shop and restaurant entrance.
The Visitor's Center is an official Frank Lloyd Wright building.
The FLlW red tile at the vistor's center.

Permissions Information
All of the models, drawings, designs and works of Frank Lloyd Wright and Taliesin Architects seen at Taliesin are the exclusive property of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Taliesin Architects and may not be photographed, reproduced, copied or duplicated without the express written consent of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Use with permission from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ.

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