Built or Not?

When no photographs are known of a work, we wonder if truly it was built. When the Taliesin archives state that it was, we work on the basis that they are right. This led to some errors in the first edition of The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, a complete catalog. Most of the incorrect listings in the list attributed to Bruce Radde, but actually assembled by John Ottenheimer, in Raeburn and Kaufmann's Frank Lloyd Wright; Writings and Buildings were found simply because the listed buildings wheren't there. This, however, did not solve the problem of buildings that had been built but were not on the list, a problem that was only solved, and then only partially, with publication a quarter century later of The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion. Here all the Erdman prefabs were finally listed, but some Richards prefabs remained to be found.


Then there were problems such as the Jamestown Exhibition Pavilion, S.132, at Sewell Point, Norfolk, Virginia, now a naval base. The on-duty commander of the base drove me to the supposed site, and there was no trace of the building, and their records did not indicate any structure haveing been on the site. So I deleted it from the second edition of the Catalog. Good way to find a lost building! No sooner than I did this two academics found photos, just as I found a copy of The Official Blue Book of the Jamestown Ter-Centenial Exposition with both external and internal photos of the structure.

Maybe, if there is doubt, I should just claim a work was not built and wait for some academic to gleefully prove me wrong!


Another structure which I considered built and listed in the Companion was the Horseshoe Inn, S.143, for Willard Ashton west of Estes Park, Colorado. In this instance I was helped by a marvelous librarian at the Estes Park Public Library. She took me into the national park valley west of her town and we found the site of the Horseshoe Inn. Again, no trace of any construction could be found. We had other evidence in this instance. Newspaper ads for the original Inn for Ashton continued to run, with a picture of the original inn, in local newspapes for at least a decade after the date for the Wright-design. Then something propitious happened; south of the Wright site was the site of the old inn. Remains of that first building were much in evidence. Not only that, but, miracle of miracles, a granddaughter of Ashton was at the site on the day I was there; she confirmed that her grandfather had never built the Wright design.


As to the Grace Fuller house, S.123, I had it directly from John H Howe that he remembers it. I revisited the site this summer, and the space is vacant, a nice grassy lawn.


Regarding the C. Thaxter Shaw Residence, S.124, I personally saw what looked like a Wright fireplace, which I could only view from the doorway to the apartment, as the owners would not permit me entry. The building was torn down and no photos are known of the interior remodeling or of the demolition (which, at the appropriate moment, would have exposed the interior).

Note, all these are very early Wright works, the late part of the first decade of the century. The one remaining problem comes from two decades later.


Damietta is lso known as Dumyât, and even with Egyptians spelling Damietta several different ways, this is the right branch of the Nile in the Nile delta region. Thirty miles further east is the Suez Canal Mediterranean entry point. Between these two is Lake Manzala which, at times, comes within 200 yards of the Mediterranean. Again, no photos survive, if the work was built. For the Companion, I contacted a Cairo University (the English university) professor for help. He argued that these cottages, if built, would instead have been on Lake Manzala, not the Mediterranean, and so that is what I indicated in the Companion.

Having now visited Damietta, and driven the route east to Port Said, I am inclined to disagree. The edges of the lake for the most part are shallow and reed infested, without sand beach. Even today there are virtually no dwellings on this lake. Delivering food to any place of habitation, temporary or permanent, on the deserted strip of sand between Damietta and Port Said, would have been difficult. Remember, there was no refrigeration at that time, so food would have had to have been preserved (not an inviting idea for cullinary interest even then) or delivered fresh daily. Even today, electricity is available only near Port Said to the east, or in the town of Damietta at the Nile.

Râs el Barr, however, may be a possibility to explain the existence of the cottages. It is further down the Nile, closer to the Mediterranean Sea. How far might the cottages have been from this last provisioning site? Could small boats, such as the punts that are widely used on the Nile, have taken fresh food to cottages on the Mediterranean near Râs el Barr? It is a possibility. I am hoping that commercial satellite photographs will show this beach area, still undeveloped compared to Alexandria on the west branch of the Nile and which is overrun by Europeans, will reveal the impress of the twenty-six foot square concrete mats on which the cottages were erected. We can see the trails of the 1800s wagon trains across the great plains from airplanes and satellites, so this is not an impossibility.

Now, does anyone have photos?