frank lloyd wright's 1892 harlan house documented shortly before its demolition after devastating fire in 1963

richard nickel images of frank lloyd wright's dr. alison w. harlan house (1892) shortly after tragic fire in 1963 that led to its demolition. thankfully both interior and exterior fret-sawn wood panels were saved, including a restored soffit panel from underside of main balony supported in part by large metal brackets.


nickel documented the interior, including the charred remains of the staircase landing newel post and fireplace mosaic surround featuring a garland swag, which was a popular design motif used repeatedly in wright's early work.


interestingly, the harlan house was located close to sullivan's residence and according to wright, who was still working for adler and sullivan at the time, recalled sullivan's discovery of the house as the reason for his termination. sullivan however, new about wright's off-hours work (which was a violation of his contract to work exclusively for the firm), but kept quiet until their working relationship began to fall apart, at which time sullivan used harlan and his other "bootleg" commissions as an excuse to fire him.

images courtesy of ryerson and burnham, art institute of chicago.

eric o' malley, who is a graphic designer by trade, and co-founder of wright society, provided this visually stunning graphic he created from images of the harlan house fret-sawn wood door grille. the image and description (in his own words) are provided below.

"Tim Samuelson, the Cultural Historian for the City of Chicago, was working on an exhibit in 2012 titled "Wright's Roots" and wanted to try and recreate Wright's Harlan House fret sawn wood grille design from photographs. His goal was to re-draw the pattern as a digital file so we could have it laser cut and stained to resemble the original wood grille. It took some time and back and forth between Tim and I but I was able to faithfully re-create the design of the pattern. We subsequently had it laser cut out of 1/2" oak veneered MDF panels and stained to match the look and finish of the original. The result was stunning and a wonderful exercise in using 21st Century technology to bring lost designs back to life."

more about wright's dr. allison harlon house and other 19th century wright commissions can be found below, in volume 5, issue 2 of the journal of organic architecture and design, with images, artifacts, and insights by chicago's cultural historian, tim samuelson.

update as of 3-18-2019:

a colleague of mine has a richard nickel contract sheet with images of the fret-sawn wood ornament after being removed from the house and placed on the ground to document. the ornament, in the form of a few soffit panels and charred section of the interior newel, was later given to the same individual who is in possession of the contact print. i hope to document the actual fragments in the near future, but in the meantime, i've provided additional nickel photos of wright's ornament removed from the house before demolition.

further reading:

A PHOTOGRAPHIC STUDY OF ADLER AND SULLIVAN'S JAMES CHARNLEY HOUSE INTERIOR ORNAMENT

CAST PLASTER COVE MOLDING FROM LOUIS SULLIVAN-DESIGNED ALBERT SULLIVAN RESIDENCE JOINS BLDG. 51 MUSEUM COLLECTION

DESIGN ELEMENTS FROM ADLER & SULLIVAN'S TRANSPORTATION BUILDING PRESERVED THROUGH ALBERT SULLIVAN HOUSE DEMOLITION

BLDG. 51 MUSEUM ACQUIRES FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT-DESIGNED ROBERT P. PARKER "BOOTLEG HOUSE" WINDOW

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