Browsing Category

Prairie School

American System-Built Home, architecture, history, iowa, Prairie School

Prairie School in Iowa: Support Iowa Architectural Foundation

01/25/2021

We’re excited to be partnering with the Iowa Architectural Foundation as part of their Prairie School Architecture in Iowa class. This 3-part virtual class – held February 9, 16 23 – will include 3 home tours – our American System-Built Home and two Walter Burley Griffin-designed homes in Mason City! See all the details below and consider joining us! This is a fundraiser for Iowa Architectural Foundation and a great way to see three wonderful houses without leaving the comfort of your own home.

Early Bird Tickets @ $35 are available only until 7PM on Feb 1; after that, $45 at EVENTBRITE.

February 9, 7-8:30 PM: Virtual Class led by Paula Mohr, PhD and Ryan Ellsworth, AIA

In the first half of the twentieth century, Iowa was a significant player in the development of what later came to be known as the Prairie School of architecture. This 3-part course will explore some of Iowa’s internationally renowned Prairie School buildings, such as works designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Burley Griffin. We’ll look at examples located across the state, including the Woodbury County Courthouse and Mason City’s Rock Crest-Rock Glen as well as less famous examples located in small towns throughout the state.

February 16: Tour #1 – The Meier House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Monona, Iowa
Virtual tour of the Meier House, the only Iowa example of the American System-Built House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Join homeowners Jason Loper and Michael Schreiber as they explain their fascinating stories of finding and restoring this beautiful home. Motivated by Wright’s lifelong interest in affordable housing, he designed these homes between 1911 – 1917. The tour will be followed by a Q&A with the homeowners, our instructors and attendees.

February 23: Tour #2 & #3 – The Schneider House and The Page House, designed by Walter Burley Griffin, Mason City, Iowa – Virtual tours of both the Schneider House and the Page House in the Rock Crest-Rock Glen development in Mason City, the first planned Prairie School development in America. Homeowners Tim & Joan Platz and Gary & Anne Schmit will take you through their amazing homes and afterwards you can ask them questions and join in the discussion with other attendees and class instructors. Find out how you can dig deeper into the Prairie School architectural legacy of Mason City.

This is a fundraiser for Iowa Architectural Foundation to help us persevere through the Covid period with our mission: “To inspire an appreciation of architecture and design through educational programming for adults and students.”

Class Instructors
Paula Mohr, PhD
Paula is the Certified Local Government Coordinator and Architectural Historian for the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). She is an alumna of the University of Iowa, the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies and the University of Virginia, where she earned her Ph.D. in architectural history. She has held curatorial and preservation positions at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the White House and the National Park Service. In 2018 The National Alliance of Preservation Commissions awarded Paula with the Renaud Award, a lifetime achievement” award that recognizes trailblazers in the advancement of preservation at the local level.

Ryan Ellsworth, AIA Ryan is a licensed architect with Estes Construction. He has practiced in New York, Chicago and Des Moines. Ryan is on the Board of Trustees of the Iowa Architectural Foundation. He is one of IAF’s most active volunteers, serving as a guide for corporate and organizational tours and Architecture on the Move summer walking tours of downtown Des Moines. Ryan was the champion of IAF’s motor coach tour to Dubuque in 2019.

architecture, Famous Places, Prairie School

Alfred Bersbach House: Van Bergen’s Prairie Masterpiece

03/01/2020

Alfred Bersbach House - Wilmette, Illinois

We happened down a side street in Wilmette, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago, today and came across this house that could very easily be mistaken for one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs. In fact, as we learned from our old friend Wikipedia, back in the 1950s and ’70s, real estate listings mistakenly attributed the house to Mr. Wright. It’s actually one of John S. Van Bergen‘s designs. Built in 1915 for Alfred Bersbach, it doesn’t get any more Prairie School than this lakefront estate!

Sadly, it looks like this gorgeous example of Prairie School design, a house that is often called John S. Van Bergen’s masterpiece, is about to see some big (and perhaps fatal!) changes. This big old house, as gorgeous as it is in its early-20th-century glory, is dwarfed by the modern McMansions around it. Judging by the demolition notice, we fear that the Bersbach house will soon be replaced with something far less significant.

This, we’re reminded, is the importance of stewardship. We don’t actually know that the Alfred Bersbach House is going to meet the wrecking ball, but we do know that too many houses of architectural significance do meet that fate.

