January 12, 2018

What to See on Wisconsin's Frank Lloyd Wright Trail

Posted by: Jennifer

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of America’s most legendary and esteemed architects. It just so happens that Wright is also a native Wisconsinite. Born in Richland Center in 1867, Wright went on to become an architectural pioneer and build iconic masterworks all around the world. His trademark “organic architecture” strives to fuse the built landscape with the natural environment. He believed that architecture should be made from and for the land. Though Wright eventually moved to Chicago, many of his most stunning architectural marvels are sprinkled throughout his beloved home state of Wisconsin. Here is our guide to exploring the best sites on Wisconsin’s famous Frank Lloyd Wright Trail.

1. SC Johnson Administration Building and Research Tower in Racine

The SC Johnson global headquarters are located in Racine, Wisconsin. Built in 1939, the Administration Building has been ranked one of the Top 25 buildings of the 20th Century. It features 43 miles of glass windows, birdcage elevators, and massive tree-inspired columns. Visit the Research Tower to see the 1950s laboratory were SC Johnson scientists developed some of their early products. We recommend you take one of their excellent (and free) guided tours. They fill up fast, so make sure to reserve ahead.

2. Wingspread in Wind Point

Frank Lloyd Wright also built the family estate of H.F Johnson Jr. The estate gets its name from the four sweeping wings that jut out across 14,000 square feet of space. True to Wright’s organic style, Wingspread blends beautifully with the surrounding woodlands and makes use of natural materials like limestone, brick, stucco, and unstained wood. Visitors can call ahead to schedule a guided tour.

3. Burnham in Milwaukee

Frank Lloyd Wright is most well-known for his mansions, offices, civic centers, and towers. However, he dedicated a short period of his career to designing affordable American family homes. The Burnham House is part of a series of homes Wright designed between 1915 and 1917 known as his “system-built homes.” The process involved cutting the lumber and materials at a factory and then bringing them to the site for assembly by skilled tradesman. Pay a visit to Burnham during your time in Milwaukee to see Wright’s unique vision for American family living.

4. Monona Terrace in Madison

Monona Terrace is a stunning and distinct structure located on the eastern side of Madison’s beautiful waterfront. Many consider Monona Terrace a living piece of art. It is a place where locals and tourists alike come for meetings, conventions, weddings, and community programs, or simply to admire the impressive work of Mr. Wright. While you are there, browse the gift-shop, which is well-stocked with all sorts of Frank Lloyd Wright souvenirs, or dine in one of their two cafes: The Lake Vista Cafe and the Grandview Cafe.

5. First Unitarian Society Church in Madison

Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design the First Unitarian Society Church in 1947. It is now one of the most well-known and most-visited buildings in Madison. With its pitched copper roof, red concrete floor, and facade of interlacing wood and glass, it is a perfect example of Wright’s signature style. The church is now home to many religious education classes, social justice events, concerts, spiritual groups, weddings, worship services, community meetings, and more.

6. Taliesin and Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center in Spring Green

Taliesin served as Frank Lloyd Wright’s personal home, work studio, and private architecture school. One of the world’s true architectural treasures, this 800-acre National Historic Landmark is home to a record six Wright-designed structures. You will see pieces that Wright designed at several different points in his career. The Estate is located in Wisconsin’s rugged Driftless region along the Wisconsin River. Taliesin is certainly a mecca for Frank Lloyd Wright fans, but we promise that anyone can admire its beauty, structural innovation, and fascinating history.

7. Wyoming Valley School Cultural Arts Center in Spring Green

After visiting Taliesin, head three miles down the road to the Wyoming Valley School Cultural Arts Center. Built in 1957, it was the only public school designed by Wright, and was dedicated to his mother, a kindergarten teacher. It now serves as a non-profit organization that promotes arts and culture and provides spaces for workshops, performances, lectures, and exhibits. The school is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places.

Whether you are a design buff or just like to look at pretty buildings, Wisconsin boasts countless opportunities for you to admire the work of America’s greatest architectural icon. Take this trip down Wisconsin’s famous Frank Lloyd Wright Trail and we promise you will leave with a greater appreciation of Wright’s work and a deeper awareness of the built landscape that surrounds you wherever you are.

Planning a trip to Wisconsin to explore the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail? Swing by Sparta while you are there and book a stay at the Franklin Victorian Bed & Breakfast.


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