Photo Essay: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wisconsin

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Lloyd-Jones family chapel

Near Spring Green, Wisconsin

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Welcome to the Unity Chapel

In 1844, Richard and Mallie (Mary) Lloyd-Jones and their seven children left rural Wales to seek religious freedom and opportunity in America. Unitarians by belief, farmers by occupation, they endured the hardships of immigration, the loss of one child, and the American births of four more before they settled here, in rural Wyoming Valley, in the mid-1860s.

In time, a subscription was taken to build this small house of worship. Named “Unity Chapel” by the Lloyd-Jones family, this three-room, shingle-style “cottage church” was completed in 1886. It combined the talents of famed Chicago architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee and “a boy architect belonging to the family (who) looked after (its) interior.” That “boy architect” was Frank Lloyd Wright.

The chapel became a worship center, community meeting house, school and magnet for family and neighbors. Around it stretches the family graveyard.

Many of the sons and daughters of Richard and Mallie became farmers in the surrounding valley. Son Jenkin Lloyd-Jones became a famous Unitarian minister in Chicago. He funded the nearby Tower Hill summer retreat, and brought many diverse pastors, rabbis and monks to preach in this remote, rural chapel.

In 1887, sisters sisters Jenny (Jane) and Nell (Ellen) Lloyd-Jones created the Hillside Home School on the site of Richard and Mallie’s homestead. Their “boy architect” nephew designed its Home Building, and his “Romeo and Juliet” windmill and Stone Schoolhouse still stand today, retaining the “Hillside” name.

In 1974, Unity Chapel was placed on the National Register for Historic Places. It is a magnet for new generations of Lloyed-Joneses, neighbors and friends, whose weddings, funerals, musicales, and summer services continue to bring life to this tiny, historic “cottage church.”

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IMG_5091-2Front porch.

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IMG_5089-2Interior. They certainly don’t make it easy to spy.

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IMG_5104-2Burial plot, Frank Lloyd Wright, though the tomb is empty…

Wright’s third, and final, wife, Olgivanna Lloyd Wright (1898 – 1985), willed that her husband’s remains should be mixed with hers and cremated, their ashes scattered on the land surrounding their other home (Taliesin West) in Arizona. The Lloyd Wright family told her family absolutely not. So, naturally, Olgivanna’s family snuck into the cemetery in the middle of the night, dug up Wright’s remains and carried out their plans.

Naturally.

So saith the tour guide at Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, Taliesin (the other one – photos to come), in Spring Green, WI. Blame him if you find evidence to the contrary. I have yet to fully fact check but so far I’ve found nothing to corroborate his statement.

Hmm.

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