Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays noon to 1 p.m. on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

Saturdays, noon to 1 p.m. ET on WICR 88.7 FM.
And always online at hoosierhistorylive.org!

March 30

Frank Lloyd Wright and Indiana houses he designed

The living room of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house, Samara, in West Lafayette, Ind., is pictured. Photo by Alexander Vertikoff.Probably the best-known is Samara, a single-level "Usonian" house in West Lafayette built in the 1950s for a young faculty couple at Purdue University. But the world's most famous architect of the 20th century - and, arguably, its most flamboyant, influential and imperial - also designed other houses across Indiana, including at least one in his trademark Prairie style.

Frank Lloyd Wright had other connections to the Hoosier state as well. His son, John Lloyd Wright, designed a building in LaPorte County that's now considered endangered.

In addition to Samara, which now is owned by a private foundation established by the owner of the house (who continues to live in it), Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) designed houses in Fort Wayne, South Bend, Gary, Marion and other Hoosier cities.

To share insights about these homes and Indiana-related aspects of the architect, Nelson will be joined by two guests. They are Linda Eales, associate curator of Samara (which was built for Dr. John Christian, a Purdue bio-nucleonics professor, and his late wife Catherine), and Scott W. Perkins, a nationally known Oklahoma-based expert on Wright, as well as on the interiors of the buildings, for many of which the architect designed furniture and textiles.

The K.C. DeRhodes House is one of two Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes in South Bend, Ind. Image courtesy Indiana Landmarks.Here's how a PBS documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick summed up Wright:

"He was an authentic American genius, a man who believed he was destined to redesign the world, creating everything anew. Over the course of his long career, Wright designed over 800 buildings, including such revolutionary structures as the Guggenheim Museum, the Johnson Wax Building, Fallingwater, Unity Temple and Taliesin. Wright's buildings and ideas changed the way we live, work and see the world around us."

He wasn't a Hoosier - and, in fact, never even visited the sites of several of the Indiana houses he designed, including Samara. (The Christians visited the architect at his Wisconsin studios and consulted by phone, photos and mail.) Samara has a sunken living room, cabinets and other furnishings designed by Wright; even the china is patterned after some he designed for the Imperial Hotel in Japan. It's open for group tours by appointment.

Linda Eales.Wright's son,  John Lloyd Wright (1892-1972), who also was an architect,  lived for more than 20 years in Long Beach, a LaPorte County town (pop. 4,500) on the shore of Lake Michigan. According to a 2005 article in the Indiana Preservationist, a publication of Indiana Landmarks, the younger Wright designed 13 buildings in the town before he moved to California in 1947; some of the structures "brought touches of the Prairie style pioneered by his father."

Frank Lloyd Wright, a Wisconsin native, established his career while working in a studio in Oak Park, Ill. Known for his intimidating personality, Wright periodically fell out of public favor because of his sensational personal life. His first scandal hit the headlines in 1909 when Wright abandoned his family - including his first wife (John Lloyd Wright’s mother) and several children - to move to Europe with a client with whom he was carrying on a torrid affair. (A second scandal ensued in 1914 when she was murdered by a deranged, ax-swinging servant in Wisconsin, where the couple had re-settled.)

Most of Wright's homes in Indiana - including Samara - were designed in the 1950s when he was enjoying a final, spectacular revival of his career. Wright derived the name Samara from a name for the winged seed of a pinecone.

Scott W. Perkins.According to the book 99 Historic Homes of Indiana (IU Press), Wright selected Samara's exterior bricks from the Indiana town of Attica. He also designed everything from many of the three-bedroom home's furnishings to its landscaping. Fun fact: Samara does not have a garage. That's because Wright disliked them and insisted the Christians instead have a carport, which he often is credited with inventing, or at least popularizing.

When Samara was finished in 1956, Wright was 88 years old. He was working on several projects when he died a few months before his 92nd birthday.

Some other tidbits:

  • Our guest Scott W. Perkins will discuss Indiana's connections to Wright in a presentation April 11 at Indiana Landmarks Center, 1201 Central Avenue. The program is free, but RSVPs are required. The reception is at  5:30 p.m. and the illustrated lecture is at  6 p.m.
  • The Wright-designed home in Marion was owned for several years by the late radio-TV writer Madelyn Pugh Davis, an Indy native who helped create I Love Lucy, and her late husband, Dr. Richard Davis.
  • Beginning in 1937, Wright often worked at Taliesin West, a design studio he established in Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • "Usonian" is a word Wright made up. Shorthand for "United States of North America," it was coined to tout distinctively American architecture.

