Making Friends With Frank

Pat and Roger Wisialowski cared for the Elizabeth Murphy House for about twenty years, during some of the time that it was lost and when it was found. Thanks to their willingness to listen to doorbell-ringing strangers sharing theories of Wrightian pedigree and to let some of those strangers into their home to inspect details, this house by Frank Lloyd Wright is no longer forgotten. They are the first two heroes you’ll meet if you read the book Frank Lloyd Wright’s Forgotten House.

Roger passed away before we were able to meet him. However, soon thereafter, Pat sold the house to us, and since then, our friendship with Pat has blossomed and grown. Pat first visited to be featured and photographed (by Sara Stathas) for a piece in the Wall Street Journal about people who have lived in famous places and not known it.

Later we connected with Pat via Social Media and then as guests at her book club where we traded stories of our experiences living here, which often involve visits from more Wrightophiles and importantly, the collecting of neighborhood lore to better understand the home’s complete history.

For example, Pat shared a few letters that she had received when the home’s rediscovery was announced and she and Roger were still here. A woman from Florida named Yvonne sent Pat two snapshots.

One was taken in 1951 while Yvonne was skating on the January ice that had formed on her family’s driveway, and the other was taken from inside her family’s living room window in 1961. Yvonne grew up studying Frank Lloyd Wright’s tiny American System-Built Home Model A203 because she lived across the street from the only one. She knew the nice people who lived in it and wondered how they managed without a driveway or a garage. She told Pat that the announcement on CNN in 2015 of the rediscovery of its Wrightian heritage conjured memories of contemplating the “odd” architecture and had inspired her to pursue a career in architectural photography. Yvonne has since travelled far and wide to take pictures of Wright’s work.

That’s the thing about history – it both attracts the curious to understand how time has played out for others, even as it unfolds, in real time, with us in it. It’s the story of our connections. We’ve not met Yvonne, but through Pat, we know about her time here and how Wright’s art informed her life.

When Covid eased a bit last summer, Pat and her beautiful family held a reunion here; the place where many of them lived and everyone recalled happy times. Kids and grandkids shared memories of projects and holiday celebrations and parties in the yard while we sipped lemonade and snacked on cookies. Now we’re all connected and we will stay that way.

So this weekend, we are giving thanks for the friendships and the stories that continue to form about and around this historic, influential tiny house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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