Traverse City News and Events

Is North Manitou Cottage A Frank Lloyd Wright Design?

By Beth Milligan | Aug. 8, 2018

In his book “The Frank Lloyd Wright Field Guide,” architect Tom Heinz lists a cottage on North Manitou Island among the legendary architect’s creations.

The listing doesn’t go into detail about the evidence that led Heinz to this conclusion. The single paragraph mentions an 1894 notice about the construction of a Frank Lloyd Wright cottage on the Lake Michigan island and includes this description: “The building was clearly designed by an architect while the others [on the island] were at best constructed by a carpenter.”

As Patrick Sullivan writes in this week's Northern Express - sister publication of The Ticker - the cottage is in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore; on the official National Park Service website, the cottage is also listed as a Frank Lloyd Wright design. Park historical architect Kimberly Mann believes there is a lot of evidence it is a Wright, but that the definitive proof has yet to be discovered.

There is not, however, a consensus among Wright scholars that the architect is responsible for the building. William Allin Storrer, author of the “The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: The Complete Catalog,” is adamant that there is no good evidence to connect the architect with the work. “That’s nonsense, total nonsense,” says Storrer, who by coincidence lives in Traverse City.

Still, many others - including an architect hired by Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear to prepare a report for the park service about the North Manitou cottage - believe there is plenty of evidence pointing to Wright’s involvement. The doors and the open, airy spaces are features not found on typical cottages of that era. The bolding also has a silhouette that is strikingly similar to Wright’s Winslow House, a home in River Forest, Illinois, that he designed that same year. And in the March 1894 edition of the Inland Architecture New Record, a single paragraph announces that a cottage for George W. Blossom was to be built “on Manitou by Frank Lloyd Wright."

Read more about the fascinating clues about the potential Wright cottage, the arguments put forth by skeptics, and the official view of the the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in this week's Northern Express story, "A North Manitou Mystery." The publication is available online, or pick up a copy at one of nearly 700 spots in 14 counties across northern Michigan.

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