Building 51 | Building 51 | 19th century exterior francis apartments building terra cotta panel
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19th century exterior francis apartments building terra cotta panel


Frank Lloyd Wright

About This Item

single well-documented late 19th century original buff-colored exterior ornamental terra cotta string course panel salvaged from the (non-extant) francis apartments building prior to demolition in 1971. the c. 1890′s intricately detailed and strongly geometric frank lloyd wright design features overlapping circles containing highly stylized and naturalistic floral ornament. the use of the distinctive organic design motifs were heavily influenced by louis h. sullivan who wright was employed under as chief draftsman. wright worked together with sullivan on the designs used for the schiller building, auditorium theater, the charnley house and so on. much of wright’s work up to the turn of the century is characterized by elements strongly reminiscent of sullivan’s ornament. the designs represented in this terra cotta block are, perhaps, transitional; whereby traces of sullivan’s ornament remains evident, but wright’s design experimentation in geometric abstraction, overpowers the organic embraced heavily by sullivan. the remarkably intact terra cotta panel is reinforced on the backside with multiple cavities (existing loose brick and mortar has been removed) or “webbing.” the front side contains surface wear and discoloration consistent with age and/or handling over the years. constructed in 1895, the francis apartment building was one of two middle-income housing projects executed by frank lloyd wright. the apartment complex was built for the terra haute trust company. the four-story structure was divided into three, four and five room apartments. the rooms were finished in quartered white oak, painted plaster walls, tiled baths and a marble and mosaic entrance. the exterior consisted of yellow fireclay roman brick – with very fine mortar points – dado cream white vitereous terra cotta (later painted white) band stone courses and a buff bedford limestone base. after years of neglect, the building was demolished in 1971. the terra cotta block was likely manufactured by the northwestern terra cotta company, chicago, il. measures 17 x 17 3/4 inches.