History Mystery

One of Frank Lloyd Wright's granddaughters was an Indiana native who became a famous movie actress. She was born in 1923 in Michigan City. Her mother, Catherine, was one of Wright's daughters.

Old postcard says Greetings from Michigan City, Ind.Catherine and her family, including the granddaughter, did not live in Michigan City for very long. By the time the granddaughter was 10 years old, they had moved to the New York City area. The granddaughter made her Broadway debut when she was barely in her teens.

She went on to star in dozens of classic movies during the 1940s and '50s, even winning an Academy Award. Among her movies is a blockbuster frequently shown on TV during the Easter season.

Question: Name the famous actress - and native Hoosier - who was Frank Lloyd Wright's granddaughter.

To win the prize, you must call in with the correct answer during the live show and be willing to be placed on the air. Please do not call if you have won a prize from any WICR show during the last two months. The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and please do not call until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air.

This week's prize is a pair of tickets to the Indiana Wine Fair in Brown County on April 27, courtesy of the Story Inn, and a pair of tickets to Crown Hill Cemetery tours, courtesy of of Visit Indy.

Roadtrip: 'Preservation at the Crossroads'

The Hoosier History Live! Roadtrip report? Oh yes, that's a live call-in report about a cool place to visit in the Hoosier state, or a festival, or an event coming up. Preservation at the Crossroads logo.A fond farewell to Chris Gahl, whose extensive schedule as vice president of marketing and communications at Visit Indy has made it necessary for him to sign off from his additional duties. And our sincere thanks to Visit Indy for continuing to provide prizes for our History Mystery winners.

Coming up next, the Rotating Roadtrippers! Yes, we are asking several of you to step up and report your favorite spots and activities around the state.

Up this Saturday is Garry Chilluffo of Chilluffo Photography, who chairs the Hospitality Committee for Preservation at the Crossroads. The annual preservation conference for the National Trust for Historic Preservation will be holding its annual conference in Indy this fall, from Oct. 29 through Nov. 2.  Hear more on the show this Saturday, and click here to watch a video that puts Indy in a whole new light! 

Your Hoosier History Live! team,

Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director

Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant
Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, grant consultants
Joan Hostetler, photo historian
Dana Waddell, volunteer-at-large


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April 6 show

Governors of Indiana

"Historically, the office of governor in Indiana has been a weak institution compared to the strength of the state legislature and in contrast to the office of governor in some other states. Over time ... the office has been transformed into one with considerably more power."

Indiana Gov. Ed Jackson served during the 1920s.So begins a book co-edited by two distinguished Hoosiers who will be Nelson's studio guests for a show exploring the colorful array of Indiana's chief executives since statehood in 1816 - as well as various patterns among the political leaders who have held the top office.

Our guests will be Linda Gugin, a professor emeritus of political science at Indiana University Southeast, and James E. St Clair, a journalism professor at ISU. They co-edited The Governors of Indiana (Indiana Historical Society Press, 2006), an anthology to which dozens of writers contributed profiles of the Hoosier state’s leaders.

Our first governor, Jonathan Jennings, was a longtime foe of slavery who resigned in 1822 after being elected to Congress; he struggled with alcoholism in his later years.

Four governors died in office, beginning with New Albany lawyer Ashbel Willard in 1860 and most recently including Corydon newspaper publisher and state legislator Frank O'Bannon in 2003.

In their book, Professor Gugin and Professor St. Clair identify the two "most powerful governors" as Civil War-era leader Oliver Perry Morton, a Republican from Centerville, and Franklin native Paul V. McNutt, a Democrat who was the state's chief executive during the Great Depression. (Gov. Morton, an ally of President Lincoln, was the focus of a Hoosier History Live! show last December. Our guest was historic preservationist and Ball State professor Ron Morris, who has purchased Morton's house.)

Indiana's first governor, Jonathan Jennings, is shown in an official portrait painting.Two governors, both Democrats, went on to become U.S.  vice presidents. They were Thomas A. Hendricks of Shelby County, who was elected veep under Grover Cleveland in 1884 (Hendricks died after eight months in office), and Thomas R. Marshall of Columbia City, who served under Woodrow Wilson and is best remembered for his witticisms including: "What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar." (Indiana's first territorial governor, William Henry Harrison, decades later was elected president after moving to Ohio.)

A footnote about some infamy: During the 1920s, Gov. Ed Jackson, a Republican lawyer from Lafayette, is generally perceived to have been controlled by the Ku Klux Klan.

In addition to co-editing The Governors of Indiana, our guests Linda Gugin and James E. St. Clair are the co-editors of Justices of the Indiana Supreme Court (IHS Press, 2010).

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