Frank Lloyd Wright’s Emil Bach House

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Emil Bach House

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Emil Bach House reveals the interesting history and extensive work that went into the restoration of this landmark home, one of the final Prairie Houses designed and built by the renowned architect.

AIRED: November 14, 2019 | 0:55:12
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TRANSCRIPT

- [Narrator] Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the greatest

and well-known architects

of all time.

He designed some of the most celebrated structures

in the world.

He was prolific.

Influential, innovative and controversial.

He was a leader of the prairie school movement,

designing homes that were in stark contrast

to the more popular Victorian homes of his era.

In 1915, he was commissioned to build

a family home in Chicago.

During this time his popularity, legacy and ambition grew.

He took on more international work

and reinvented his style.

Leaving Chicago and his prairie-style homes behind.

Why was such a modest house designed

and built by Frank Lloyd Wright?

And how has it endured for over a century?

This is the story of the Emil Bach house.

The people that have lived in it

and the architect that designed and built

one of his last prairie-style homes.

(orchestral music)

- Frank Lloyd Wright was an American architect.

He was born in southwestern Wisconsin

and eventually made his first career here in Chicago.

- An architect who began practice

in the late 19th century

and continued with a career which spanned over 50 years

almost all of which was intensely creative.

- Chicago's where Wright spent the first 20 years

of his career and his experiences in the city

in this incredibly progressive and immersive environment

of creativity really helped shaped the philosophies

that define Wright's architecture throughout his career.

- The evolution of Wright's idea about space

and opening up the house, the way that we live in a house,

I think is clearly one of his points of genius.

- And if you look at other homes

from the time period,

especially earlier in that 1890s and maybe a little bit

into 1900, homes and the way that they were designed

were very different,

and the way that families inhabited those homes

in a Victorian era home were very different.

- So the houses that were being built

in the Chicago area that Wright encountered

typically, he described them as boxes

within boxes where rooms, box-like rooms

were stacked upon box-like rooms.

- And those types of homes

you would see things like each room in the home

would be very much its own unit.

It would have doors, it would have windows,

it would be a box.

And you had a specific function in that room.

This is the room where we welcome guests.

This is the room where we eat.

And they would be very distinct units of things.

- Wright works to sweep away all of that clutter

and open up the house to create these tremendous

open floor plans.

- [Richard] The nature of form and of space

is fundamentally changed in his work this way.

- There wouldn't be nearly as many doors.

There would be more natural tones,

so in a Victorian home, for example,

you may have painted wood.

In an arts and crafts, or a Frank Lloyd Wright

designed home, you would have the natural woods

with some finish, but not blue or red

or some brighter colors.

- Wright's philosophy of architecture

was something that he called organic architecture.

And this idea related to the design of the house

as an organic whole where every element of the design

comes together in a unique synthesis.

- And he sees a much more fluid way

of moving around the house.

Where you might come into the home

and you see that welcoming area,

but it could be where you also gather with friends

or gather with family.

To me, Wright's really understanding how families

are changing at this time period.

And his homes reflect that change.

- Chicago, especially through its city ordinances

since 1871 and the Great Chicago Fire,

was really obsessed by something called the fire limit.

Any new construction inside the fire limit

had to be built out of non-flammable materials,

i.e. should not be built out of wood.

- So it's using concrete as a way to also

lower the cost of the house.

So concrete slabs would protect against fire

and also be slightly cheaper.

Wright was conscious of cost

and so he partnered with the Lady's Home Journal

and in 1907 produced drawings for what was then called

a fireproof house and it was build at $5000.

- In a promotional aspect of the fireproof house plan

and the other pieces published in the Lady's Home Journal,

I think the more important thing with those

is Wright's putting out in public his ideas.

- [Jen] So here was a design that you could purchase

and then you could buy good design, basically

even though you didn't have Wright

as your specific architect.

- Chicago in 1915 and that early 20th century era,

was really a national center of all kinds of manufacturing

including building materials.

And the Bach Brick company was one of those main companies

that would make bricks.

- [Jen] Emil Bach and his brother Otto owned a brick factory

and they produced bricks

that were used in homes across the region.

- The Bach Brick company was located on the north and south

between Montrose and Irving Park.

And on the east and west was the north branch

of the Chicago river and California avenue.

The main manufacturer of the brick yard

was for common brick,

which was a brick that was commonly used building structures

as well as the brick in the Chicago stock yards

was also made of Bach bricks.

At the time it was a very successful brick yard.

There were seven people involved,

eight including William Bach

that made a good living in it

for 20 years, 25 years.

