Monday, April 4, 2011

Building the Pauson House

I requested Building the Pauson House: The Letters of Frank Lloyd Wright and Rose Pauson edited and introduced by Allan Wright Green as an Early Reviewer because Frank Lloyd Wright is a Phoenix icon. There are tours, a street named after him, and his buildings are all around town.

Imagine 1938, when the best way to communicate is a letter, but it won't be received in an instant. You have to get your message across clearly, all the while making sure your character comes through. This book has photos, but is primarily a collection of letters between artist Rose Pauson, who the house was built and designed for, and Frank Lloyd Wright. It may sound boring to read about all of the details of the house that Rose wants changed, money haggling, and looking at many revised blue prints, but Rose and Frank's unique personalities are the real stars of the letters and the book. They refer to the group of people working on the house as "The Fellowship," and it really feels like one, even after the house is built and it leaks like crazy. I think the romantic in me really just enjoyed reading letters. ("You wrote her letters?" "Oh mail. It was called 'mail.'" "Stamps, envelopes. You know, I've heard of it.") ...I delighted in seeing the old stationery Rose wrote on when she stayed at the Biltmore, when Frank wrote on Santa Fe "The Chief" stationery, and Western Union Telegrams! I suppose if someone released a book with a bunch of emails and texts it just wouldn't be as much fun.

I'm not spoiling anything by telling you that after 2 years of writing letters (including less than one year of building), Rose and her sister live in the house for a year, rent it out, and on April 11, 1943 the renters leave a door open, the amazingly long curtains blow into the fireplace right next to them, and the Pauson House burns down. All that remains today is part of the chimney, which was moved 200 yards so we could have 32nd Street.

Corey and I went on a field trip yesterday to check out "Shiprock" as it is known by locals. It's the entrance to a neighborhood of expensive houses. It's difficult to find an exact address but it's easy to find. Drive east on Camelback, turn north on 32nd Street, drive over a canal, turn west on San Miguel, and there it is:

That's me with my book, nerding it up. We compared the pictures in the book to the chimney and were able to match up the rocks! The weird thing is that when I got back in the car, my bookmark (the publisher sent the book with a bookmark depicting one of Frank's art glass designs. Whoa. I did not know he designed glass too) was on the page where Rose asks about fire insurance! Creepy.

This book is a real gem. Now I want to read The Women and Loving Frank and go on a Taliesin West tour!

P.S. Rose Pauson? Never heard of her before this. She's not even listed in my little art book. But here is one of her paintings, Trees In A Landscape With An Orange Road:


Luvvie said...

Hey I've got that Art Book too and i love Frank Lloyd Wright so I'll be keeping an eye out for that book!

kpaul86 said...

I think I've told you about this before, but my apartment complex was built embracing Organic Architecture inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright!

Hope I can come down and take a field trip with you guys to see this and more!

auntangi said...

I love that you took a field trip to see the chimney! That is so is the Taliesen West tour. You should check it out. And "Loving Frank" of my favorite books of recent years.

Rhubarb said...

That is so cool!

stephanie said...

Oh my god. My renters are going to burn my house down.

David Brand said...

Raised in the "valley of the Sun", the "shiprock" ruins were a place to view the entire
eastern part if the valley and catch beautiful sunsets.

What a shame someone made a property gate out of the chimney. Shame on the developer.

Captain Nick Sparrow said...

I have some bad news for you then. It fell in 2012.