A New Day for Wright in Wisconsin and for Burnham Block

George Hall, left, and Mike Lilek formalize the reorganization. Photo (c) Mark Hertzberg

August 8, 2017

In an effort to increase capacity and focus on diverging missions, the board of Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin voted unanimously this week to reorganize into two distinct organizations. The first, Wright in Wisconsin, will continue to promote, protect and preserve the heritage of Frank Lloyd Wright, his vision and his architecture, in his native state of Wisconsin. The newly created Frank Lloyd Wright's Burnham Block will focus exclusively on developing that historic site, located in Milwaukee, which includes six examples of Wright's American System-Built Homes.

For you, as a member, this is a “twofer." Until your existing membership expires, whether that is December 2017 or in some cases 2018, you will be members of both Wright in Wisconsin and the new Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block. All your member benefits, including the free tour at Burnham, are valid for the duration of your membership. Those whose membership entitles you to participation in the national Frank Lloyd Wright Reciprocal Sites program will continue to receive that perk as well. In short, nothing will change.

With the recent creation of the Frank Lloyd Wright state trail, the celebration of the 150th anniversary of his birth, and increased attendance at Wright & Like tours, the architect's legacy has never been stronger in Wisconsin. We were first created in 1991 with the assistance of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the State of Wisconsin Department of Tourism, and have taken on many projects over the years, including Burnham Block. But this growth also presented challenges, and we recognized we were splitting time, resources and people power across two diverging missions.

As many board members have said, this change is a win-win for everyone.  Working together, albeit as two distinct organizations, we will be able to do much more. "This reorganization creates a group now singularly set on restoring the historic Burnham Block site and welcoming visitors to experience Wright's broadest gesture to a wide American audience," said Mike Lilek, head of the newly formed Frank Lloyd Wright Burnham Block organization, and former Vice President of Facilities for the Wright in Wisconsin group. Constructed between 1915-1916, the Burnham Block site consists six homes that symbolize the challenge faced by Wright to create beautiful and affordable spaces, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. 

Along with expanded educational opportunities for adults, and publishing the triennial newsletter, Wright in Wisconsin will continue to offer the annual Wright and  Like™ Tour to provide the public with a rare opportunity to experience private homes and public buildings designed by Wright, his apprentices, and related architects. In the past, the tour was held in Milwaukee, Racine, Madison, Delavan Lake, Wausau, and central Wisconsin. In June of 2018, the tour will focus on the Spring Green area in collaboration with Taliesin Preservation.

In conjunction with our reorganization, we will soon launch a new Wright in Wisconsin website. With over fifty separate buildings, and a dozen sites open to the public, Wisconsin includes work from every decade of Wright's architecture. We served as the backyard laboratory for Wright's experimentation, making it a wonderful place to live, and a unique destination for those who want to learn about the organic style of architecture. I hope you will visit one of the sites soon, including Burnham Block.

Over the past seven months, our reorganization into two distinct organizations was aided by the support of our pro-bono attorneys from the Madison law firm of Michael Best and Friedrich, Dan O'Callaghan and Dan Gawronski, who early on worked out  a recommended process outline with Ron Scherubel and me, and freely made themselves available to answer  subsequent questions.  Within our organization, I want to thank all board members, and especially note the time well spent by Ron Scherubel, Mike Lilek, Kim Kasten, Paul Sheahan, and Andy Gussert, as they helped to make this happen.  And to Sherri Shokler, our stalwart face of the organization for so many years, thanks for putting up with my endless questions, and for remaining as our Office Manager par excellence as we move forward.  All of us deeply appreciate the continued support from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, enabling us to keep our licensing in place during the transition.

 In Service, 

George E. Hall, President of Wright in Wisconsin