Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bookshop In the Sky

Gas Station Burrito

Fine Arts BuildingIn October 1907, a new bookstore opened on the seventh floor of the Fine Arts Building in downtown Chicago designed entirely by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Designed when Wright was thirty-nine years old and little known outside the circles of Chicago’s elite, Browne’s Bookshop was as unique for it intent to feel very much like a home library or study as for its location on the seventh floor, and despite its short life was known as “the most beautiful bookshop in the world.”

Wright modeled the glass lamp shades from the windows he’d designed for his childrens’ rooms, and organized the store’s bookshelves around reading tables to create cozy alcoves in which to explore.

Browne's BookshopFrancis Fisher Browne, the store’s owner and editor of the literary magazine The Dial, relocated the store to the building’s ground floor  in 1910 but closed it for good two years later.

While the Fine Arts Building…

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The Fight For and Against Landmark Status

Perhaps hoping to learn from past mistakes with the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright in Western New York, the Preservation Board has moved ahead with landmarking two of the homes he built in Buffalo.

William R. Heath House 1937
William R. Heath House 1937

Two Buffalo houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright were recommended for local landmark designation Thursday by the Buffalo Preservation Board. While the board has often been criticized for not acting quickly enough to protect the historic and significant buildings throughout Buffalo, not everyone is happy with their decision to move forward on these two properties.

Both the William R. Heath House and the Walter V. Davidson House were granted landmark status despite the owners’ objections.

Although the homes met seven of the nine criteria for landmarking, Nancy Schmid, who has owned the Heath House for 50 years, said she did not welcome the added tourist attention she feared landmarking could bring. People often come to her front door asking for tours of the home, unaware that its a private residence.

The Walter V. Davidson House 2009
The Walter V. Davidson House 2009

Likewise, Russ Maxwell, owner of the Davidson House and a former member of the Preservation Board, also objects to landmark status, claiming, “The property at 57 Tillinghast is in the finest condition in its 110-year history.”

Both Schmid and Maxwell have said they believe the homes should be landmarked in the future, but assert that since they have maintained the integrity of Wright’s designs and continue to use the homes as private residences, their wishes should override the Preservation Board’s decision.

The final decision will be up to the Buffalo Common Council, which will rule on the matter following a public hearing.  Since the Preservation Board has stated that their only responsibility is to the buildings themselves and the significance they represent for the community, perhaps the Common Council will be more willing to take the owners’ opinions and track records for stewardship of the properties into account.