Today, Kathy Kean of the Shorewood Historical Society kindly introduced us to Dorothy Hoffmann (née Stock), a lifelong Shorewoodian, a member of the Shorewood High School Class of 1942, and sorority sister of Teddy (Virginia) Kibbie, whose family first occupied this home.
This was an opportunity for Dorothy to see the house and share her memories of it and the neighborhood.
We learned, for example, that classmate William Rehnquist (later Chief Justice Rehnquist) had asked Dorothy on a date to see the first showing of Gone With The Wind at Palace Theatre in Milwaukee. He also asked Dorothy to the prom, but she said no, having already committed to Ed Hoffmann, whom she would eventually marry. When Ed returned from WWII, he and Dorothy raised two children near here.
Dorothy and Teddy Kibbie were lifelong friends, though Teddy had not once invited Dorothy into this house, so this was Dorothy’s first tour. Dorothy recalled discussing the house in Shorewood by the famous architect during high school. Dorothy wished that Teddy was still around to see it, though she doubted Teddy would’ve come. Teddy “hated this house.” There seem to have been three issues:
- It was different. The neighbors lived in houses with distinct rooms and front doors.
- Teddy shared a tiny 10 x 11 foot bedroom with her sister Mary and their frail grandmother.
- Teddy had read all about Frank Lloyd Wright, and thought he was an immoral man.
In fact, much later in life, Dorothy and Teddy and their husbands were traveling together in Pennsylvania and had a chance to visit Falling Water. Teddy refused to go in and sat in the car.
Details of this place’s history are starting to fill in and correspond with what is known about Wright’s life. By 1917, when this home was completed, Wright was 50, and had risen to fame and then fallen in popularity over reports of infidelity. The murders and fire at Taliesin happened about the same time that Wright was sending the ASBH A203 drawings to the builder who would construct this home. Wright would see credit for this home’s design, but he also had to fight for his commission, and, it seems, his reputation. His prospects would rise again, but this was a tense and painful time.
There is tension built into the details of the house; little corners cut by carpenters awaiting paychecks, for example. But now it seems to be breathing out. Releasing. The genius of Wright’s design is that one can find respite and solace in it even when times are tough.
Thank you, Dorothy, for making this clearer. Please visit often.
2 thoughts on ““She thought he was an immoral man””
I was amused by her concern about Wright’s “morals.” I have had the privilege of speaking with Ward W. Willits’ grandson. Willits and his wife traveled to Japan with the Wrights in 1905. The Willits returned home early, Cecilia Willits being upset by something(s) Wright had done. I’m not sure if he had taken Ward to a geisha house or what, but it rankled Cecilia Willits. Her grandson told me she forbade Wright’s name from being mentioned in the house.