Every now and then we wonder why we bought the Delbert and Grace Meier House. What compelled us to invest our energies (and money!) in a 100+ year old house?

This, ladies and gentlemen, this is why we became the stewards of the Meier House. Because we need more stewards. We need more love for old houses. We need more appreciation for the past. We need these houses to remain standing as a reminder of how we’ve lived, of who we’ve been.

Interestingly, there is a brick column near the property line that marks the location as a “Wilmette Local Landmark.” Here’s hoping that you’re getting a little refresh, Alfred Bersbach House, and not a full teardown. If not, at least we got to spend a little time with you today.

American System-Built Home, architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, history, Prairie School

ASBH Features: Our 100-Year-Old Windows

01/16/2018

For a 100-year-old-house, the original wood casement windows in our American System System Built Home are in excellent condition. This is largely due to the fact that the house has been fortunate enough to pass from caring owner to caring owner. We learned from the grocer’s daughter, for instance, that it was her father who had carefully reglazed the windows and built the interior (storm) windows and screens. And according to a longtime neighbor, the windows were a point of pride for the teacher who owned the house for many years after the grocer sold it. The neighbor told us that the teacher spent his summer breaks tending to the house and preserving the wood windows.

Continue Reading…

architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, history, iowa, Prairie School, small town life

Mr. Porter’s Garage: A Frank Lloyd Wright Connection in Decorah, Iowa

08/25/2016

The Porter House in Decorah, Iowa, photographed in the fall of 2013.

The Porter House in Decorah, Iowa, photographed in the fall of 2013.

While showing friends around lovely nearby Decorah late last summer, we happened to pass by the incredible Porter House Museum. This beautiful 19th Century Italianate house is notable for its one-of-a-kind surrounding rock wall, a contribution made to the property by its equally one-of-a-kind owner, Adelbert Field Porter (1879-1968). Mr. Porter, commonly known as “Bert,” was a gentleman explorer, naturalist, and photographer who culled from his vast collection of natural curiosities to create “nature art,” such as his remarkable wall.

Continue Reading…

architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, Prairie School

Prairie Sale: A 1915 John S. Van Bergen House
741 Sheridan Road, Evanston, Illinois

03/17/2015

John S. Van Bergen House at 741 Sheridan Road Evanston Illinois

I’ve been in the city a lot lately due to a new day job. While I usually make the trek out to the house on Friday nights, I decided to stay in the city this weekend. I had errands to run and I needed a break from the commute out the house. We were lucky enough to get a quick taste of spring this weekend, with temperatures in the 60’s and sunny skies above. So on Sunday afternoon I pumped up the tires on my bike and took myself out to soak up some springtime sunshine.

It was on my ride that I discovered this gorgeous Prairie style home in Evanston, Illinois. The house at 741 Sheridan Road was designed by John S. Van Bergen and, judging by the photos in the real estate listing, it’s everything that I want our house to be.

John S. Van Bergen Home at 741 Sheridan Road

If you think that this house looks a lot like Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs – and indeed our own American System Built Home – you’re right. John S. Van Bergen worked for Wright in his studio in Oak Park. As part of his work for Wright, Van Bergen supervised the Robie House and the Mrs. Thomas Gale House. Hailing from Oak Park originally, Van Bergen was undoubtedly influenced by Wright’s Prairie style early in his life. In fact, according to the Wikipedia page about Van Bergen, his “mother was friends with Wright’s mother, Anna, and Van Bergen’s third grade teacher was Wright’s sister, Maginel.”

I stopped in my tracks when I came upon the house at 741 Sheridan Road. Not only am I interested in Prairie style architecture, but this particular house is for sale! I stopped, snapped a photo and then pedaled my way back home, where I immediately searched for details on the house.

imagereader (1)

The house was built in 1915, just two years before our ASB home. I can see some similarities between this house and the ASB homes that Wright designed. The wood trim and corner windows are hallmarks of the Prairie style, as are the stucco exterior and low roofline.

With a price of $1.75 million, this house is way, way, way out of our league. It is, however, a great reminder of what we want to do in rehabbing our own more modest house. We want to get the wood trim in our house stripped and refinished. And we want to have the exterior trim and windows repainted. (Speaking of, I love the green trim used on this house in Evanston, but I think we’ll probably go with a red or brown paint for our trim.)

For more information on the house at 741 Sheridan Road, check out the real estate listing at Sotheby’s.

Images: 1. This American House, 2. and 3. Sotheby’s