The money was sufficient enough

to buy Frank Lloyd Wright houses,

which two of the Bach brothers did own.

- [Jen] So, Emil's brother Otto actually purchased

a Wright-designed home,

that was designed originally for the Steffen family.

- My grandfather being familiar with Otto's house

now, which was a Frank Lloyd Wright house,

became very interested in it, liked it

and had Frank Lloyd Wright design

and build one for him in 1915.

- [Jen] And so it was that sort of connection

of Otto to his brother Emil

that one brother had a Wright home

and the other one wanted one as well.

- The Emil Bach house is a transitional building

in the overall arc of Wright's career.

It comes at a very interesting, quite turbulent time

for Wright.

In 1910, he'd spent a year in Europe

working on the publication

of a substantial monograph of his buildings and projects

that was published and became known

as the Wasmuth Portfolio.

- He's coming back from Europe, he's coming back from Asia,

he's had some tragedies in his life

at this time period.

The imperial hotel is still to come in Japan.

His California homes where he's using more concrete,

less wood and looking at more organic forms

but still in an abstract way.

All of that is yet to come.

- And the Bach House fits right in the middle

of this period where he's about to embark

on all of these new adventures.

- And you can see that

that urge to experiment without fundamentally

changing his vocabulary with midway gardens

and the Imperial Hotel and other projects

of the 1910s.

- [David] But he began to move away from the prairie

as his main influence.

- So you can say the Bach House is part of that

but all of that work I think is more easily fueled

within the framework of earlier work

but it is really is a herald of the 1920s.

- [Gunny] The Emil Bach House is considered by some

to be one of his last prairie houses.

And it certainly relates to those houses

by its horizontality, the use of the wood trim,

both on the outside and the inside of the house

that's emphasizing the horizontal plane.

- [David] The use of natural materials,

the sensitive color pallet,

the integration of sight and structure.

- [Gunny] That there is a relationship

of the inside to the outside

and the extension of the house through the use of walls

and so on, into the landscape flowing around

through the living room and into the dining area.

And a central hearth which was always important to him

in any of his houses was the heart of the house

was the hearth.

- [David] He still continues to explore ideas

of organic architecture,

but he begins to seek new influences.

- [Jen] I think this house is special

because it represents a time period

that was a hinge point for Frank Lloyd Wright

in his career.

We still have a lot of horizontal lines,

but it's a much more cubic form

with a flat roof and it's the last remaining one

in the city of Chicago.

- This house is a unique design for the box,

but it also relates a little bit to

the idea that Wright was working with at the time

which was to create an affordable house,

a fireproof house of around $5000.

This isn't an exact match of any of those plans

that he had, but I think he was trying to keep the cost

to an affordable level here.

But as with I think every Wright project

that ever got built anywhere,

it didn't always stay that way, so.

- When my grandfather was considering building a house

with Frank Lloyd Wright, they were going into

the details of the financing,

how much is was gonna cost

and all the details of the house.

And I think the understanding initially

was that the house would be under $10000,

so Frank Lloyd Wright wrote my grandfather a letter

saying that he was afraid that the cost

of the house would probably exceed $10000.

- Mr. Wright responded to Mrs. Bach saying

well, since the furniture's built-in

and we added this, and this is the best contractor

for the job, that it was actually a very good price

since all these things could be written into the mortgage

and it was a good deal.

- For which right now in today's market place

looks like peanuts,

but back in 1915, $10000 was quite a bit of money.

- All architects are wrestling with the same issues, right?

They're wrestling with a budget, a client, materials.

They're all wrestling with the same things,

it's the solution, of course, that we care about.

It's how they solved those problems

and if you look at somebody like Wright,

we spend a lot of time talking about him,

thinking about him here in Chicago

because he was doing something that was just so different

than his contemporaries.

One of the things that's very common

in Frank Lloyd Wright homes

is this idea that Wright talked about

in terms of compression and release.

- As often is the case with Wright houses,

particularly in this early period of his

he was interested in heightening your sense

of approach and awareness of the procession

and that you're on this path, a path of discovery.

- [Jen] Wright's figuring out ways

of how you get in, how you approach from the street,

and then also the pathway within the home itself.

- He would create intentionally a lot of 90 degree turns.

So when you come off the street to the house,

that's your first turn.

And you approach the house and you hit the little stairs

and you have to make a left turn,

then you go up the stairs and there's a landing

and you make a right turn, you go up the stairs,

you proceed forward and you're looking for the entrance

and the path takes you to the entrance,

even though you don't see it directly with your eye.

Right in front of you is another garden wall

with the screen on it, which is a beautiful element

of the house.

