Random Notes - A Blog


30 April 2006
Good friend and Purcell & Elmslie guru Mark Hammons flatteringly mentions The Prairie School Traveler in his blog. Mark's contribution to the PST has been profound, though not in the obvious sense of sending street addresses or building dates. The initial idea of the PST as a website grew out of visiting Mark’s site, which, beyond its thoughtful commentary, is a model of clear design and informational value. I have shamelessly cribbed aspects of his visual concept, though I readily admit the PST lacks the refinement of Mark’s pages. Still, I think that the clear presentation of valuable information is beautiful in its own way, and have been gratified to find that Mark and others think so too.

26 April 2006
Randolph C. Henning, AIA, an architect and generous visitor to this site, forwards two fascinating picture postcards.

The first is a bank in Louisville, Ohio, a building that merges in a simplified way Louis Sullivan’s Owatonna, Minnesota and Sidney, Ohio banks.

Randy aptly describes his second image as “quirky Prairie”. Check out several other PS religious buildings on this site: one in Omaha and another in Des Moines. Unity Temple and the Larkin Administration Building are clearly in the mind of the designers of these churches.

Please let me know if you have information about either of these interesting buildings, so that I can share it with the PS community.

21 April 2006
I take no particular joy in announcing the appearance of a page of this site devoted to Prairie School buildings that have been demolished. Although the number of citations there is currently small, sadly there are many more that can, and eventually will, be added.

Of course, this is not a Prairie issue, but one that affects our entire built environment. While the restoration of historic houses is a welcome aspect of the present fevered real estate market, the building boom has also prompted an unprecedented wave of teardowns. One’s disappointment might be mitigated if the new buildings had any sense of architectural responsibility, but regretably, many are vain attempts to outdo the Joneses with larger master bedroom suites, bigger hot tubs and pricier commercial appliances, all located under roofs with improbable numbers of useless gables. One detects no spiritual sense of home in these structures.

I am not an exclusive partisan of Prairie School architecture. It pains me just as strongly when a worthy Victorian or Lustron house is demolished. The point of remembering these lost buildings is to encourage us to make our neighbors and friends aware of the value of good design, historical continuity, and responsible stewardship.

19 April 2006
Madison, Salt Lake City, La Crosse, Sioux City…probably not very high on the list of must-visit places for the average architectural tourist. But to those in the know, these smaller cities possess a wealth of Prairie design, reflecting the local adaptation of the style. Paul Ringstrom, a generous visitor to this site, sends a large collection of photographs from La Crosse showing the richness that developed there. Centered largely around the person of Percy Dwight Bentley, the La Crosse branch of the Prairie School reveals how architects were influenced by travel and the architectural press, since Bentley and his associates, who never worked directly with any of the primary PS practitioners like Sullivan or Wright, nevertheless produced sophisticated examples of the style.

Bentley’s earlier buildings show an appreciation for the work of prominent PS architects. The 1913 Chase/Wohluter bungalows suggest familiarity with Griffin’s 1908 Twin Houses for John Gauler. Griffinesque corner piers are clearly seen in Bentley’s 1910 Bartl and 1912 Fix houses. Both of these Bentley dwellings also incorporate a stairway set a 45° to the body of the house, a notable feature of Purcell & Elsmlie’s 1910 Edna S. Purcell House.

Further information about Bentley can be found on the excellent Prairie Styles website.


Old Notes



As always, I welcome your comments about this site or any Prairie School building.

John A. Panning, Lake City, Iowa






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