2013 in review

December 31, 2013 § 2 Comments

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. I found it interesting and encouraging.   

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy New Year to all fans of Susan and me.

A Prairie Plant Holiday

December 20, 2013 § 1 Comment

Christmas indoorsA sign in the visitor center of the Dana-Thomas House explains the intention of the 2013 holiday decorations in the house.  It reads:

The decorating theme in the Dana-Thomas House Historic Site this holiday season reflects the preference by Frank Lloyd Wright for the use of natural dried materials as decoration in the homes he designed…[Mr. Wright] sought to integrate natural elements in the home by bringing the outdoors inside through the use of large expanses of windows and in the use of exterior building materials within the house.  Mr. Wright also used decorative elements derived from nature as design motifs.  In the Dana-Thomas House the main design theme is the native prairie sumac plant.  He further suggested that his clients use native plants and grasses for additional decoration, varying with the season.

To achieve this homage to Frank Lloyd Wright, spectacular arrangements designed by the members of the Springfield Civic Garden Club are displayed throughout the house.  The dried prairie plants and flowers used by the floral designers complement the subtle autumnal colors of the house and, in some cases, mirror the architectural lines.  The result is an elegantly muted celebration of the holiday.

On the other hand, according to newspaper accounts Susan chose more vibrant plants and flowers to decorate her home.  I describe in an earlier post the holly, California peppers, and red and white carnations she used for the 1908 Christmas season (click here if you missed it).  The red and white carnations were also prominent in this description of the first holiday celebration in the house:carnations

The hall and parlor were filled with groups of red and white carnations and maiden hair ferns.  The loggia off the hall made a very attractive spot with its palms and ferns…In the dining room red and white were used again as single color tones, all else being of the dark oak shades.

Illinois State Register, December 30, 1904

Perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright did encourage his clients to decorate with dried native plants and grasses as the sign says.  If so, this is just one more example of Susan’s independent spirit.  She accepted and enjoyed Frank Lloyd Wright’s style to a point, but she made the house he designed into her home on her terms.   

For Sale: One Butterfly Lamp

December 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Dana-Thomas House Butterfly Lamp

Dana-Thomas House Butterfly Lamp

If you hurry, you can own a link to the Dana-Thomas House for a mere $200,000. The Bock butterfly hanging lamp will be auctioned off at Christie’s in New York on December 19.  Click here for a picture and the details.

The background information about the house, Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Bock, and Susan on Christie’s web site is unusually accurate, but once again the adjectives selected to characterize Susan are inadequate and misleading.  The author describes her as a “young, wealthy and deeply independent widow.”  Just once I would like to see words such as philanthropic or progressive in a written description of Susan. 

Several years ago I saw the lamp that is for sale when we were visiting the Richard W. Bock Sculpture Museum on the campus of Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois (a tour I highly recommend).  It was lying on a table covered with dust, and the young student who was in charge that day knew nothing about its history.  Richard Bock’s daughter Dorathi Bock Pierre explained how the lamp arrived at the small Illinois college in the Epilogue of the 1989 edition of Bock’s autobiography:

Through the interest of Dr. Donald P. Hallmark [first site superintendent of the Dana-Thomas House],who wrote his Masters and Doctor’s theses on the works of Richard W. Bock, [my father’s]  collection was brought to the attention of the administration of Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois. They offered a permanent home to the entire collection of hundreds of items of sculpture, drawings, paintings and father’s art library.  The collection fills an historic Victorian house on the campus, named the Richard W. Bock Sculpture Museum, which was dedicated in 1975.

I have no evidence, but I am presuming that Greenville College, like many other institutions of higher learning, is experiencing some  financial crunches, and the current administration is tapping into its resources to alleviate some of that strain.  This is the second time that I know of that the lamp has been up for auction.  I hope that this time it can find a good home with someone who understands the significance of this very important connection among the Dana-Thomas House, Richard Bock, and Frank Lloyd Wright.


December 10, 2013 § 9 Comments

When Susan’s first husband Edwin died, she wrote to a friend, “My views of life and death are different from those of many.”  By that she meant that she believed that ties with the deceased were not severed at death, and she could communicate with them through spiritualism (see Chapter 8 of Susan Lawrence: The Enigma in the Wright House).  When her second husband Lawrence died, Susan suffered a serious breakdown and remained cloistered in the Lawrence House for the last half of 1913 and most of 1914 (see Chapter 11 of Susan Lawrence: The Enigma in the Wright House). 

Carl Volkmann, my husband of 56 years, passed away October 11, 2013.  I find myself searching for ways to cope with my new reality somewhere between Susan’s two approaches to widowhood.  While I often feel Carl’s presence and even find myself talking to him on occasion, I do not plan to enlist the aid of a medium to exchange messages between us.  Furthermore, I am not withdrawing from society.  I am gradually resuming the activities I stopped when Carl needed my care at the end of his life.  I have returned to my volunteer interpretive role at the Dana-Thomas House, and now I plan to go back to digging into documents from the past to illuminate the life of Susan Lawrence Dana more brightly through this blog.  Stay tuned.

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