And that clearly you gotta make a choice, left or right

and the house is to your left,

so you sense that and you move to the left.

So I don't know how many turns that is,

but it's probably six or seven

before you get inside the house.

Then you get up to the top of the stairs

and again, as you move in the house,

you're also making these turns.

- And you can see that the dining room flows

into the living room, and the living flows

into the sitting area which is right off the kitchen.

- [Gunny] It's intentional and it's a subtle

thing that you're not even really aware of

other than the fact that you know you're looking

for where am I going?

And that heightens your sense of looking at the house

and thinking about it in spacial way,

I think it was very intentional on his part.

- It's incredibly important to restore buildings

like the Emil Bach House

because they're a very significant part

of America's cultural heritage.

- Sullivan has this great quote when he says:

"Our architecture reflects us as truly as a mirror."

and I love this idea.

I love this idea that the buildings reflect

who we are as a society.

What we value, what we think is important,

our family structures, how we work, how we live.

The decisions we make about how do we inhabit the land,

the landscape, all those things are embodied

in an art form and in a science

and I think that is really why architecture matters.

- I probably was just in grade school, pretty young.

And you'd walk down the street

and you'd see all these houses

that all looked pretty much the same.

And then all of the sudden, there was this place

that didn't look like anything else.

And I can remember asking my mother, "what's that?"

So it caught my attention, it jumped out at me.

- To me, that's that intersection

of architecture and emotion.

That is so important.

That emotions when you feel when you walk into a space,

or when you come into a room.

We should experience it in that way

because of that and it's hard to get that

from a book, it's hard to get that from a video,

or simply looking at an image.

Because architecture is so three-dimensional

and we have to experience the space around us.

And we have to feel

what does it feel like to be in that space.

- And the older these buildings get

and the more they're preserved,

the more they can give you a window into another time,

they can give you a window into a craftsmanship or ideas

that aren't there anymore.

- Saving selected vintage buildings

like the Emil Bach House is important

because it allows us to have a vision

of our collective identity.

Where did we come from?

What came before us?

And that's important because it helps us better understand

where we are now and where we might be going in the future.

- Jen] I think the fate of the Emil Bach House

wasn't always a given.

There was a time in history

when it would have been very easy to tear it down.

Right, the neighborhood is changing,

it's prime real estate, it would have been easy

to just tear it down and sell it and build

a new high rise.

- Growing up in Rogers Park as a little kid

on the way to the beach

there were two houses that you'd encounter.

So there was the Bach House,

but there also was the Steffen's house

that was at the corner of Howard street.

Oh, it looked so sad.

It had been made into a restaurant,

things had been changed, it looked pretty sorry.

But it still had a lot of power

and it sat proudly up on a bluff

and so you noticed that one too.

- That was happening a lot in this section of Roger's Park.

And those impression impact how we decide to save

and what we decide to keep.

- Restoring buildings gives you a window on the past

but restoring a Frank Lloyd Wright like the Emil Bach House

this is something where there is an ensemble

of color and finishes and presence and light and shadow.

And they all work together

to create this amazing, unique experience.

- It really begins with Wright in Chicago

and the millions of homes built across the US

that are still being built with open floor plans.

I mean, those ideas originate with Wright in Chicago.

- And where you can find a progression in Oak Park

and see him evolve over time,

through multiple buildings,

the window of Frank Lloyd Wright

around 1914 is relatively small.

So this is important.

And it's a great building.

- You can cherish the old along with the new

and it teaches us something about our development

as a people.

To be able to see how we've evolved

through the places that we live in

and work in and play in.

- Jane Feerer acquired the house through an auction.

- [Owen] At that time, I think the colonel

was asking 2.5 million for it.

The price of course subsequently was reduced

because of the loss of the Frank Lloyd Wright attributes.

- It was in pretty good shape, it was structurally sound,

there was nothing integrally wrong with the building.

After she bought the house at auction,

she asked me to be involved in the restoration.

Her plan was the bring it back as close as possible

to the original drawings and the original intent

of how the people actually lived in it 100 years ago.

- When I decided to do

as complete a restoration of the Bach House

as could possibly be achieved,

I knew that I needed to draw on a lot of resources.

The original plans for the house

that were out at Taliesin West,

were remarkably wonderful as a resource.

I used to say that my restoration architect

was Frank Lloyd Wright because we were restoring

to his original plan.

But what we didn't have

was the original construction contract.

Which specified all the materials

that were to be used in the house.

- One thing we did find with the original drawings

were the plans for some of the furniture

for example the dining room chairs.

