A rare tour and deep-dive into the drama at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Elizabeth Murphy’s house, courtesy of Historic Milwaukee

June 11, 2022 – Limited Capacity

Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiasts, history buffs and fans of Prairies Style Architecture are in for a treat: a personal tour and presentation of the Elizabeth Murphy House, the last completed American System-Built Home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Part of the proceeds will go to support the vital work of co-hosts Historic Milwaukee.

This is a rare opportunity to experience an historic and well-preserved Wright-designed home that has been a private residence for 104 years running and, importantly, is the site of the split between Wright and his talented assistant Russell Barr Williamson.

Recent preservation work and legal and contractual research uncovered the clues to explain what when wrong with Wright’s American System-Built Homes project, and how its failure inspired Wright to rethink his approach to housing the working class. This is the story told in Nick Hayes’ bestselling book “Frank Lloyd’s Wright’s Forgotten House – How an Omission Transformed the Architect’s Legacy” published by UW-Press. Hayes and his wife Angela are the home’s current stewards.

In today’s terms, Shorewood’s Elizabeth Murphy House is where Wright and Williamson “cancelled” each other and the American System-Built Homes project, never speaking again nor mentioning their work on the homes. Ironically, while Wright remained mired in controversy and financial trouble, Williamson’s career took off in and around Shorewood, at least for a time. He would design 17 homes within 1 half mile of the Elizabeth Murphy House in the decade to follow. Then, in the century since, Wright emerged as a global celebrity – the world’s most famous architect –  while Williamson’s fame proved fleeting. Today, the tiny house holds keys to understanding Williamson’s contributions and Wright’s emergence as champion of democratic architecture. 

In order to make room in the small space and have ample time for questions and answers, guests will split time between two experiences. One group will be escorted by Angela Hayes, an Art Educator, on an in-depth tour of the historic Elizabeth Murphy House highlighting original details, historic restorations and the fingerprints of the designer, developer and builder. At the same time, another group will enjoy refreshments and a presentation by author Nicholas Hayes featuring Wright’s plans and drawings, Williamson’s contributions, and the stories of the tumultuous ending of the program. 

When the first tour and presentation are complete, the groups will switch places so that every guest enjoys every experience.

Tickets are available at Historic Milwaukee’s website. The event will be held on Saturday, June 11, 2022.

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