Wingspread

Also known as: Herbert F. Johnson House, Johnson Foundation Headquarters
33 E. Four Mile Rd., Wind Point, Wisconsin

Photos 

Welcoming Sign

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in June 2015

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Map 

Description 

Built in 1937-1938 for the President of Johnson's Wax Company, this large house was considered by its architect the finest (and most expensive) house he had built up to that date. Frank Lloyd Wright's design is so completely wedded to its site--rolling grassy slopes and shallow ravines--that it seems to grow naturally from the earth. Displaying what its author called the "eloquence of materials"--beautifully finished and integrated surfaces of wood, concrete and brick put together with respect and taste--it is the last of Wright's Prairie Houses. Currently, it is one of the most important educational and cultural conference centers in the Midwest. -- National Historic Landmark statement of significance, June 29, 1989

It is said that Herbert F. Johnson loved the Johnson Wax World Headquarters building so much, he told Wright to design a cot so he could live there. Wright told him he needed a spectacular house, and Wingspread was the result. It takes its name from four wings that extend to compass points from a great room that served as a family gathering place and dining room. From the air, the house resembles a giant pinwheel. Situated in a 30 acre prairie, the house is the typical Wright design of bringing nature inside and it fits well into the gently rolling landscape.

The great room is built around a 30 foot tall chimney with five fireplaces on three levels. The four wings contain the master bedroom, one is children's bedrooms, one was guest rooms and car ports, and the last wing was kitchen and servants' quarters.

The roof surrounding the chimney resemble an upside down boat,filled with small skylights. Also trademark Wright are windows that extend from grade to ceiling, filling the room with natural light.

The Johnson family lived in the house only 20 years, and in 1959, it was signed over to the Johnson Foundation that continues to operate the house as part of the Wingspread conference center.

It is open to the public for tours at no charge, but reservations are required. A link to the tours website is shown below. It is possible to tour both Wingspread and the S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building and Research Tower in one day, if you properly plan your day. A tour of Wingspread takes about 90 minutes.

National Register information 

Status
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on January 8, 1975
Reference number
75000076
NR name
Johnson, Herbert F., House
Architectural styles
American Movement: Prairie School; Other architectural type; Wrightian
Area of significance
Architecture
Level of significance
National
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction
Property type
Building
Historic function
Single dwelling
Current function
Organizational
Period of significance
1925-1949
Significant years
1937; 1938

Update Log 

  • June 3, 2015: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated Status, Added Description and Added Photos

Sources