Meyer May House

Side view of the Meyer May House
Side view of the Meyer May House. Image by Jaydec, CC BY-SA 3.0.

During a recent trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan I had the opportunity to visit the Meyer May House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  The house was commissioned in 1908 by Meyer S. May and was built between 1908-1909 by Wright.  It is considered an example of Wright’s Prairie School era work.  In 1985 Steelcase, a Michigan based furniture company, purchased the Meyer May house and worked to restore the house to how it looked when the May family moved in 1910.  The house is operated as a historic site by Steelcase and is open to the public for free tours.

My visit to the house was fantastic – it included watching a video about the restoration process and an hour long guided tour of the house itself.  The video of the restoration process can be found in clip format on the Meyer May website.  The video highlighted the archival research that went into finding documentation on the original exterior design, furniture, and interior decorations of the house.  It discussed how photographs were used to supplement blueprint and textual records about the house.  The video also showcased the work of conservators, artisans and experts that went into reconstructing things like paint colours, murals, carpets, and light fixtures that were designed by Wright.

The docent who led my group was extremely well informed about the architectural styles, Wright’s influences, and the house itself. The tour docents are all volunteers and I was blown away by their professionalism and expertise on the house.  It was interested to learn about how the family lived in the home, the impact the family’s personalities had on Wright’s design, and the restoration work that has gone into preserving this history.  I was also a bit surprised by how busy the site was. There was around 15 people in our tour group and there was at minimum three or four other tour groups running at the same time.

I would highly recommend this tour to anyone interested in built heritage or the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.  We scheduled an extra day in Grand Rapids just so we could take the tour and it was well worth the effort.

Collection Glimpse: Sharon Temple National Historic Site and Museum

This is the fourth segment in a series of posts entitled, “Collection Glimpses.”  Each post in the series  focuses on a unique collection, innovative repository, or a not well known cultural heritage institution.

The Sharon Temple National Historic Site is located in Sharon, Ontario, a small community within reasonable driving distance to Toronto.  The main feature on the site is a temple constructed by the Quaker Children of Peace organization in the late 1820s. In addition to the large central temple, the site includes eight additional historic buildings in a park setting.

Prior to the 1950s the Sharon Temple Museum was initially encompassed under the work of the York Pioneers and York County Museum.  During this period the site focused on the broad history of York County.  After 1950 the site began to focus more on the role of the Children of the Peace and develop a site independent from the general history of the County.  In 1991, the Temple was dedicated as a National Historic Site based on its architectural significance.  Since 1991, a cookhouse, drive shed, and other out buildings have been replicated and programming and collections have grown to reflect the original state of the Temple.

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the site is the restored architecture features of the site.  The Temple boasts multi-tier construction, a Jacob’s ladder inspired staircase, and a pipe and barrel organ. In addition to the great built heritage on the site, the Temple does a variety of outreach programming including an annual concert series and educational tours.  Very little of the artifact collection is available for viewing online at this point, however a short digital exhibit about the site was put together in conjunction with the Archives of Ontario.

Photo credits: Stephanie Spencer and zandersaar