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Historic Taliesin Photos Auctioned on eBay

On the evening of January 24, Jack Holzhueter learned of an eBay auction selling 32 rare photos of the first Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio in Spring Green, Wisconsin, which was destroyed by fire in 1914, and later rebuilt in a different design. Recognizing the historical significance of the photos, Holzhueter, on the board of curators of the Wisconsin Historical Society, leapt into action.

His first call to the Historical Society set in motion a four-day, nationwide pledge drive that garnered the cooperation of institutions, private collectors, Wright aficionados, and concerned citizens, many of whom gave $50 to $2,500 to the Historical Society for the purchase of the collection. “It’s so unusual for institutions to mobilize that quickly,” says Holzhueter, “it was really impressive.”


Even while the donations were adding up, Holzhueter said he was concerned that they wouldn’t have the $22, 000 to $23,000 needed to win the auction. So he kept calling.

On January 28, in the last seconds of the auction, Andy Kraushaar, a photo archivist at the Historical Society used a high-speed internet connection to place the final bid. Much to the surprise of the seller, a retired physician in Alabama who expected to get $200, the rare collection closed at $22,000.

Now in the hands of the Historical Society, the photos have been assessed for their conservation needs, while high resolution copies have been made for research and viewing. As of March 1, the photos can be accessed in the Society’s archival reading room, and will eventually be available on the Historical Society website.

Allison Milionis