There were six chairs, two with side arms

and four without.

And we were able to reproduce those based on the drawings

and make fluid in the project.

- The one thing I did have

that my parents had from Frank Lloyd Wright

they kept the chairs that they did have

in the Frank Lloyd Wright house

and I remember as a child,

A pair of 'em were sitting in my living room

and I just took for granted, they were just chairs

and when my mother mentioned

they were Frank Lloyd Wright chairs

my unknowledgeable attitude as a child was so what?

Who was Frank Lloyd Wright?

And they stayed with my parents for quite a while

until they did move from Chicago

and then they apparently sold them for $75.

- In the furniture also we see examples

of Wright using, especially in the dining,

Wright using the chairs and the furniture around

the table to create a smaller space within the room.

So he's thinking about the chair and how it relates

to the space, and how the space relates to the whole form

of the house.

So that's very typical of his furniture

of this time period.

May not always be the most comfortable,

but I think probably Wright was more interested

in aesthetics than in comfort.

- It's like sitting in a pew at church

sometime 100 years ago.

But I can't imagine an architect like Frank Lloyd Wright

designing chairs.

- From the exterior architecture,

the sight, the structure, down the very furnishings

and fixtures of the house,

Wright exhibited a complete mastery of the environment

where he designed every element of the building.

So with the Bach House where you find this wonderful

built-in dining table,

that's all about Wright controlling the space

and creating this unified interior.

- From an artistic standpoint,

it acts as a horizontal plane

that connects the space that is the living room

with the space that is the dining room.

But what is so interesting here

is that I'm not aware of another case

where he used a dining room table

as a built-in, but had another function at its other end.

This was a great way of maximizing a very compact space

and yet making it, again, seem open.

- The dining room table was in the house,

or maybe I should say a table dining room table

that looked like the original was in the house.

One thing that was missing when we first came into the house

was the Inglenook in front of the fireplace.

As a signature piece of Frank Lloyd Wright

at the time in his houses.

We don't know when it was taken out,

we don't know what happened to it,

whether it was just destroyed or removed to some other

project or whatever.

But we were able to reconstruct it

from the original drawings.

- What was there when I first bought the house,

the wall sconces, they looked like they were from 1970s

motel rooms.

When we started phase one,

there were originally three bedrooms and two baths.

The larger bath was the maid's room, originally

that had been converted.

The baths were finished in 70s type fixtures,

it was totally functional, but it certainly wasn't

anything like it was intended to look.

- Cheap brass things

and I was happy to replace them with something else.

- The kitchen had stock cabinets, I think they were pecan.

And there was no dividing wall

between the kitchen and the dining room.

At the time they had put like a breakfast counter there.

The back porch was totally enclosed,

it had been climatized,

it was originally meant to be a three season porch,

but somebody had changed it into a permanent room

so it was added to like an extra living room or den.

- One unusual thing about this house

is the basement, 'cause he was not a big fan of basements.

I don't know whether this is because

the box required additional space for storage

or whatever it was,

but there is a basement in this house.

- [Peter] Originally in the basement,

we know that there was a furnace

and in the front, there was a coal bin.

- My suspicion is that, you know,

in trying to keep the cost down,

and in also thinking about every compact floor plan,

you needed a space for the coal bin,

you needed a space for the washing machine

which would have been a new invention

that families could have purchased in the teens.

- But he was known to not really like basements

because he thought it was base

and that it was just a place for people to store stuff.

And he didn't like clutter,

he liked everything to have its place.

- Before we started, I actually got started on the first

phase of the restoration,

Jane Feerer received a letter

from Emil Bach's grandchildren.

- My daughter Robin was surfing on the internet

where there was a Bach house,

so she looked into it further

and the further she got into it found out

that that was my grandfather's house.

And so she got in contact with Jane Feerer

and did a lot of research on it.

- Owen Bach had never been in the house.

He knew some things from his father

who had basically grown up in the house.

- One of the things that my father did tell me

about living in the Frank Lloyd Wright house

was having Lake Michigan right in your backyard

where he was an avid swimmer

and he'd go out to Lake Michigan and swim

miles weekly to

just enjoy the sport of swimming.

- When the house was sold in 1933,

later Emil and Anna Bach moved to California.

And Theo Bach moved to Rockford.

And that's where the family

that's where Owen and Sally Bach live

and so they didn't have much connection

with the house after it was sold in '33.

- I think my dad was so disappointed

when that brickyard closed.

'cause here he was, kind of the golden heir

to the brickyard, being an only son.

And then lost everything.

- Kind of just closed a chapter of their lives

and moved on.

And so when they came to visit,

Owen and his family were discovering a place

they had never really known except anecdotally.

- I would consider myself very fortunate

to be able to be a part of this restoration project,

when we first met Jane at the Bach House,

I brought in the copies of the original specifications

which told of the mixtures of the cement,

the thickness of the cement,

the heights of various parts of the building.

Very very detailed specifications

to which the building was built.

- What kind of fasteners and what kind of concrete

and just the list goes on and on and on.

- Giving her these specifications,

you could tell by the look on her face,

she was very happy to get 'em

and was very happy to be able to actually know

that she was putting the house

back into its original condition.

- So, we had not only the list of things

as it should have been as it was originally conceived,

but then we had the document of the house itself.

How it ended up being constructed.

- In that letter, they said they had the original contract

for the building between Frank Lloyd Wright

and the Bach's and the contractor

with line item cost for the building

which was valuable and interesting.

There were also a few letters

between Mrs. Bach and Mr. Wright.

- One day my grandmother was looking out her window

and my grandmother was not one

that would really pass things over,

and saw this shabby man in her backyard,

pulling her flowers out of her vases.

And if you ever wanna get a woman mad,

you go out and pull the flowers

out of her vases that she had planted.

And with her wrath, goes out there,

ready to confront the individual,

and it turned out it was Frank Lloyd Wright,

who promptly lectured her about how these kind

of flowers don't belong in this kind of building.

- Frank Lloyd Wright didn't always have the easiest

relationships with his clients.

He, I think, looked at every project

just as so much of an investment of his heart

and his ideas that he, maybe in some cases,

overstepped those boundaries

between architect and client,

wanting to really impose a full, total work of art on them.

And sometimes it's hard to live in a

total work of art.

- You know, he wanted to make sure

everything worked right.

He was very very opinionated,

very very headstrong,

but he was very very firm in his commitment

that his houses were the best.

He certainly pushed his clients in ways

that, in some cases, they may not have been comfortable

with in terms of pushing particular form

or pushing particular design,

but I think the types of clients that came to Wright,

knew what they were getting

and wanted that, and wanted a modern home

and wanted something different.

And so, I think, the types of clients

that found Wright were for the most part a good fit,

but he certainly pushed them.

- And I would imagine there was some friction created

between the two of them.

And this probably was a temporary friction

because obviously they had a good relationship after

the house was built and Frank Lloyd Wright

went on to other things.

- But without the documentation

that Owen Bach brought

when he visited we would have been six steps back.

And we would have had to make guesses

about a lot of stuff.

And underneath a lot of the renovations

that had happened in the interim period

between the time the Bachs lived there

and the time I bought it,

a lot of the original stuff was covered up.

- One of the things that we had a bit of a stroke

of luck right at the beginning

was when we were doing the demolition

of the kitchen counter that had been built,

underneath it was an original kitchen cabinet,

and it was in very good shape.

We were able to get the exact finishes,

the exact type of wood, American walnut,

the exact profiles for the door itself.

By matching that up with the original drawings,

we were able to make a very exact reproduction

of the entire kitchen.

- When we uncovered some of the later coverings,

the marble and the paneling over this area or that,

we found original material.

So we were able to see what had been going on

in the house through all of those years.

When I left Chicago,

or when I was preparing to leave Chicago,

I was fortunate enough to be able to pick the person

who was going to succeed me.

- Older houses require more in-depth research.

And again from an architect of

Peder Dalhberg's experience,

he's also one of the people who's uniquely qualified

to put this house in context,

and he's a nice guy.

- [Jane] In hiring Gunny Harboe, made a good choice.

Retaining Peder Dahlberg

as the project manager was important

and working with the same group of people

to do a lot of the construction work

made it possible for a whole team basically to carry forward

the work that I started.

But it's not just my work, it's the accumulated work

of all of the people who have lived in that house

since it was built 100 years ago.

- Our involvement with the Frank Lloyd Wright trust

in many ways comes for the same reason anyone does,

the Frank Lloyd Wright trust,

they have a mission of perpetuating the legacy

of Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural designs.

So that means anyone who has an interest

in Frank Lloyd Wright architecture

and the man himself, that's the go-to place.

- The trust was invited in by Tawani very early on

in this project and it was brought in to help

with early research on the house.

But one of the major roles that it's played

in the restoration of the building,

the vision for the building,

we were an early advocate for opening up

the porch on the second floor of the house.

- The rooms that had been created out of the porch,

the screened porch on the sundeck,

were in find condition,

they'd been renovated as part of the phase one work here,

but they were in direct conflict with the intent

of trying to return the building to its 1915 configuration.

- In Wright's architecture,

there is this very close connection

between the interior of the house

and the world of nature outside,

and that restoration of the porch

was an incredibly important element

in restoring Wright's original vision for this building.

- One of the things that so fun about this house

and was really great about being able to play

with the restoration or be able to finish the restoration

was this interface of the banding

of the horizontal wooden elements.

There are a lot of wood elements

that are cantilevered off,

that are also accentuating nature.

They wrap the building completely around.

And by being able to return the sun deck

back to what it was now that conflicting

attitude of going up versus going out

is helped to be mitigated.

- For the visitors and guests of this house,

to be able to experience that

is an incredibly wonderful thing.

- So in restoring the outside of the house,

we had to deal with the concrete elements

of which there's both horizontal surfaces,

with concrete sidewalk, if you will.

But also as part of the house,

there are these horizontal bands

that have become an important architectural element

that needed to also be restored.

It's a rather fussy process

that required a very special mix of material,

Cementitious material that has to be applied,

which some of it took a while to do

but we think they came quite close.

That became a very important process

for the part of the restoration.

It took quite a while to actually accomplish.

You can see this element, this horizontal element

not only on the outside of the house,

but actually comes into the inside of the house,

and is part of the masonry fireplace

that was such an important element of the house.

- You'll also find with Wright's houses

this tremendous connection

between interior and exterior.

So you get this blurring of boundaries

with Wright's buildings,

this close integration with the outside of the house

with the inside.

And that's what you see with the Bach House

- You have this connection again

from the inside to the outside of the house

through the actual physical elements of the house.

When we became involved in the house,

our primary focus was on the exterior of the house,

but we also knew there were some things

on the interior that we wanted to understand

a little better and maybe work on.

One of those was the plaster

and the paint finish on the plaster.

As was true for Wright in this whole period,

this prairie style period,

the way that he treated the interior surfaces

was extremely important to him.

So we knew from correspondences

between the Bachs and Wright

that there had been this discussion

of the color of the walls

that was referred to as sunshine yellow.

But what was sunshine yellow,

we weren't exactly sure of that.

In the course of our investigation in the house,

there was very little remnant of original plaster,

there were a few fragment pieces,

in fact Tim Samuelson is the cultural historian

of the city of Chicago knew this house from his youth,

he grew up very close to here,

and when they were doing the major renovation of the house

where they removed, basically all the plaster,

he was able to secure a number of samples

of that that were useful to us.

- One time I was in the house, it was being remodeled

I was actually invited inside,

and much to my horror, they were taking out

the original plaster off the walls.

There were people with sledge hammers

breaking out the original sand float plaster

and they were replacing it with flat drywall.

So I said to the people who were doing it,

I said, "do you really wanna do that?

"I mean, that's important original plaster,"

and they basically told me "Mind your own business."

well, I did reach over, pick up a piece of the plaster,

and saved it, I thought "well, maybe some day

"somebody will restore it, but what's the chances of that

"after somebody goes to all the work

"of putting in this new drywall?"

So I kept it for years and it sat in a drawer,

and then sure enough, what do you know?

A restoration's underway, I pull out my piece of plaster

and it turns out to give the information

not only on the texture, but the first layer of color

is what Mrs. Bach described in the letter as sunshine.

And sure enough there's this beautiful, yellow shining

color underneath.

So, I was very happy that this one little thing

that I put in my pocket at my dismay at it getting torn out

wound up having a part in putting

the house back together again.

- When we opened up the ceiling in the living room,

we found some original plaster,

but it'd just been covered up with drywall.

And that gave up a clear idea

of what the plaster finished looked like

in the rest of the house.

Later on we were able to corroborate that

with some plaster samples

that Tim Samuelson had saved previously.

- [Gunny] Then when we discovered

on the second floor bedroom there was an entire

four by six foot area of the original plaster

with its original paint on it,

this was extremely helpful to us.

- [Peder] We took samples of the plaster,

it was sent for analysis and they told us

what size aggregate was used in the mix.

Part of the original drawings had the original specs

for the plaster.

So we had a good idea on how it was.

- [Gunny] We could tell from that that it was this

sand float plaster that had a lot of life to it.

- [Peder] Now how that texture was developed

was a little different because it can vary

from tradesman to tradesman, who's ever doing it.

So, what we did was

we made half a dozen samples of each

of the wall and half a dozen samples of the ceiling.

- The ceilings are basically the untreated plaster,

it's just the buff gray color of the matrix

with the sand in it, with the texture

and that's it, there's nothing on it.

