I wear bow ties because I believe that they are distinctive and stylish. Plus, doctor it is infinitely harder for someone to wring your neck when you are wearing a bow tie as opposed to a necktie.
However, there is one reason I will willingly pass up a bow tie for a necktie.
And that reason is Frank Lloyd Wright.
It is with that sartorial zeal that I reached into my closet this past week and grabbed my smart Fireplace Relief necktie with a design pattern taken from elements of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Los Angeles Hollyhock House, for sale you know the one built by Wright for Aline Barnsdale in 1921. I’m not talking about the Ennis House, the one across the hills that you can see from Hollyhock that they used in BLADE RUNNER. I mean, come on, let’s get things straight.
Okay, if it seems like I know a thing or two about Frank Lloyd Wright, the jig’s up. Before I was the Pfister Narrator, I blissfully spent a few years as Director of Communications for The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Back in May, I left the fine folks at the Foundation that Wright himself founded so I could focus more on my writing, and here I am following the goings and comings of folks visiting the Pfister.
When I made my departure, my co-workers sent me off with a lovely luncheon where they showered me with Frank Lloyd Wright schwag. I will note that in three years working for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation I wore nothing but bow ties. I also campaigned tirelessly to convince the two Directors of Licensing that I had the pleasure of working with during my tenure that a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired bow tie would be a big hit. Alas, my plan never took hold, so as I opened up one of my parting gifts I chuckled to myself as I considered the irony of the accessory that was now going to be hanging around with me for some time to come. My co-workers gave me a Frank Lloyd Wright necktie on my last day of work, the first dangling tie that I had gotten since that real skinny one I bought back in the 90s.
But there is something about Frank Lloyd Wright that makes it just peachy for me to choose to wear that necktie. I’ll share a secret with you…the guy was a genius. And when I heard from friends that I had known and gotten to work with from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy that they would be holding their annual conference at the Pfister this week, I knew my Fireplace Relief necktie would be getting a good wearing.
It makes sense that the Building Conservancy would choose to hold their annual conference in Milwaukee, and the theme of Wisconsin: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Laboratory reflects that. If you were to drop an architectural bomb on Milwaukee, you would effectively whip out a large percentage of Wright’s existing building work. I say building work because it’s important to note that Wright wasn’t only an architect, something I am reminded of by the nice folks I bump into attending the conference who are filled with opinions and reverence for a man that many of them consider “the master.” Writer, graphic designer, inventor, philosopher and iconoclast are a few of the titles that Wright could “Wrightfully” embrace (and yes, I did just misspell right on purpose because it felt like the Wright thing to do, so there…and yes, I see what I just did again).
The conference attendees are spending their time in Milwaukee discussing efforts to preserve and save Wright’s work. That’s the Building Conservancy’s main focus, and they are very good at what they do. They also serve an important role in educating the public about Wright and celebrating his achievements. Conference attendees are visiting local Wright sites in Milwaukee such as the Frederick C. Bogk House on Terrace Avenue and The American System Built Homes in Burnham Street Historic District. And just this year a Shorewood home that had previously been unattributed as one of his designs was revealed to be an authentic Frank Lloyd Wright creation. Milwaukee is covered with Wright’s fingerprints and conference goers that swarm around the 7th floor ballroom spaces are clearly happy to be in town to see these and other treasures.
I’m thrilled when I enter the Conservancy’s silent auction and see tables of Wright memorabilia and fascinating books about Wright and his work written by fascinating people I had the pleasure of getting to know during my time firmly entrenched in the Wright world. There is, however, one piece that really catches my eye and seems to be the perfect treasure for a takeaway from the Building Conservancy’s stay at the Pfister. It’s a DO NOT DISTURB sign from the Imperial Hotel, a magnificent structure that no longer stands but was considered one of Wright’s most stunning creations.
I hold back from placing a bid. Leave this one for someone enjoying their Pfister stay—it’s sort of a precious recall to hospitality and grace in a place that specializes in hospitality and grace.
I look around and see that the room is filled with the leaders of public Wright sites, places like Fallingwater in Bear Run, Pennsylvania or the SC Johnson Headquarters down in Racine. The energy, vision and passion of these folks is present, forward, and always on point. They are tireless crusaders of the Wright legacy, for sure, and there is no doubt after a passing comment that I receive from a conference attendee that they all have impeccable taste and are whip smart.
“Great tie,” says a charming dark haired woman with a lanyard around her neck as she smiles at my Fireplace Relief necktie.
Thanks Frank. For you, and only for you, I’ll let it all hang out.