December 1, 2020

Frank Lloyd Wright Dream Vacation

Since many of us are confined to the locale in which we are currently inhabiting, I have taken to planning dream vacations for the time when travel restrictions are only a bad memory.

For you architecture buffs, I have found five Frank Lloyd Wright structures which are rentable in Wisconsin and Michigan, thanks to a site called “Plans Matter,” which features selected architecturally significant venues.

I would begin in Lancaster, WI, with two nights in the Kinney House, commissioned by Patrick Kinney, a local attorney in the early 1950s. Built of wood and limestone, Wright’s double hexagonal design, which features three bedrooms and three baths, includes a wing addition that was supervised by Taliesin Fellow John H. Howe. Jane Kinney, who grew up in the home, says school children called it a “space ship.” (Daily price $395; 2-night minimum; 5-person limit.)

Next up would be the Seth Peterson Cottage in Mirror Lake, WI, which qualifies as a tiny house at 880-square feet. Situated on a bluff overlooking Mirror Lake, the sandstone structure features floor to ceiling windows that blur the distinction between indoors and outside. (Daily price $250-300; 2-night minimum; 4-person limit.)

Built for a design project sponsored by “Life Magazine” and “The Architectural Forum,” Still Bend in Two Rivers, WI, was fabricated with brick and red tidewater cypress board and batten. The main “recreation” room in this 1940 Usonian home is sixty-five feet long and contains built-in bookcases and a fireplace. (Daily price: $295+; 2-night minimum; 8-person limit.)

In Ann Arbor, MI, is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s finest later private residences, the Palmer House, made of brick and red cedar and ensconced on two, tree-filled acres. There is also a teahouse on the property with a fireplace, kitchen and bathroom. (Daily price: $350+; 2-night minimum; 6-person limit.)

I would wind up our Wright progressive vacation at the Eppstein House in Galesburg, M i. This property has been lovingly restored with new technology, but also has some of the original Wright-designed furniture. Three outdoor terraces allow you to soak up the beauty of The Acres, the 50-acre community designed by Wright in which the Eppstein House is located. (Daily price: $408 through airbnb; 2-night minimum; 6-person limit.)

Let’s honor one of the most famous Chicago architects by spending time in these Wisconsin and Michigan Wright-designed homes. Many of these properties are open now and following Covid protocols. For now, I will dream about staying in these Prairie-style dwellings when all is well with the world.

Click the link “View Architects” for the list of Wright homes available to rent:

River Valley Farm Table on Wilson Avenue

I can sniff out new food concerns at forty yards so I came to a screeching halt in front of
signage that said “River Valley Farmer’s Table” at 1820 W. Wilson. Upon walking inside, the first room is a small shop that features both shelf stable, refrigerated and frozen food items like salsas, pickled mushrooms and pasta sauces that use River Valley Ranch grown produce. The second adjoining room has a lit deli case with cheeses, prepared salads, house smoked corned beef and ham plus a limited number of places for sit-down dining. There’s even a little room to the west with the eponymous farm table available for private parties. They now have a liquor license so you can have wine, cocktails or craft beer with your meals.

I recently had lunch there and was impressed with green tomatoes lightly fried with cornmeal and buttermilk over a salad that had pickled vegetables as well as greens dressed with a vinegar and cream concoction. I would order this again in a heartbeat. Asparagus and mushroom tamales were light and flavorful. Those same mushrooms and asparagus were used for a chunky and non-red chili served by the cup or bowl. My dining companion David had a burger featuring grass-fed beef and proclaimed it tasty. Sweets were tempting us at the check-out station, but we remained stoic in the face of mouth-watering cookies, pastries and candies.

Their tag line is “Come in for a sandwich and Passionhouse coffee, and leave with ingredients for dinner.” I went home with a delicious loaf of sourdough bread my first visit. I will return for the Sunday brunch and one of those damn fine looking cookies.

My friend Zehava let me know that the River Valley Ranch sells its goods at many of the city’s farmers markets and they have a food store featuring their products in Burlington, Wisconsin where the Fox River Valley farm is located.

Cultural hub in Sheboygan

One of the highlights of a visit to Sheboygan was  the John Michael Kohler Art Center, an astounding 100,000 square feet of fine arts, performing arts, and outdoor gardens.
They have eclectic art exhibits, a charming performing arts stage, and an all-purpose space used for food service, private events and dance concerts. This is a veritable cultural hub for the Sheboygan community.

Sheboygan Riverfront pub

Another lovely establishment encountered during our Wisconsin sojourn was the Duke of Devon located on Sheboygan’s historic river front. One of our hosts treated us to beverages there and the atmosphere at this English Pub was fantastic. I would heartily recommend a non-alcoholic drink I tried called a “pressé” which comes in flavors such as elderflower, lime, lemongrass, and pomegranate raspberry being the one I tried.
The extensive menu entices me to come back for dinner next visit.
Note the weathered wood clapboard structures called “the Shanties” throughout this picturesque river front area.

French “auberge” in Wisconsin

While touring with French song specialist Claudia Hommel, we had the great good fortune to become acquainted with Château De Père near Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Actually in the town of De Père (the natives pronounce it “ duh pier”), this 36 room inn boasts spa-like bathrooms, gas fireplaces and large flat screen TVs as well as a restaurant/bar named Cafe Chanson open for lunch and dinner. Right next door is the idyllic Voyageur Park running along the Fox River, perfect for dining al fresco. The next time you want to see the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, consider booking a room at this conveniently located and very French lodging option in the Green Bay environs.

Milwaukee Art Museum

Consider a day trip to Milwaukee to see the awe-inspiring Quadracci Pavilion, the Santiago Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum. On approach, the building shimmers like a giant white bird on the edge of Lake Michigan, the avian theme reinforced as the 217-foot wingspan unfolds twice daily. The Reiman Bridge provides a dramatic entryway to Windhover Hall, a 90-foot-high vaulted glass ceiling space where patrons buy tickets and decide their destinations. This is cutting edge architecture from the sweeping views to the Escher-like corridors to the clean lines of the ground floor cafe and terrace.
Don’t miss the old area of the museum where treasures await, from furniture to masterpieces from every era. Of particular note is the Mrs. Harry L. Bradley Collection, a whole floor of American and European masterpieces from the late 19th century to the early 1970’s. Mrs. Bradley had her own dining and living rooms set up in the museum so she could entertain guests amid her donated possessions.

Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 N. Art Museum Drive,
 Milwaukee, WI 53202
414-224-3200: visitor services