Location: Lake Delavan in Wisconsin
Year Built: 1900 (Boathouse) House (1901)
Style: Prairie Style
The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust puts on tours throughout the region and appropriately calls these tours Wright in the Region. A friend of mine has a house on Delavan Lake which has provided me the opportunity to glimpse the FLLW houses who make their home on the lake, but I’ve never been up close and personal. Wright in the Region afforded me the opportunity to visit Penwern this May.
Penwern is a summer getaway built for businessman and bachelor, Fred B. Jones; a “cottage” to escape the grind of the city, to host guests and basically to party. It is hard to believe that such a beautiful home was built to be used as a bachelor pad. I especially love the yellow and green color scheme and romantic arches.
Our tour was given by Mark Hertzberg, a journalist and photographer, who is currently photographing the estate and writing a book about Penwern. The gracious stewards of Penwern allowed us to roam the estate including the main house and boat house. (and take photographs!) As with most FLLW houses, the photographs do not do it justice.
The house sits on Delavan Lake just west of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The house was built on quite a large bit of property, but today some of the property has been sold off and remaining buildings on the property include the gatehouse, stables, main house and boat house. We were able to explore the gatehouse, main house and boathouse. (The house next door is a Prairie style designed house!)
The gatehouse is almost the only building you can see from South Shore Road. It is much larger inside than it looks from the outside, but that may be because it shares the property with the grand main house. The gatehouse is very bright and airy inside and of course includes roman brick fireplaces.
The main house is built with its attention on Delavan Lake. Just to get to the main house, you have to follow FLLW’s infamous Pathway of Discovery. As the hill slopes towards the lake, the main house grows in size and splendor. The entrance to the main house sits under the archway and is somewhat hidden. Again, in true FLLW fashion your attention is on the house, the arches, the lake…it is easy to miss the front door which is much larger than most.
The inside of the main house has two fireplaces, both built with the roman bricks FLLW loved so much. The room that is now being used as the billiards room has a secret room housed behind a bookcase/bar type structure. I remember touring the Dana-Thomas House as a little girl and thinking how much fun it would be to play hide-and-go-seek in that house, but a secret room?! I can only imagine how much fun children (and adults!) would have with a secret room.
The living room overlooks the outside porch with the view of Delavan Lake framed by the romantic archway. If I lived here, I would sit on this porch all day, everyday. I can imagine how serene and peaceful it must be to sink into the porch with the house archway highlighting the beauty of the lake and foliage around you.
The boathouse sits between the land and water. The best view of the boathouse is from the lake. While it is a beauty from land, it is eye candy from the water. Again, you don’t realize how large the boathouse is because of how grand the main house is, but after setting foot inside the boathouse porch and traversing the boat storage area, this boathouse is the size of some houses! You don’t see many FLLW arches as the horizontals tend to be the favorite in the Prairie style houses, so maybe that is why the arches on the boathouse are so breathtaking. And the colors! Green and yellow. Trees and sun. How perfect of an accent color to highlight the blueness of the lake.
Hint: If you have the opportunity to get on Delavan Lake in a boat, go past the FLLW houses, especially Penwern. Penwern is not open to the public for tours, but is sometimes included in Wright in the Region and through events hosted by Wright in Wisconsin.
Only the Great Lakes start their names with ‘Lake,’ i.e. Lake Michigan. All smaller lake names end their names with ‘Lake,’ i.e. Geneva Lake and Delavan Lake.