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The Walter Burley Griffin Society Of America has been publishing its newsletters since it's inception in 1999. Here are some of the newsletters (in PDF format).


By Robert McCoy

Parallel projects are proceeding in Mason City affecting two significant Prairie School properties here: Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1908 Stockman House and his Park Inn Hotel / City National Bank building.

Last November, the River City Society for Historic Preservation, owner of the Stockman House, acquired the duplex just north of the Stockman House parking lot, planning to build a center to interpret the significant number of Prairie School buildings in Mason City’s “Cultural Crescent” for which the Stockman House forms the eastern anchor. This compact area includes the Rock Glen/Rock Crest National Historic District containing five houses by Griffin, two by Barry Byrne, one by William Drummond and one by local architect, Einar Broaten in the style of Griffin. It is bounded at the other end by Wright’s 1910 City National Bank/Park Inn Hotel building, his only remaining hotel. The area also includes the MacNider Art Museum, the Meredith Willson boyhood home and Museum, Meredith Willson footbridge, the M C Community Theater and the Mason City Public Library by Chicago architects Holabird & Root.

The River City Society recently acquired on long-term loan, the topographic model of Rock Crest/Rock Glen made by students at the University of Illinois under the direction of Paul Kruty. It contains the twenty-five houses in their settings as proposed by Griffin for that site. It was prepared for exhibition at I-space and at the MacNider Art Museum in conjunction with the 2003 Annual Meeting of the Walter Burley Griffin Society here. The fragile model will be a significant part of the display at the Interpretive Center and will play a role in its fundraising.

In October, Mason City won a contest overseen by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to be named one of six “Iowa Great Places.” The program, created by Gov. Tom Vilsack, “calls on state agencies to partner with Iowans in a new way by combining state resources with local assets to make Iowa’s communities, neighborhoods, districts and regions great places where people want to live, work and raise a family.” Included in this assistance is a grant of three million dollars to be shared among the finalists in ways yet to be determined. We hope it will in large part fund the construction of our proposed interpretive center at the Stockman House and enable the acquisition of the bank building as well as providing signage to the attractions of our downtown and “Cultural Crescent” with its two Frank Lloyd Wright “bookends” and strong Griffin center.

Our board member and architect, Bob Broshar, past president of AIA USA, has prepared elevations, floor plans and a site plan of the proposed visitors’ center. These were presented before the committee that gave our project and each of the other five finalists in the state an hour-and-a-half first-hand grilling. They arrived forty minutes late (we were the last of four sites visited that day), but there were at least 175 locals still waiting for them in the MacNider auditorium when they got there. Griffin members will be pleased; we hope that our drawings make a strong conceptual reference to Griffin’s “interlocking Squares” house: fitting, we think, for a community with such a strong Griffin legacy.


By Paul Kruty

The Gilbert Cooley house in Monroe, Louisiana, in now in safe hands. One of Griffin’s most important houses, it is also the only building in the United States to reflect the Griffins’ Australian developments. Designed in 1908 but not constructed until 1925 under the direction of a young architect from Australia who had worked for the Griffins, the Cooley survives in remarkably original—if precarious—condition.

Now, thanks to a consortium of amazingly dedicated individuals and groups, the Cooley house is undergoing a complete renovation and restoration, with the ultimate goal of opening it to the public as a house museum and extension of Monroe’s Masur Museum of Art.

This incredible development, which began in earnest less than a year ago, is worth recounting in some detail. Following its adaptive reuse as a law office, among several other light business uses, the house was given to the G. B. Cooley Foundation, a local philanthropic organization that carried the name of Captain Cooley but had no legal interest in the house until that point. When I last visited the house nearly a decade ago, it was already showing signs of neglect, including a leaking roof and other problems of general maintenance. In recent years I have exchanged e-mail messages with Mil Bodron, an architect from Monroe living in Dallas, about possible solutions to the looming problems settling over a monument that was beloved by a contingent of Monroe natives, local and ex-patriot but virtually unnoticed by everyone else. Following its dubious distinction of being named to the “Ten Most Endangered Sites in Louisiana” last year, the Cooley house inspired a renewed effort to preserve it. In December, Sue Prudhomme, Director of the Masur Museum, wrote to the Griffin Society asking for advice. We sent them encouragement and suggestions, plus eventually I mailed a set of Griffin Newsletters and various publications on the Griffins.

Cooley House
Photo by Mati Maldre
In Monroe, the large group of people who were clearly committed to the project organized into a “Friends of the Cooley House” and eventually incorporated as a non-profit organization under the name “Cooley House Foundation, Inc.” The group is now headed by Lauren Beach, a Monroe architect who has become the guiding force (at least it appears to me from the voluminous e-mails!). In June, the city of Monroe and the G. B. Cooley Foundation negotiated a lease agreement which was put before the city council and passed several weeks later. The whole development was given extensive local press coverage. On June 30 the group announced a short-term fund drive to raise $15,000 by July 11—and had reached 54% by July 7. On July 12 the Monroe City Council unanimously passed the Cooley House lease/purchase resolution, by which time the Foundation had collected $15,050, enough to keep the house operating while a major fundraising operation could get underway, and also enough to show the strong interest in the project. The next day the Monroe News-Star announced in a banner headline, “Cooley House to Open in 2 Months; the building, one of the most endangered historical sites in La., will showcase Monroe’s past.”

In September, the group held an official news conference to announce their lease agreement, their incorporation, and delivered several PowerPoint presentations to local groups. Meanwhile, work on stabilizing the building has already begun. A temporary plastic membrane has been placed over the leaking roof after the original tiles were removed and stored in the garage. This revealed that only 10% of the tiles showed damage and a replacement source (the original manufacturer!) has been located. A group of students led by Professor Guy Carwile has begun documentation of the house interior for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).

We will periodically update you on this exciting development. Meanwhile, if you wish to know more, or to offer your own advice, please contact Lauren Beach at: lbeach@archplus.com


The Society is pleased to announce the election of Peggy L. Bang, the owner of the Joshua Melson house in Mason City, IA, to the Society’s board of directors.


James Weirick reports from Sydney that the Australian Government has given two sizable grants for conservation work for two important Griffin buildings: $450,000 to Newman College in Melbourne and $450,000 for the Willoughby Incinerator, located near Castlecrag. In addition, the Willoughby Council has committed an extra $820,000 to the Willoughby project.

The Walter Burley Griffin Society Incorporated will officially launch its own website on 14 November 2006. Please check them out at www.griffinsociety.org


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