Frank Lloyd Wright Homes Around the Lake, August 2009
There are only two places in the U.S. in which “strings” of Prairie Style homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright exist. The first is Oak Park, IL; the other is right here on Delavan Lake. Wright’s homes in Oak Park draw hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over world each year. By contrast, Wright’s homes along Delavan Lake’s South Shore Drive are barely visible from the road, but are easily identified from the water. Those of us who boat on Delavan Lake may view these magnificent homes easily.
Initially there were eight Wright structures along and around the Lake. These were all built in the late 1800’s or early in the 1900’s, and the construction was nominally supervised by Wright, who reached the sites by horseback. In the 1890’s, Chicago real estate developer Henry Wallis, a friend (or by some accounts a relative) of Wright’s, purchased a large tract of land on the South shore. He commissioned Wright to design a summer home for him and then subdivided the rest of the land. Wright subsequently designed other homes and out-structures on the remaining lots between 1900 and 190.5
Enjoy your trip ‘round the Lake!
Information provided by the Wright in Wisconsin organization, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Mr. John Notz of the Lake Geneva Conservancy, and Mr. Gordon Yadon.
Immediately to the left (when viewed from the Lake) is the “Spencer House”. It is readily identifiable by the board and batten siding and the dramatic prow-shaped porch offering panoramic views of the lake. Reportedly, when Wright noticed that the contractor had installed the 2nd story siding in a vertical pattern, he ‘disowned’ the house and walked off the site.
Ahead is the wonderful green and white house that is the Wallis Cottage. Wright specified that the siding be painted with “55 cent per gallon Cabot green stain”. This was the first home Wright built and it was completed in about 1902. This home also has a gatehouse on South Shore Drive.
A. P. JOHNSON HOUSE
Continuing west is the reconstructed A. P. Johnson house. The current owners have done a superb job of rebuilding this beautiful home and landscaping the grounds.
DELAVAN LAKE YACHT CLUB
Finally, as you continue along the shoreline, you’ll see the Del-Mar Beach - the site of the original Delavan Lake Yacht Club that was also built by Wright, but demolished some years ago.
A good place to begin a quick Frank Lloyd Wright boat tour is at the magnificent arched, yellow boathouse located at about the midpoint along the south shore of the Lake. Though the original was destroyed by fire, the current owners have done a meticulous job of reconstructing the boathouse according to Wright’s original design. Behind the boathouse is the original Fred B. Jones house, “Penwern”.
The home was built in 1900 for Mr. Jones who loved to entertain and would host regular card games in the tower on the left side of the house. There is also a beautiful gatehouse on South Shore Drive also designed by Wright.
ROSS SUMMER RESIDENCE
From the boathouse, turn east and you will see the “Ross Summer Residence”. You will recognize it by the bright yellow exterior and the outsized covered chimney. Built in 1902, it has been described as “the finest of the ‘Forest‘ variations of the Prairie School houses”.
Other interesting Frank Lloyd Wright websites: