I wouldn't describe myself as a lucky person. Don't misunderstand, I am extremely fortunate in the opportunities I have been given in life and things of that nature. But luck? Nope. I'm terrible at the random-events type of luck. Never win anything in games of chance. Never have random encounters that lead to wacky adventures. Never shop on the day where everything happens to be 50% off. Never find $20 lying on the ground. So be it.

For more than a decade I have been trying to concoct a reason to travel to Cloquet, Minnesota. It's a town of 12,000 people halfway between Minneapolis and Duluth, not one of the more trafficked areas in this great land. Only a few of you will recognize the name for any reason other than living in the immediate area.
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Cloquet is the location of the R.W. Lindholm gas station, the only extant part of Frank Lloyd Wright's Broadacre City utopia (and, it goes almost without saying, his only gas station). I've driven unreasonable distances to see FLW structures in the past, but ten to twelve hours one-way to see a gas station seems a little excessive even for me.

Right now I'm in Erie, PA – Not because I lost a bet, which I assume is the most common reason someone goes to Erie, PA – on my way to Cooperstown to see White Sox legend Frank Thomas inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend.
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On Friday I will drive right past Buffalo, NY. And by random luck, the Pierce-Arrow Museum (a defunct manufacturer of early 20th Century luxury cars) in Buffalo has opened a licensed (those of you who are fans know the Gestapo-like zeal of the FLW Foundation for preventing unauthorized adaptations of The Great Man's work) full-sized construction of Wright's service station design. It hasn't been on display for very long, and I found out about it last week completely by chance. While the score remains lopsided, tally one for Ed in the battle against bad fortune.

Remember that post from a few months ago about how I don't know how to have fun? Well relax, everyone. I think you can see that I've got it all figured out.

37 thoughts on “NPF: CAN'T LOSE 'EM ALL”

  • Damn, I was going to chime in about the FLW gas station, which I've actually been to and even used the rest room once. There's a porthole in it.

    On the other hand, you could stop in Wisconsin and see Taliesin and the House on the Rock (which FLW apparently despised).

  • Ed, if you're heading north through Cooperstown on your way to Buffalo, you might want to stop in Medina, small-town home to a Frank Lloyd Wright house. It's nowhere near as impressive as Fallingwater, but if you're in the area anyway, it's not a bad way to spend a moment. The town also boasts the Erie Canal running through the west side, a bridge that goes under the canal, and several small waterfalls.

  • You could also see the Johnson Wax Headquarters in Racine.

    Supposedly Mr. Johnson called up FLW to complain that water was leaking onto his desk.

    FLW's reply was "Move your desk".

  • There are a few FLW buildings in and around Buffalo, built in the era when Buffalo was one of the richest cities in the nation (really) — the Darwin Martin House Complex, a couple blocks from the zoo, is a museum; then there is another private residence somewhere in that same part of town, but I forgot where, exactly. And then there's Graycliff, about 20 miles south of Buffalo, on Lake Erie. Buffalo is a lot cooler than you think.

  • Here in Columbus OH there is a small neighborhood of FLW-inspired houses.

    They were built by Theodore van Fossen, one of FLW's acolytes, in the late 50s and early 60s.

    Here are some pics of one of the houses, or do a search on "Rush Creek Village".

    I was very close to buying one of these when it came on the market a few years ago. I just couldn't talk myself into spending the money – $370K.

  • anotherbozo says:

    I was going to mention that Fallingwater is only 3 hrs. from Erie but it's probably a given that Ed's already seen that. I think you have to make reservations.

    Good that so many readers are trying to help Ed in the Luck department, anyway.

  • Sock or Muffin? says:

    You'll be going past Rochester which is home to FLW's E. E. Boynton house.

    Maybe worth a diversion although there are no tours. The house is about 1/4 mile from the George Eastman mansion and museum which is pretty cool. Speaking of unlucky, I had no idea I lived one street away (pre-internet) from Boynton until about a month before I moved away. I would have driven past as often as possible. It's a very interesting structure.

  • I've been to the "original" gas station. I even did a project on it in middle school that involved me getting slides developed, to put into an actual projector carousel. Mostly thinking about it causes me to remember the stench of the paper mill in Cloquet. The only reason the town hasn't devolved into the kind of industrial rust-bucket you've been talking about so much lately, is that it is at the intersection of major roads, and is near enough to Duluth to be a sort of suburb for cabins.

    The look of FLW's architecture, is for me, marred by several first and second hand stories I have heard from people who lived near and worked with the man. He was a well known douchebag. Never paid in to the neighborhood collection for rural trash hauling at Taliesin, treated a man he worked with so poorly that his daughter was willing to use curse words to describe him, a big deal for this woman.

    Why are 'geniuses' always jerks?

    Anyway, if you're wanting to hit the Wisconsin stuff on your way to Cloquet, you can stay in my guest room in St Paul. Duluth and the Twin Cities are riddled with mansions and public works that are gorgeous, albeit most pre-date FLW. Several even have murderous back stories (look up Glensheen Mansion), although none rival the Taliesin axe murder, honestly.

  • Why are 'geniuses' always jerks?

    Hard to say. Perhaps the ability to take those kind of professional risks requires a certain degree of not giving a crap about what other people think.

    My other theory is that there is often a very fine line between genius and insanity.

  • A pilgrimage to central Minnesota! Gas stations as social centers! Ed and Frank Lloyd Wright both knew how to have fun!

  • Why are geniuses always jerks? Because they can get away with it, of course.

    Nice to see Ed and I share a hobby – poking around odd corners of America looking at Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. Lots of his work in California – for a while I even rented a space in the only building he ever built for the Federal government.

  • Rothbard Scissorbill says:

    As a yoot, under the influence of Paul Simon's song
    about FLW, I made a similar pilgrimage, driving from
    Kansas to Bartlesville OK to see the Price Tower, which
    was designed by the famous architect. Impressive building.
    I was edified by it, but not enough, I guess. Have fun
    in Cooperstown.

  • Whether or not he was "genius" level, it takes a lot of gumption to do things of the nature (huge creative endeavors), so I'd agree with Major's point that you don't (and for the best interest of your projects, cannot) give a flying monkey fuck about others' nitpickery. (I mean, the trash, really? How many people did he bring through the area to see his work? Come on.)

  • If you're in Erie, PA, make sure to stop at Lavery Brewing to try some incredible beers:

    Also, when you plan your roadtrips, do you ever think about announcing them in advance? I bet plenty of your readers would love to buy you a drink or a lunch along the way.

  • If the things you do for fun are fun for you, then you DO know how to have fun. Who cares whether other people do different things for fun? If I want to to go to a baseball game (and I sometimes do), I have to empty my wallet and stand in a long line. If I want to solve a shitload of crossword puzzles (and I do), I can do that any time I want at zero to low cost. Having different preferences from the vast majority is an advantage.

  • Hmmm, luck:
    Bad: scheduled to fly to England on Sept. 12, 2001. Replacement trip is "Hey honey, let's go tour the August Schell brewery in New Ulm, Minnesota!"
    Good: unbeknownst to us it was… New Ulm Oktoberfest!
    Bad: One hotel room left in town, smelled like scuba-diving in a wet ashtray.
    Good: hotel was the Oktoberfest headquarters.
    Enjoy your travels.

  • Bitter Scribe says:

    I'm sorry, but I do not understand the enthusiasm for Frank Lloyd Wright and never will. He was one of those architects in love with himself and his outlandish designs, who never worried his pretty little head about whether people could actually live and work in his wonderful creations.

  • I haven't met many geniuses who were jerks but quite a few fools who were.

    Speculation and gossip about FLW's personal life is better than most of his works, which, though beautiful, are mostly unsound and need constant repair.

  • We had a minute of Wright luck on an unlucky drive to Pasadena once to see Greene and Greene's Gamble House, which was closed for the day. Randomly driving through the neighborhood, I screamed STOPSTOPSTOP as Wright's Millard House magically appeared before us. It was his first textile block house and I'd forgotten it was around there somewhere. Appropriately for a Wright building, its upper section was draped in blue tarp, but it was still wonderful. The restoration is apparently complete; it's for sale now for a mere 4 million bucks. (I live in the SF Bay area so that sounds cheap. Up here you wouldn't even have to fix the roof to get at least 5.)

  • I saw Fallingwater on a blisteringly-hot, humid summer day. The area it sits in in shaded and cool, and the rushing river that passes just underneath cools the area even more. One of the original boulders was left in place and is part of the living room, and the building and its servants' quarters are built into the hillside. The main house's balcony is suspended right over the river. It's an interesting look at how to include the environment into the building. The windows and sliding glass doors were pretty unique for the time, and the little grottoes built in everywhere are beautiful. I have no idea what the upkeep is on the house.

  • I've long thought that one of the differences between FLW and Buckminster Fuller is that people were canny enough to not want to live in Fuller's designs. A Wright house is like an elephant – fun to look at if you're not the owner.

    Although having a Dymaxion house as a weekend getaway would be fun.

  • Glad you go out. Go to Minnisota anyway. Put the iPad on read to me and fly down the road. I will drive just about anywhere, and have

  • When I read Cloquet, Minnesota, my jaw dropped. Only reason I know about it at all is because my one of my college best friends worked there in high school, though she lived in an even smaller town called Moose Lake (which is on a lake, but not the actual Moose Lake, that is somewhere else).

    There is plenty of reason to go up there. Minneapolis is being described as The New San Franciso and is great for food – try Somolian when you go. I'll be at the 3rd Annual Internet Cat Video Film Festival on the 14th and the State Fair for the next weekend.

    You can drive up I-35, maybe see the "United States out of the United Nations" sign if it's still up, and drive through the Minnesota countryside, which is a lot nicer than Illinois. After your stop at the FLW gas station, you can go to Duluth and Lake Superior.

    And don't get me started on the wonders of Wisconsin. I'm finally going to the Cave of the Mounds during my annual visit this year.

  • I have a small itinerary of personal shrines I would like to visit should I ever get to America, and Falling Water is probably first on the list.

  • Don't forget your bathing suit! Otsego Lake is really a great body of water with a number of public access points. One of those aspects of Cooperstown eclipsed by the Hall of Fame…

  • Purists don't like that it's been relocated, but the Pope-Leighey house just outside DC (not far from Mt Vernon and a well known modernist neighborhood) is a classic Wright Usonian. There's another one which can't be toured (it's still a private home) in NW Baltimore not far from Pimlico.

    Buffalo has much to offer. Even more apparent after living in an overhyped pit of mediocrity like Atlanta.

    Wright was a jerk, his roofs leaked and he never picked up the check. OTOH, he really had a vision and it was one that evolved with time and was more practical than, say, the work of Frank Gehry. One doesn't have to agree with everything or like him as a person to respect what he often successfully did. Much the same could be said about Mies (Nazi appeaser among other things) or Wright's mentor Louis Sullivan (a difficult man whose finances went to hell after a falling out with his socially more adept partner who also was a genius with acoustical engineering).

  • One more reason to visit Cloquet is that the US Hockey Hall of Fame is about an hour north of the FLW gas station…

  • Wow, cool to see so many Wright fans on here. I am very embarrassed to admit I lived in LA for 7 years and never saw any of Wright's houses. In my defense, I was young and dumb(er), but it was a long time ago, and some of them were probably not open to the public back then. BUT, when we visited Chicago for the first time about 15 years ago I made certain to see the Robie House and the FLW house in Oak Park. It was so weird to see those houses in a "regular" neighborhood I felt like I was dreaming! We saw the Unity Temple as well, which is a gem inside, and outside looks like the Temple Of Hastur. Seriously, Ed, do you have a flickr or something? It's now obvious that I'm not the only architecture nerd around here, and I can't be the only one that wants to see your pics of Brasilia!!

  • Went to college with a guy who had spent some years living in one of FLW's houses – might even have been Fallingwater. He said that the damn thing was a complete pain in the ass to actually live in; many of the utilities were a mess (contractors had issues with working around FLW's designs) and – this struck me as the oddest thing – the damn thing had NO CLOSETS. None. Or so tiny that you could put two socks and a pair of shoes in one and it would be full. He kept his clothing in a plastic box under his bed.

  • Prepare to be underwhelmed. At least to my unappreciative eye it looks like so many other modernist structures from the 40's and 50's.

    My brother is on the fire department there. I built and maintain the CAFD website. It's a nice little town, but that's about it.

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