And that was his intent.

- [Peder] Once we had determined the exact finishes

we wanted for the ceilings and the walls,

the whole plaster process took about 10 weeks.

- So it's the combination of the plaster itself

with this very thin paint coating

that gives you the life that is really vibrant

and extremely engaging

I think on this house,

and other properties by Wright at the same time.

- So, finding the cabinet door

hidden underneath the breakfast bar,

the plaster samples on the ceiling

and on the second floor wall

and the color, I think those three things

were very key in allowing us to bring the level

of restoration to where we wanted it.

- The built-in furniture that's upstairs

we knew from the original drawings

that there had been this intent

of having some built-ins,

but there was nothing left, at least to the eye

when we got in the house,

you couldn't see any physical remains of that.

So we weren't all that hopeful to find anything

and yet, lo and behold in the course

of the early exploratory work that was done,

it revealed itself in one of the bedrooms upstairs

that not only was the original plaster wall there

which was really important to us,

but it had the shadows of where the drawers had been

of the built-in dresser.

And so then, we knew ah ha, there's absolute proof

that they actually built the built-ins.

In the main, central bedroom,

there's a built-in dresser

that has five or six drawers and the mirror above it.

The north bedroom, there is a small, little alcove

I'll call it, this little jut-out

where there's a small desk, a writing desk

that has no more room than for one person

to barely squeeze in there.

And on the south bedroom there is a rather beautiful

dressing table that had elaborate drawers

and things like that as well as a three part mirror.

- One of the major, major items

that was missing in the building

when Jane first secured it

were the art glass windows on the outside.

Now of course the piece of art glass

that was in the Inglenook.

- The previous owner named James Blinder

had had the house and he did a lot of work

on the house, and he I don't know the exact reasoning,

but at one point he remove the art glass windows.

- [Peder] He kept one of the windows for himself,

he kept one of the art glasses that was installed

in the Inglenook, and he gave one to the Art Institute.

It's very lucky, 'cause they might have been lost

if they hadn't been.

- We knew that there was the one at the Art Institute

and we had hope to be able to get access to that,

that was a little bit challenging

because it's an important artifact for them,

and they didn't want us groping their

art glass window necessarily.

But we did get in touch with James Blinder

who was very interested in the project

and was very happy to share with us access to his window.

- So the four of them were restored

and one's at the Art Institute,

one I have, and one's up in Canada,

and the other one's floating

around the east coast somewhere.

- Maybe the other two had already disappeared,

I don't know, but there originally were six.

And these are the windows that have a pattern in them.

It's very light, it's not a heavy

art glass pattern like one associates

with Wright's earlier prairie style houses.

And in fact, all the rest of the windows

either had no pattern at all

or they had a very simple boarder of clear glass

just to give it a little bit of accent.

- If we didn't find the original from you,

we wouldn't have been able

to get the exact dimensions for it, so. (laughing)

- Well, I have the original

and one of the original art glass windows.

- I'd love to hear about that.

- Well, it's there.

It's in my apartment. - is it?

- In the course of trying to recreate

the art glass windows,

we had these examples we knew we could

have access to to gain a direct

one to one copy, if you will of what they had been there.

And part of that process is to actually

take a rubbing of the caming of the metal material

that's actually holding the glass together.

- [Peder] The craftsman who replicated the art glass

started by making a rubbing with tracing paper

to get the shapes and the sizes exactly.

- [Gunny] You get then, the direct relationship

of void to caming, and you can measure off of that

exactly where the caming is or was on the window

and replicate it precisely.

(men chatting)

- [Peder] After getting the rubbings

and the shape and size of the art glass,

the next big thing is matching the color.

- This is the inside, so the outside was white?

- Yeah.

- You don't really see the colors from the outside?

- That's not unusual.

- We did have the quality of the glass

and the way the glass looks from the inside

to the outside varied

and we wanted to make sure we were matching that

as closely as possible.

This is often a challenge on these period windows

where the art glass that was used at the time

is not available anymore.

- Since those colors of glass

was made 100 years ago,

it was a pretty difficult process.

(violin music)

- Especially some of the specific colors.

We had white glass, you'd think white glass

would be an easy match but in fact

it proved to be rather challenging

to get a very close match to the white glass

as well as the green glass that was used on this

particular house, but we came very very close.

(men chatting)

- Very nice.

(violin music)

- We don't know exactly how they made the colors

so it's a trial and error trying to get as close

as we can, some of the processes we don't even use anymore.

After multiple tries,

we finally got pretty good sample of the colors.

At least they matched as well as they possibly could.

