I’ve become an armchair architecture buff after spending so much time in Chicago. When Mrs. O’Leary’s cow brought the city to her knees, the vacant, ash-singed lots provided the inspiration to rebuild Chicago in a new and glorious fashion. From the First Chicago School architects who perfected the fireproof metal frame of the world’s initial skyscrapers to the Bauhaus influence of the city’s skyline, Chicago manages to seduce anyone who crosses her path. My personal journey, however, didn’t start with Chicago’s beauty or size or influence, but rather with the Prairie School’s most famous pupil, Frank Lloyd Wright.
Chicago and the greater Midwest provide a backdrop for Wright’s work—from his first studio in Oak Park to his Taliesin masterpiece in Spring Green, WI. It seems as though every other town plays host to a Wright beauty. I’ve been on every tour imaginable, attended every lecture possible, and snooped around enough privately-owned Wright houses to receive one-too-many evil eyes. You can study, dream, and covet for only so long before you start longing for more. That’s when I discovered Seth Peterson Cottage, nestled in Wisconsin’s Mirror Lake State Park.
Seth Peterson Cottage was not discovered until the early 1980s, when a lone-boater spotted its ruins from the lake. One of Wright’s last commissions, the cottage has been painstakingly restored and can now be rented out for a memorable wilderness get away. Perched on a wooded bluff overlooking the lake, this 900-square foot cottage manages to highlight Wright’s most important architectural signatures, including a soaring, suspended roof that frames the best views; the play of shadow and light; the use of natural, local resources (and, in this case, the clever use of inexpensive materials); and the illusion of vastness in a surprisingly intimate space. But, most importantly, this landmark can be solely and privately yours. The cottage is so hidden, that we didn’t see another living sole during our entire 48-hour stay. Its remoteness provided the perfect way to enjoy one of Wright’s works as intended: The union of nature and architecture at its best and most beautiful. Details: www.sethpeterson.org