We split up our time in Chicago with an overnight trip to Wisconsin to see two Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, the Johnson Wax building in Racine, and Taliesin in Spring Green. Both were fantastic. The Johnson building is wonderful, a vast open plan office space with a glass ceiling made of tubes, supported by columns topped by concrete ‘lily pads’. There is another home in Racine called Wingspread that I really wanted to see too, but it was not open on the day we were there.
We managed to find a small vegetarian cafe in Racine where we had some soup for lunch before heading off to Spring Green to stay. Next morning we took a full 4 hour tour of the Taliesin estate.
Unfortunately, again there were no internal photos allowed.
I do love Wright’s interiors. They are designed as a whole – glass, furniture and fabrics all fit. The buildings are wonderful too and fit so well into the environment.
Wright was an early exponent of bringing the outside in and blurring the division between inside and outside, and Taliesin is full of astonishing vistas of the surrounding landscape. He also plays wonderful tricks like placing a panelled glass triptych view of an external pine tree next to an internal Japanese painted triptych featuring a pine, further blurring the distinctions.
Spring Green itself is an anomaly in lots of ways. It is a small town of about 1500 people, but its proximity to both Taliesin and the American Players Theatre means that it supports a fabulous bookshop/cafe and a slow food general store cafe that it probably otherwise could not. The bookshop itself is worthy of a visit and would put many larger cities in its shadow. We ate at both the bookshop and the store during our stay and managed vegan food at both without drawing any strange looks that you might normally get in a small town. At the bookshop we really enjoyed our basil and sweet, last of the summer, heirloom tomato pizza which we ordered without cheese. We had a glass of wine and a chat with the bookstore owner.
When I ordered the dairy free chilli plate at the general store I commented to the waiter that I supposed that it was a bit odd in Wisconsin, which is the dairy state of the USA, and she smiled and said she wouldn’t tell anyone.
On our way back to Chicago we went via Madison to see Monona Terrace, a large performance and conference venue by Wright on the shore of the lake. We also spotted the very grand Capitol building.
Arcadia Bookshop (The Kitchen at Arcadia)
102 E Jefferson St, Spring Green, WI
Spring Green General Store
137 South Albany Street, Spring Green, WI