Our first stop in Michigan is at the Meinert Park and Campground in Montague which is on the lower peninsula west side about halfway up. We are staying in a county park and it’s just lovely here. We got, I think, the best site in the park, in a corner with trees and ferns and grasses on the two sides that our big windows are on.
We’re under half a mile to a beach and sand dunes as well, so we can walk there. No dogs on the beach so we’re limited to walking around in the parking lot.
THe downsides here are that our wi-fi is really poor and we barely have phone reception. But, it’s just for 5 days. Another downside is that someone in the area shoots a gun several times at night. We’ve woken to the sound of gunshots almost every night. Makes me think we’re in East L.A.!
Here’s a picture of the woods just outside our front door:
While on the western side of the lower peninsula of Michigan we visited a beach in Muskegon. It was a small beach with a boardwalk through the sand dunes that were covered in grasses.
There was surf today! A storm is heading our way from the west and it’s creating quite a good surf, which a local told me only happens when there’s a high wind coming from the west. THe rest of the time it’s very calm.
The beach has very fine white sand. The section we went to is a dog beach so Laddy got to enjoy it too.
While in the Chicago area we visited another Frank Lloyd Wright home – this one he built for himself and his family. This is an earlier house than the others in the area. He was young and just starting his family when this house was built, and it was added on to several times over the years as his family grew – he and his wife had six children.
This house showed that he was starting to design in the style that became so famously unique to him. The decorative windows, decorative panels covering lights and skylights, the wood detail all show in this house.
The six children shared two fairly small rooms and there was just one bathroom in the house. But, the children had a separate playroom that is the largest and most beautiful room in the house. The ceiling was barrel shaped and had beautiful skylights as well as several other windows. It had a large fireplace and an interesting mural on the wall. It had bookshelves and lots of cupboards for games and toys. It also had a grand piano – Wright didn’t like the idea of a grand piano taking up so much floor space so he built an alcove for it in a wall that had a staircase behind the wall. The back of the piano was actually suspended over the staircase and you had to duck a little to get past it. I’ll bet when someone was playing that piano the sound in the stairwell was deafening!
When he first built the house Wright took the elevated train just a couple of blocks ago into the city, but as his business grew he built a studio on the property and worked from there. As with all his designs, the studio was beautiful, with skylights covered in decorative panels, lots of wood, etc.
I didn’t like the style of this house and studio as much as I like the prairie style, but it was still a wonderful example of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture style.
When we visited the Emil Bach house we saw that it was just a couple of blocks from Lake Michigan, so we walked down to the lake shore. There is a small beach and park there where people can enjoy the sand (ugh!), the water and the breeze from the lake, which really did cool things down a bit.
The lake is huge, except for the lack of waves I could have standing at the ocean. We didn’t see any large ships, there were a few small boats. But, on a day that hit 90 degrees, there were lots of people!
Another Frank Lloyd Wright house in the Chicago area was built in 1915 for Emil Bach and his family. The Bachs were not rich as so many of FLW clients were, so their house is smaller and has fewer leaded glass windows, just 2 in each bedroom. But, the design and attention to detail are still very visible.
This house has less emphasis on the horizontalness than the Robie House; it was built on a small city lot and therefore is a much smaller house. The front of the house faces west and also the street which was a busy street even in 1915. The windows on the west side are recessed which really cut down on the traffic noise and hot afternoon sun.
The entrance is not visible from the street. You have to walk along the path past the side of the house and actually to the back of the house. The entrance in this house isn’t as cramped vertically as some of FLW houses, but it’s small and narrow and once you are escorted into the house you must turn, go up some steps, turn again and then turn again to get into the great room. FLW liked to have entrances and hallways be places where you feel a lack of space so when you enter a room you are impressed with how the space opens up and invites you in.
This house is unique in that it is privately owned. It was heavily renovated in the 60s and all the beautiful woodwork and nooks and crannies were covered over so the rooms were plain and squared off. Also, while a few pieces of furniture were given to a museum, most were sold or tossed. In the 90s when the current owners purchased the house they renovated it back to as close as original as possible, tearing out the covered over walls to expose the original color and woodword, and replacing cabinets, windows and furniture as closely as possible to what shows in old photos. They did a beautiful job! One reason is that this house can be rented out for a weekend…they only do tours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the rest of the week the house can be rented, totally furnished. It’s not cheap! Depending on the season, it might be as high as $1,800 per night with a 2-night minimum!
