There's always one neighbor who's the talk of
In the part of Wisconsin Lands' End calls home, one neighbor casts
a pretty big shadow. He's also a certifiable genius. Just up the
road from our Dodgeville homeplace is Taliesin, the home and studio
of Frank Lloyd Wright.
And you can take a tour.
Taliesin was Mr. Wright's masterwork of organic architecture, a
special relationship he sought between structure and the surrounding
countryside. Out here among the rolling green Wisconsin hills -
a spot Mr. Wright considered one of the prettiest in America -
the sweeping constructions of locally quarried stone have the look
of something sprung from the earth.
Now, every structure on the tour has a story. And the gist of all
the stories is that Frank Lloyd Wright was a genius, that his ideas
were too advanced for a world that wasn't ready, but that time
has proved him right. Take the story of "Romeo and Juliet."
"Romeo and Juliet" is a stone windmill tower built of two interlocking
structures - Romeo (lozenge cross-section, facing windward) and Juliet (octagonal
cross-section, facing leeward). Now, according to the tourguides, the locals
saw this and guffawed. "First big wind and down she'll come," they
But, of course, Mr. Wright knew better. Hse'd cleverly engineered
the structure so that Romeo's windward edge formed an airfoil that
caused a zone of positive air pressure to build on the leeward
side, pressing "Juliet" firmly against "Romeo." In
this supporting "embrace," they propped each other up
- something like a tipsy couple at a dance.
Thereafter, whenever it stormed, Mr. Wright would race outside.
It wasn't to see his towers come down - he knew how well he'd built
them - but to amuse himself at the sight of all the eager naysayers
gathered on their porches to witness the disaster that would never
Now, like the prophet who receives no honor in his own country,
Mr. Wright had his detractors, too. And the detractors had stories
of their own. The gist of these is that Mr. Wright didn't like
to pay his bills. In fact, it used to be said that if you threw
a party for everyone he owed money to - well, it would be one heck
of a shindig.
True or not, these stories have grown up into a body of local folklore.
Here's an example. Having been turned away with a laundry list
of excuses - "Mr. Wright is busy in his studio, Mr. Wright
is meeting important people, Mr. Wright is taking a nap" -
one exasperated creditor collected his arrears at the point of
a gun. Retribution was swift. The gun-toting creditor soon found
himself before a judge. "I understand your feelings," the
judge told him. "He even owns money to the county, but you
don't see us waving guns in the gentleman's face, do you?"
"Well, judge," the prisoner replied, "I got my money - did you
Another story involves a creditor who was finally paid after ten
years of being patient. Handing over the check, or so the story
goes, Mr. Wright confided, "If you're smart, you'll hold onto
this. I'm going to be famous one day and that signature will be
The lumberman, we're told, headed straight for the bank.
But, as the tourguides remind us with the stories they tell, it
was one more occasion that proves Mr. Wright had a prescient mind.
TO OUR STORE,