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Frank Lloyd Wright's Hotels - Lake Geneva Wisconsin and Tokyo Japan
Frank Lloyd Wright's fame spanned multiple continents from the United States to Japan long before the ease of Internet (back at the turn of the century, when travel and communications took allot more effort), it is Frank Lloyd Wright's Wisconsin roots that continue to celebrate his architectural brilliance.
Frank Lloyd Wright's legacy to the world was a distinctive American style, a Midwestern style that celebrates nature - the prairie landscape of the Midwestern United States, an architectural style that has been hailed for decades called the "Prairie School" style.
Journey with us as we explore the many contributions Wright made and see the many magnificent hotels he crafted or influenced from around the world - from the water of beautiful Geneva Lake Wisconsin to Tokyo Japan and much more. Learn about his style, his philosophy and how he has forever left an indelible mark upon the world.
George Bernard Shaw quotes (Irish literary Critic, Playwright and Essayist. 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature, 1856-1950)
Celebrated the Natural Beauty of the Midwestern Landscape
"Frank Lloyd Wright didn't just live life, he created life, he created enduring designs for buildings, furniture and stained glass that live on today in memorial to not just the man, but the man who celebrate the natural beauty of the Midwestern landscape."
Frank Lloyd Wright Didn't Live Life - He Created Life
Frank Lloyd Wright didn't just live life, he created life, he created enduring designs for buildings, furniture and stained glass that live on today in memorial to not just the man, but the man who celebrate the natural beauty of the Midwestern landscape.
Frank Lloyd Wright's hotel in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and in Japan are gone but certainly not forgotten.
An artist, an architect, a lover of beauty - all of the things Frank Lloyd Wright was, he certainly took to heart George Bernard Shaw's words of wisdom and lived his life to the fullest. What Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural genius lives on in old photos and memories in a library that was built in the Prairie School style that overlooks the same waters as the Geneva Lake Hotel that stood where the Geneva Towers are located today.
Imperial Hotel Japan
Timeline of Hotels by Frank Lloyd Wright
Years of Operation
Geneva Lake Hotel, Wisconsin, USA
Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, Japan
Geneva Lake Hotel
The Geneva Lake Hotel operated less than 60 years(1912-1970); similarly, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan operated only 45 years (1923-1968) and yet these two structures will forever remain in our memory, a lasting legacy to a man who created not just art, not just architecture but a Midwestern style that even today lives on homage to Midwestern natural beauty. And while the Tokyo hotel was celebrated for surviving an earthquake, the real legacy remains in the architectural style that FLW taught us was "schooled" by the prairie of the Midwest.
Wright's Architectural Style Endures - Prairie School Style
In essence, Frank Lloyd Wright created an architectural style that will forever be unique, a style that symbolizes the very essence of the Midwestern beauty found in nature on the flat lands of the Wisconsin prairie.
Journey with us across the continents. See the locations of these two distinctive hotels, see a map of the relocation of the remnants of the hotel in Japan and take a peak into the brilliance of this grand and yet natural architectural style now named "Prairie School".
Chicago to Lake Geneva Wisconsin
Lake Geneva Library Designed by FLW Protégé James R. Dresser
Lake Geneva Library - Designed by FLW Protégé James R. Dresser
As I spend time in a library that is graced by the natural beauty of Geneva Lake and among books that are housed in a building that is reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright style, I took the time to research the architectural influence that Frank Lloyd Wright had upon this resort area in Southern Wisconsin. While the hotel is long gone, the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright live on in the library - both in the exterior architecture and its distinctive Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie School style and its history of the hotel that once graced the same waterfront literally 1/2 block a way.
The Lake Geneva Public Library is located at 918 W. Main Street in Lake Geneva, WI, a resort community (incorporated in 1836) often frequented by Chicagoans seeking a day trip excursion to the bountiful shops and the beautiful waters of Geneva Lake. The municipal library of Lake Geneva is literally blocks away from the hotel that Frank Lloyd Wright designed which opened in 1912 and step away from the very first hotel in Lake Geneva - the Whiting House Hotel.
The long horizontal lines complement perfectly the flat landscape along this 5,000 acre lake. While Geneva Lake is best known for its picturesque hills and heavy foliage, this particular portion of the lake is ideally akin to the prairie flat lands of the Midwestern United States. Next to the library is a municipal park and harbor with one of the most scenic walkways which overlooks the clear blue waters of Geneva Lake. Historic Maple Park is just to the north of the library.
The interior of the library designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's protégé, James R. Dresser, is true to the Frank Lloyd Wright philosophy of designing from the inside out. The interior literally hugs you with its architectural simplicity that highlights one of the most gorgeous views in the world - a 5,000 acre natural spring fed lake that once was the epicenter of the American Potawatomi Indians. Today the state park and beach are named in remembrance of the Indian chief that lead the tribes in this area - his name was Big Foot. It is said that when Chief Big Foot left the beautiful waters of Geneva Lake, he wept. The peace and serenity that the clear blue waters of Geneva Lake give to its thousands of visitors can attest to its magic.
Proximity of the Former Site of the FLW Geneva Hotel and the Lake Geneva Library
Home of Geneva Towers, former home of Whiting House Hotel and later Geneva Hotel
FLW Geneva Hotel - Lake Geneva, Wisconsin 1912-1970
Frank Lloyd Wright's Geneva Hotel - Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Frank Lloyd Wright's design for the Lake Geneva hotel only lasted from 1912-1970. In a lifespan of less than 58 years, the memories and legacy remain strong even four decades after its demolition. The interior of this hotel was said to contain Frank Lloyd Wright's favorite fireplace. And yet, we must remember that the Geneva Hotel was not built to the complete and original vision that Frank Lloyd Wright had for this structure. Due to finances, many facets of the original design including a 3 story tower was eliminated.
The story goes that during the planning process, Wright was fired and his drawings were retained and augmented to fit into budgetary constraints. Sadly, this hotel would continue to have financial difficulties over its lifetime. Ultimately the hotel changed ownership several times. And despite efforts to save the structure, the hotel was demolished in 1970 to make way for the current structure - Geneva Towers, a 9-story condominium that houses business on the street level and penthouses on the 9th floor. Site is central to downtown Lake Geneva and overlooks the beautiful waters of Geneva Lake. And within walking distance is the Lake Geneva Library that also overlooks the Lake.
Temperance movement is a social movement for the use of alcoholic beverages.
Temperance movements range from criticizing to taking legal action to enact anti-alcohol legislation.
Geneva Hotel's History
During the years of operation of the hotel, the rumors of underground tunnels persisted. Imagine the secret hiding for close to 60 years!
In 1970 when the demolition was taking place, an architect noted a discrepancy in the drawings and the measurements.
The secret of the tunnels was not revealed until the actual demolition of the building. The bulldozer tearing down the building literally fell into an underground chamber that apparently housed the secret operations underneath the structure!
We must keep in mind the history of this site and the social consciousness at the time in the United States. Ironically when the hotel opened, it was technically legal to offer alcohol in 1912 but the owners claimed NOT to want alcohol - apparently, they understood the the social tendencies of the time and built the hotel structure in preparation for Prohibition the would eventually rule all of the United States including the state of Wisconsin where the hotel was built.
"Lake Geneva Magazine" reported that biplanes used to fly in and fill up with more than just gasoline.
History of Prohibition - Prohibition was the legal abolition of alcohol in the United States. Prohibition was started in 1918 on a nationwide basis in an "effort to save grain for the war" - the title of the act was The Wartime Prohibition Act. Yet, the tide of temperance had started in the 1830's. In 1855, 13 states within the Union had passed legislation prohibiting alcohol. It is amazing that the rumors during the operation of the hotel of underground tunnels and a bootleg operation were never proven until the demolition in 1970 - the secret was kept for 58 years!
Provenance of Names and Locations and Designs
While I always thought Lake Geneva was named after the beautiful waters in Geneva Switzerland, I learned that is not true. John Brink the surveyer of Lake Geneva named this much loved resort city after his familiar home in NY - near Seneca New York.
Tokyo and Lake Geneva share a similar history. The Geneva Hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright was a new hotel venture replacing the Whiting Hotel that resided on that site. Similiarly, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo replaced the original structure that burned down by accident in 1919. Sadly the first Imperial Hotel was in operation less than 30 years, from 1890 to 1919. The second "Imperial Hotel" is said to be Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous structure in Japan. Included in the design of the Imperial Hotel was letterhead and china. The combination of the elegance of Japanese refinement with the Prairie School is an artistic creation that some have alluded to Mayan in adornment. Yet, if you read about Frank Lloyd Wright and understand his fascination with blocks and the imprint of nature, you know both the Mayan and the Prairie School simply follow the footsteps of the greatest designer of all - Mother Nature.
The name Imperial Hotel was given due to its original owner - the royal family of Japan.
The provenance of the names of the names of the hotels highlight the significance of the location. The design of the two hotels both highlight the beauty of nature.
Imperial Hotel Japan - Original Site Tokyo
Relocation of Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel to Inuyama Outside of Nagoya, Japan
Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel Tokyo JapanClick thumbnail to view full-size
Tokyo's Imperial Hotel 1923-1968
Salvage of the Genea Hotel entailed primarily the stained glass windows. Japan was much kinder to history and historical preservation by relocating a portion of the Imperial Hotel - the iconic central lobby and the reflecting pool. These were transported and rebuilt at the Museum Meiji Mura which is a collection of buildings. Located in a city called Inuyama, it is just outside of Nagoya. It is open to the public.
The iconic lobby of the second Imperial Hotel, the hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is pictured above.
1916-1922 Imperial Hotel Tokyo Japan
Frank Lloyd Wright Style Doormat
Frank Lloyd Wright Quiz
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We now live in a global society where we can read and converse with others from across the oceans. At the turn of the century, the continents were separated by ocean voyages, no quick Internet connection, no quick jet plane ride. It is amazing to see the common voyages of these two iconic hotels. It is amazing to see infrastructures come and go and be replaced and yet some structures are forever loved and remembered.
Frank Lloyd Wright's graced not just the Midwestern landscapes, not just the landscapes throught the United States but also left a lasting impact overseas. It is exciting to share a love of art and beauty with our friends across the many continents and several oceans away.
The world is a beautiful place. "I no naka no kawazu taikai wo shirazu." Literally: "A frog in a well does not know the great sea." Thank you for traveling across the continents with me, crossing the oceans, sailing the seas, seeing the greatness among us and beyond us.
Frank Lloyd Wright Dishes - Imperial Hotel Design
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Rent a Wright Home - Two Rivers, Wisconsin
" Your dream can now become reality!
The 4 bedroom 2 1/2 bath Life Magazine Dream house is yours to live in as if it were your own. Whether it’s two days or two weeks, you will experience the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright in a way that a typical tour cannot provide. Imagine watching the sun rising over the marsh and ushering in the morning light show as the clerestory patterns are projected onto the interior brick and cypress walls. Experience Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for how that average american family could live. Relax, slow down and let Wright’s genius unfold before you in a manner that is not possible on a typical house tour. The brilliance of Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision can only be experienced fully by living in one of his creations. There is something magical almost spiritual about being in a Wright space that leaves one transformed."
While you are in the area, you may wish to visit some of these Wright sites in Southern Wisconsin:
Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, Madison
For tour program and information visit www.mononaterrace.com
Seth Peterson Cottage, Lake Delton
Monthly Open House and Tours
608-254-6051 for visitor information or www.SethPeterson.org
Taliesin, Spring Green
Open daily for tours; reservations are required for some tours
608-588-7900 for visitor information or www.TaliesinPreservation.org
Unitarian Meeting Mouse, Madison
Open daily for tours from May-October
Monday-Friday: 10:00am- 4:00pm, Saturday: 9:00-12:00 noon, Sunday: 1:00pm - 4:00pm
- Steinerag.com Frank Lloyd Wright | Geneva Lake Wisconsin | Pictorial History
Douglas Steiner's website includes photos, post cards and even hotel keys of the original Geneva Hotel. His page of Wright Studies details the rarity of the information and photos. The pictorial history is beautifully presented.
© 2010 Ken Kline