We’re staying about 1.5 hours west of Chicago this week, in a small town called Marengo, IL. Even this far out there are a lot of subdivisions going up and large malls with Lowes, Walmarts and all the smaller shops that pop up in suburbia.
But, the RV park we’re staying in, Lehman’s Lakeside RV Resort, is quite rural. There’s a freeway just past the cornfield in the photo, but from our site you can barely hear it. As we drive to and from this place we see horses, cattle, lots of cornfields and old houses with huge barns and silos. Just a few miles away is suburbia which is nice for shopping etc., but we can come home and watch the corn grow!
While in Chicago we wanted to visit several of Frank Lloyd Wrights houses in the area. The Robie House is one of the most famous FLW houses and his best example of the “Prairie Style” house which is intended to fit and flow with the landscape of the Amerian prairie.
The Robie House was built in 1909-1911 while most architecture was still modeled after European designs – high turrets, grand entrances, emphasis on tallness. FLW felt that horizontal lines better captured the essence of the prairie.
This house was unique in the time it was built as it has a 3 car garage! Most houses still had stables, but Mr. Robie designed automobiles and was very modern and wanted his own car, one for his wife, and the third stall is for making repairs which was often necessary in the early days of the automobile.
Two servants lived with the Robies and their quarters were above the garage. The servants quarters flowed into the kitchen where they spent much of their time. The kitchen was quite modern, large and with an island which was unusual. Mr. Robie’s mother who needed much attention was right across the hall from the kitchen, also unusual but allowed the servants to care for her easily.
Frank Lloyd Wright often considered how a family lived when he designed a house for them and it shows in this house. While the bedrooms (master and 2 bedrooms for the children) are on the upper floor, there’s a children’s playroom on the ground floor near the billiard room. He also felt that entrances and hallways should be small and thus encouraged a person to pass through them and into the living spaces which opened up and welcomed you in. Therefore, the main entrance to the house was not visible from the street, and was small and cramped. The main entrance led into a foyer that was also fairly small and the main living areas were not visible from the foyer, to allow some privacy for the family until visitors were escorted into the main areas.
The Robies only lived in the house for one year before financial difficulties forced them to sell. The next family only lived there for about a year as well. The third family lived in the house for several years but after they sold it the house was used as a dormitory for a theology college, student housing, etc. It was vacant for many years as well. The condition of the house detiorated badly and the house was slated for demolition twice. Both times Frank Lloyd Wright himself came back to Chicago and fought to keep the house.
In the mid-90s a foundation purchased the home and they are slowly renovating it. Most of the furniture is in museums and the plan is to build replicas of much of the furniture once the structure itself is renovated.
The lack of furniture and slow renovation made the tour not quite as grand it as the house should be, but it was still a great tour.
While in Kansas City we went to a restaurant that serves the unique Kansas City style BBQ. We chose Char Bar. It was pretty close to the downtown area and was very upscale but comfortable. I had a pulled turkey sandwich and Jeff had a brisket sandwich.
While in the Chicago area we wanted to go to a pizza place and get a Chicago-style deep dish pizza. We found a neighborhood place in an area called Falco’s Pizza in the Brighton Park neighborhood of Chicago. Falco’s had a Cubs game going on the TVs and several guys were there to watch the game. It has a pool table and some young people were there playing pool. It’s small and not at all touristy which is what we wanted.
We ordered a medium (14″) pan pizza with mushrooms, onions and olives on it. We waited for about 40 minutes for the pizza and we were starting to wonder what was going on. Then it arrived!
Oh man, it was HUGE! It was about 2″ deep and the edges even deeper. It was LOADED with cheese, I said it must have 10 pounds of cheese on it and I don’t think that’s too far off the base. It was REALLY delicious but we could only eat one slice each. The rest had to go in a box and that box was really heavy!
We’ll be eating pizza for several days I think! Here’s a picture of it: