Random Notes - A Blog


25 February 2007
When business takes me on the road, my side trips generally involve visits with inanimate buildings. A recent trip to Los Angeles, however, gave me the opportunity to visit with a decidely animate Mark Hammons, the man behind the curtain at Organica. While his interests cover the entire Prairie School gamut, Mark has especially brought into public consciousness the work and thought of William Gray Purcell, founder of the partnership best known as Purcell & Elmslie. The most commissioned PS firm after Frank Lloyd Wright, P&E brought to fruition the promise of Sullivan’s later work and advanced progressive American architecture within the framework of a stable organization (in rather stark contrast to Wright, whose business shenanigans were legendary even in his own day).

For me, the most remarkable aspect of Organica is the reproduction of Purcell’s Parabiographies, his reflections on individual P&E buildings and the personalities associated with them. They are by turns folksy and profound, prosaic and poetic. The cheek-and-jowl relationship of comments about wood trim details with musings on the influence of architecture in modern life reveals that the practical was never very far from the philosophical. It in large measure explains why the firm’s work remains so satisfying almost a century later.

If you have found any interest in these pages, you must visit Organica, which has provided so much inspiration for my own efforts.

10 February 2007
Butch Kmet, a Salt Lake City resident, has been sending photographs of Utah PS buildings, which are proving very interesting. Today’s additions include the Ladies Literary Club, and the Central Park Ward Chapel. The former is notable for its charming Wright/Drummondesque details and busy trimwork, while the latter appears to be a melding of the Larkin building and some of Barry Byrne’s mid-career work.

Miles Miller, the author of the Central Park Ward Chapel and the previously mentioned Parowan chapel, was for a time a partner of Clifford Percy Evans and Taylor Woolley, both former Wright employees. I am quickly seeing, based on Butch’s photos, that a very intriguing dissertation might be written on the choice of the Prairie style by the Latter-Day Saints for its chapels.

4 February 2007
Phil Adams continues to send interesting images to fill out pages in the Chicago area. You’ll see additions in River Forest, Oak Park and some of the northern suburbs.

The state of Utah, currently existing in these pages only as a list of buildings that we hope are still standing, is poised to acquire some flesh and bones. Check out the Third/Fourth Ward Chapel in Parowan, which seems to be equal parts Larkin Building and Austin Congregational Church.



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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