A. D. German Warehouse

316 S. Church St., Richland Center, Wisconsin

The only Frank Lloyd Wright building in his hometown of Richland Center and a highly endangered landmark.

Photos 

Overview Looking Northwest

Coming up Church Street, there is no doubt that you have come upon the A.D. German Warehouse. The poured concrete frieze, that wraps the fourth floor, really makes this building stand out. A small extension was added to the south end of the building.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in June 2013

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Frank Lloyd Wright's Hometown Masterpiece 

Written by J.R. Manning

The A.D. German Warehouse is a gem, it is the only building that Frank Lloyd Wright designed that is located in his hometown of Richland Center, Richland County, Wisconsin. (His studio, Taliesin, is located in nearby Spring Green.) It was designed in Wright's Maya Revival Style, which makes it unique enough, but it is located in this community of 5,000 that is off the beaten path, nestled in the Driftless Area and far from large centers of commerce.

It is also in grave danger of being lost forever.

Wright designed the building for Albert Dell German, a produce broker in Richland Center. At four stories, it towers above the other buildings in town, yet in typical Wright style, it seems right at home with its neighbors.

The unique top-floor frieze makes it stand out, as do other uniquely Wright design elements. The frieze is poured concrete and reminiscent of Mayan architecture. In typical Wright fashion, the frieze was more than decorative, it was designed to draw heat from the building, intended to be a cold storage warehouse.

The building has changed hands several times, the last owner was Harvey W. "Uncle Midge" Glanzer (March 18, 1916 - March 13, 2011) who had best intentions of restoring the building as his retirement project. He fell sadly short of his goal.

Richland Center has rediscovered its native son, but since Wright never identified his birthplace, and no record exists to tell us where he was born, there is no draw to Richland Center, save the warehouse. It is rumored that the place of his birth was demolished and now serves as a parking lot.

Meanwhile, the A.D. German Warehouse stands unused and unloved. While it could be an attraction to draw FLW fans to Richland Center, Wright isn't so fondly remembered by some residents of his home town and many residents are ambivalent about the German Warehouse.

The building looks awful, it is rundown, birds and creatures of various kind have taken up residence inside. Rainwater drips from many locations, including a roof over the back alley. While it looks awful, the building is structurally sound and could be saved. The late Mr. Glanzer estimated that $1 million would renovate the building, others say that amount is rather optimistic.

Of course, the biggest problem is its location - Richland Center is an hour from Madison and about three hours from Milwaukee, making it less than attractive for a production facility. The Wrightian lack of windows makes it unattractive as an office, but it could be converted to library and museum space. Or, in this day of virtual marketing and commerce, it could become the logistics center for an Internet retailer.

Whatever it is to become, the A.D. German Warehouse is a gem, and being in Wright's hometown, deserves some love, recognition, and restoration.

National Register information 

Status
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on December 31, 1974
Reference number
74000122
Architectural styles
Modern Movement; Other architectural type; Magan Period
Area of significance
Architecture
Level of significance
National
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction
Property type
Building
Historic function
Warehouse
Period of significance
1900-1924
Significant year
1915

Update Log 

  • June 23, 2013: Essay added by J.R. Manning

Sources