March 4, 2005
On the evening of January 24, Jack Holzhueter
learned of an eBay auction selling 32 rare photos of the first
Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wrights 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. Its
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 wouldnt 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 Societys archival
reading room, and will eventually be available on the Historical