Saturday, August 15, 2015 was “All Wright all day” in honor of Frank Lloyd Wright and the 75th anniversary of his completion of the Rosenbaum house. This iconic Usonian style house is located at 601 Riverview Dr. in Florence. The celebration consisted of three separate events throughout the day. It began at 10AM in the Richards Education Center (located next door to the Rosenbaum house) with a lecture from Mark Tlachac, director of the Child of the Sun Center in the historic district of Florida Southern College, the largest collection of buildings in a single location designed by Wright. Next the Florence Lauderdale Public Library hosted a viewing of Ken Burn’s “Frank Lloyd Wright” documentary. The day was completed at the Rosenbaum house with wine, hors d’oeurves and Will Stutts’ one man show entitled “An Evening with Frank Lloyd Wright”.
Frank Lloyd Wright was born Frank Lincoln Wright in 1867 in Richland Center, Wisconsin to William Carey Wright and Anna Lloyd Wright. Before birth, Anna stated that he would be an architect. She made sure his first toys were a set of wooden building blocks. When he was 14 his dad left the family behind, and in 1885 his parents divorced. Frank took up his mother’s family name, Lloyd.
He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, before apprenticing to the Adler & Sullivan architectural firm. There he learned the tricks of the trade and ascended to Master Draftsman. In 1893, with his gained knowledge and experience, he started his own practice designing Prairie homes.
Houses are a start, but public buildings make a career. His first was the Larkin Soap Company Administration Building. Completed in 1904, it was designed as an office cathedral, with a floor to roof open space and multiple levels of balconies. The critics gave bad reviews of the building, but the owners and the people who worked inside loved it.
In 1916 he began construction of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan. Taking into account frequent earthquakes, he designed the free standing hotel walls to be wider at the bottom and thinner at the top. 10 years later when the Great Kantō earthquake destroyed Tokyo, the Imperial Hotel was one of the only building left standing.
Wright’s book, The Disappearing City, outlined the Usonian Style. The term Usonia was coined by James Duff Law. Law, in his quest for a specific title for US citizens, stated “We of the United States, in justice to Canadians and Mexicans, have no right to use the title Americans when referring to matters pertaining exclusively to ourselves”. Wright took that concept and applied it to his craft.
Usonian style houses, such as the Rosenbaum house, make the living space reflect the surrounding land, and they are frequently made of materials from nearby. The color schemes are reminiscent of the local trees and grasses. Wright’s designs placed the long wall of the house parallel to the street. He would also have hidden or out of sight entrances. This was done to help block out the rest of the world when one is at home. The insides were not a series of boxes like other houses at the time. They were roaming expanses with an open floor plan.
Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum commissioned their house in 1939, and had Wright come back to do an addition. They were the sole owners until the city of Florence purchased the house, and turned it into the museum, in 1999. For more information, please see the Rosenbaum House Museum website.
Dan Gross was born and raised in the Shoals area. He is an Eagle Scout and attended the University of North Alabama. Now he continues his education through independent research and is a Shoals area musician. He believes in the sovereignty of individuals and that through personal responsibility we acquire personal freedom.