Saturday, October 20, 2012


Following a meeting in Buffalo titled “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Publicly Accessible Buildings: Problems and Programs,” in 1985, Ginny Kazor, Curator of Wright’s Hollyhock House in Los Angeles, agreed to stage a similar conference the following year in L.A., and what a treat it was! We toured sites with buildings by three generations of Wrights -- Frank, Lloyd, and Eric (with Eric) – as well as some by Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler. The programming brimmed with former apprentices and clients. One panel of clients that included the Lovnesses (who could have been a comedy team if Don Lovness wasn’t otherwise occupied with Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company and Virginia with her art) was especially memorable. I took notes on the presentation by Arch Oboler, a Hollywood producer-director-screenwriter, who commissioned an ambitious hillside house (fig. 1) that Wright dubbed “Eaglefeather.”
(Unfortunately the conference was not filmed.)

Frank Lloyd Wright, "Eaglefeather" project for Arch Obeler (Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation)

According to Oboler, a masterful storyteller, he wrote to Wright about the commission and did not hear a word until the architect appeared at his door two years later. Wright and Oboler went to the site and as they approached it Wright put his arm around Arch (making him rather uncomfortable, he said, as he didn’t feel that he knew Wright) and said, pointing with his cane, “Arch, we are going to build something wonderful over there.” Oboler later heard that  someone asked Wright how he approached clients and he replied, “Well, take Arch Oboler. He is a sentimental man, so I put my arm around him and talked to him about the enduring qualities of the building we would build.” Oboler eventually declined to build Eaglefeather but completed a smaller retreat (fig. 2) and gatehouse on the site in its stead. 
Arch Obeler Retreat, Malibu, CA 1941 (Image from Wright Chat)

The following year (1987) Sandra Wilcoxon continued the meeting in Oak Park, Illinois,  and the year after that we met at Fallingwater where Thomas Schmidt, Vice President of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, proposed that we form an organization that became The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, today nearly 800 strong. [Dates of conferences and spelling of Oboler were corrected Oct. 22, 2012 thanks to Martha Neri, Eric Jackson-Forsberg, and Stephen Rebello]

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