In October, 2012, I met a fellow named Richard G. Johnson at a party in Milwaukee. The Chicagoan, who was a technical assistant at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, told me his hobby was researching Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the Midwest, and the next time he was in town he wanted to show me a few structures that he suggested were designed by the famous architect.
We have a number of Wright-like buildings in Milwaukee that were indeed designed by other architects, and I suggested the buildings he thought were Wrights had been done by somebody else.
But Johnson was way ahead of me on that score. He knew that Wright had complicated business relationships with other architects like Russell Barr Williamson, and with a number of contractors like the American System-Built Homes, for which Wright and Williamson both worked. Williamson, for example, had superintended the construction of the documented Wright home on N. Terrace Ave. known as the Bogk House.
I thought it odd that the notorious egotist Wright would have undocumented buildings in the metropolitan area, but Johnson had an answer for that: He theorized that Wright, who had been involved in a number of personal and professional scandals, had good reason to keep his name quiet, but he still had to make money. Also, the American System-Built Homes enterprise was to have been America’s first mass-produced home builder, yet only a dozen were ever built, of which six were in Milwaukee, so the firm was on shaky financial footing from the beginning. […]