- We feel that the windows that are here

reflect very closely the original intent

that Wright had created with his art glass windows.

(violin music)

- Oh, this is remarkable.

(violin music)

- One interesting thing though

is when we finally looked at Mr. Blinder's original piece,

when he had taken it out of the house,

he just took it out and didn't clean it,

didn't restain it, didn't do anything to it,

just took it and hung it on his wall in his apartment

and it's exactly the way it was when he left the house.

His original one is a bit different

from the one that the Art Institute has.

- When they restored it, they left out this caming

right here, - really?

- There's a big space there.

And they left out this piece here.

- Well, that attests to the fact

that the window was in bad condition.

(laughing) It really was.

And it must have fallen out and they just...

- They just put together to hold.

- Right, right. - Sure when they got it,

maybe it was just falling apart,

those were the pieces that they had,

so they put it back together.

- Exactly.

- Well that explains that.

It looks like the Art Institute piece

might be missing a piece of glass

in the lower half.

There's a little bit more caming in Mr. Blinder's

original piece than the one

that exists in the Art Institute.

- By the time we got to the Bach House in 1915,

the element of art glass is not as prominent

as it was in some of these earlier prairie houses.

In this house it's quite simple.

Maybe it was a cost issue,

'cause they were expensive to make then

as they are now.

- The art glass is very different.

We don't see it here on the first floor,

we see it on the second floor.

And only in strategic corners

or strategic places.

It's also not as colorful.

It's much clearer with just bits of color

used in very strategic ways.

- I think, also he was moving away from that,

if you will, as far as using it as an architectural element

or effect.

And in the case of the Bach House

many of the windows had absolutely no metal caming

that separated pieces of glass.

Whether they were clear or otherwise

and some windows have just a very simple pattern,

but no colored glass, just clear class.

This is the end of that period of his interest

in that element.

- [Tim] What's great now is that after all those years

and seeing like the leaded glass windows disappear,

now they're back.

But now with what I've learned

and I know later, I can really appreciate it even more.

So to see the windows back

and the details and the colors and even things

I never saw as a kid because wood was painted over,

plaster was painted over.

But seeing it as it really is,

what an experience.

Just like seeing a whole new house.

- The Emil Bach House is a masterful example

of the historic preservation.

The amount of work that goes into restoring a building

like this is incredible.

From the architect's documentation,

the research of the building,

through to exploring paint finishes,

original wood finishes, the types of materials

that Wright selected to use throughout the house,

all of this material goes to create

an incredibly rich archive about the house.

- We were just very fortunate to get here at the right time

with the right people, to do the right thing for this house.

- When we think about preservation,

one of the most important issues

that comes up a lot is this idea of adaptive reuse.

Can we save the building

but maybe convert it to something else,

so it has a second life, a different use,

a different function.

The Emil Bach House I think is an example of that, right?

It's been preserved and it's been restored.

And it's beautiful and you can visit it.

You can visit it through Open House Chicago

when it's open in October

or you can also say here for a night or two

for an overnight stay.

- But I think even the thing that sets

this restoration above almost any other

is yes the house is like perfect,

yes it's a great work of architecture,

but it's still a real house.

You can stay in it as a real house

and let it do all the things

that a real house does to you that's a work of art.

- I think the multiple uses

that the Bach House has been put to of late

is a very creative response to this challenge

for a great work of architecture

in a setting that is no longer gonna be for a residence.

- One of those successes, we think,

with the house is the fact

that we're not only able to restore

its appearance, to what it looked like in 1915,

but also making a house that can function

as a house needs to in the 21st century

with it's geothermal system.

The furnishings in the house

are contemporary furnishings that are playful

and they fit in with the architecture

but they're not right in Wrightian in the sense.

So there's this combination of authentic, true Wright

qualities about it that you can enjoy and see

and touch and feel and experience,

but also you can be comfortable in this house.

- I think it was a very nice thing for colonel Pritzker

to take this project.

To undertake it, to bring back the reality

of what was in the past.

I know it was a tremendous undertaking,

not only financially, but

to all the other resources that were put into the building

to make it what it is now.

- And I think from what I know of Frank Lloyd Wright

as human, I think this is what he would have wanted.

He never intended, I think, for any of his buildings

to remain as static display items only.

He built them to be used.

So I think what we are doing, everything that we have done,

I think is consistent with his original vision.

I'm very confident of that.

Now we'll see if I'm right or not. (chuckling)

(piano music)

(fantastical music)

- For more information about Frank Lloyd Wright's

Emil Bach House, visit www.emilbachhouse.com