In the final words of his autobiography Frank Lloyd Wright wrote what could serve as his epitaph: “Keep the young generation in health, and bequeath to them no tumbled house.”
Based on that comment, Mr. Wright would be proud of Wichita. Over the past few years, a group of citizens has been slowly restoring the Wright designed Allen-Lambe House, located at 2nd Street and Roosevelt. The Allen-Lambe House Foundation has purchased several places of original furnishings. The foundation also has 23 pieces of furniture on loan from the Wichita State University Endowment Association.
The Restoration reflects a renewed interest in Mr Wright, often considered the foremost American architect of the 20th century. He is the subject, for example, of a current exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Although universally acclaimed today, Mr Wright was reviled by much of the arts establishment during his life. In Mr. Wright’s most creative years – the mid 1920s through 1940s – the arts elite was enamored by the soulless Bauhaus and other modernist styles. Mr. Wright was looked upon as something of a crank.
Because of the antipathy of the arts establishment, Mr. Wright won a few prestigious commissions. No federal or state government sought his work. One of his few college campus designs is the Corbin Education Center at Wichita State University.
In fact, were it not for some private patrons and business executives, Mr. Wright might have been forgotten. Thanks to them, the nation has the Johnson Wax complex in Wisconsin, the Fallingwater house in Pennsylvania and the Guggenhelm Museum building in New York City – in addition to the Allen-Lambe House commissioned by Wichita Journalist henry Allen and his wife, Elsie.
Although a Wisconsin native, Frank Lloyd Wright, who was a friend of Emporia editor William Allen White, seemed in tune with Kansas tastes. But, then that might be why he is such a great American artist.