Taliesin West – The Desert Camp

Name: Taliesin West

Year Built:(Started in) 1939

Style: Organic Architecture (Desert Camp Style)

Website: http://franklloydwright.org/taliesin-west/

HINT: Buy your tickets ahead of time, especially if you are visiting in the spring. With spring training in full swing, tours at Taliesin West are very popular. There are also many to choose from. Thus far, I have enjoyed the Night Lights Tour, Insights Tour and Behind the Scenes Tour. If you are a member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, you receive two complimentary tickets for the Insights Tour, just be ready to show your Trust Membership Card.  Wear comfortable walking shoes! and sunscreen! Bring a light jacket for any night time tours. It gets chilly in the desert at night!

I have been fortunate enough to have first visited this magical site for the first time at the age of 12. I remember begging my aunt and uncle to take me while vacationing with them in Scottsdale. To be fair, I didn’t (really) even know Taliesin West existed until my father recommended I visit. (He had not yet visited this FLLW landmark yet and wanted me to experience the desert camp he knew was one of FLLW’s greatest creations). Nonetheless, my begging worked and my aunt took me for a tour. I was equipped with my disposable camera and a very excited attitude.  I still have these photos.

Fast forward 20 years and I made my way back to this desert paradise, this time as an adult equipped with my iPhone camera and my father.  We flew in to Phoenix on Friday night with just enough time to take the last Night Lights Tour. Taliesin West at night is quite enchanting. I absolutely understand why FLLW fell in love with the desert, especially at night. The air is cool, the stars are shining and the sounds are peaceful. On the tour, I tried desperately to take photos, but the lighting was not working with my camera. I decided to enjoy the sites and sounds without the hassle of trying to capture every detail. (I had also already obtained a ticket for the morning Insights tour).

The way FLLW experimented and played with lighting is apparent at this desert camp. We were told he “invented” lots of different lighting that are now used today including pathway lights and recessed lighting, most notably seen in the Kiva. Throughout the desert camp, you can see FLLW’s playfulness with shapes cast from the soft lighting used to guide the residents, and now tourists, through this desert masterpiece.

Outside the Kiva is the fire breathing dragon. We were told it only breathes fire at night so the Night Lights Tour is the only opportunity for most tourists to see this in real time.

The Night Lights Tour takes you outside and inside exploring many of the buildings on the grounds. You are taken inside FLLW’s living quarters and even get to sit on the furniture including the butterfly chairs (my personal favorite).

During the Insights Tour, we covered many of the same spots with the exception of the Theatre that we visited at night. Inside the Theatre is an abstract painting of Midway Gardens, (in my opinion) one of the finest buildings ever created and greatest losses to not only Chicago, but the world. Rumor has it the ruins remain in Lake Michigan where they were used to fill in swamp ground. Maybe one day I will dive and try to find some remains…but I digress.

Speaking of the remains of Midway Gardens, several Sprites were save and now live at Taliesin West! Two of them live outside FLLW’s living quarters and have been painted. (The Sprites are my absolute favorite)!

I took lots of photos during the morning Insights Tour, which I have shared for your viewing pleasure.  Photos are encouraged with the exception of inside the working studio. Taliesin West is the winter home to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and also houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.




A. W. Gridley House

Name: A. W. Gridley House

Location: 605 North Batavia Road, Batavia, Illinois

Year Built: 1906

Style: Prairie Style

Website: http://flwright.org/researchexplore/wrightbuildings/gridleyhouse

After my visit to the P.D. Hoyt House in Geneva, IL, I searched for FLW’s other sites located in the region. Hailing from the south side of Chicago, the (north?)western suburbs of Chicago have always been a mystery to me.  I located the A. W. Gridley House on the map and went on my way. Driving south on Route 31, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but knew what to look for, a Prairie Style house.  Route 31 follows the Fox River so it is easy to be distracted by the beautiful landscape and river views, but no fear, the A. W. Gridley House cannot be missed.

The A. W. Gridley House is located in Batavia, IL, a western suburb of Chicago, just west of the P.D. Hoyt House in Geneva, IL. The A. W. Gridley House was built by FLW in 1906. It was named the “Ravine House” by FLW himself. The house sat on 15 acres with a wildflower ravine on the south side of the property.

The house now sits on a modest lot, but nothing close to the original 15 acres. It sits up on top of a gently sloping hill providing views of the Fox River across the street. I can only imagine the views this house hosted in 1906 when it stood by itself on 15 acres.

HINT: If you are traveling south on Route 31, you may miss the infamous FLW side porch with overhanging eaves due to the less than modest speed limit and distracting river views.  I recommend turning on Timber Trail and parking your car.  There is a sidewalk that runs between the house and Route 31 providing visitors with a guilt free viewing area of the A. W. Gridley House. There is also a historic sign commemorating the house and site, paying tribute to Mrs. Gridley.

The front of the house boasts a beautiful front porch area. I imagine once the doors to the porch are open, the outside floods the inside, as FLW must have intended. The house shape is similar to a crucifix formation which can be found in other FLW Prairie Style house designs.

The Prairie Style house my father designed and built also has a crucifix design formation; I remember him pointing this out to me as a child and not understanding the significance, but now I understand. He was paying tribute to FLW while building his own Prairie Style house.

I tried to find additional information on Mrs. A. W. Gridley, but unfortunately, this information is not as easy to find. From what I gathered, Mrs. A. W. Gridley met FLW through her connection with Mr. P. D. Hoyt. Like most FLW homeowners, Mrs. A. W. Gridley suffered financial difficulties and only lived in the house a short time.