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Posts Tagged ‘Cascade Vacation Rentals’

The Spectacular Town of Tofte

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

I thought I would just take a moment to talk about the town of Tofte.  I think sometimes people may just pass it by on their way to Lutsen or Grand Marais, really missing all its great qualities.

For example, did you know Tofte has a great waterfront park?  This nice park, just off Highway 61, is a great area for a picnic and has a small shelter to keep the sun out of your eyes.  It also has a firepit and a great path along the lake. 

Next lets move on to some of the great shops in Tofte.  Did you know there is a small yarn shop across from our office called Tall Tale Yarn Shop? It’s a great spot to pick up some yarn and make a scarf while looking out at the lake from one of our rental homes.  Also across the street from us is Sawtooth Outfitters.  They rent out summer and winter gear like bikes, skis, and canoes and have a small retail store as well.  One of the other great stores of Tofte is WatersEdge.  It is filled with great gifts, wonderful clothing and fun jewelry.

When you are in our area you have to eat some great food.  If you decide you want to make your own meals, you can pick up some provisions at the North Shore Market.  If you are looking at dining out, you have two great options.  One is the Coho Café.  You can dine in or pick one of their takeout options.  They have breakfast, lunch and dinner (dinner is weekends only in the winter).  Some of my favorites are the tuna wrap, and the Primavera and Call of the Wild pizzas.  You can also take dining one step up by going to the Bluefin Grille.  They have great food and wonderful views of Lake Superior from most of the tables.

Are you wanting some exercise and outdoor time?  Then get a guided kayak trip from Sawtooth Outfitters, or take a hike at Britton Peak or up to Carlton Peak.  If you brought your bike you can take a ride on the Gitchi Gami Bike Trail (a great spot for stroller rides with kids too).

If the kids need something to do you can take them to the playground at Birch Grove School.  They also have an ice skating rink in the winter with ice skates for rent for free (mostly kid sizes).

Next time I hope you take some time in Tofte – it is a great spot for all ages. –Kris

Some of our Tofte rental homes:
Bluefin Bay 14, 56 and 57
Aspenwood Condos (6508, 6526, 6536, 6538, 6540, 6542, 6544, 65466548, 6550)
Cathy’s Cove
Eagle’s Nest
LeVeaux Mtn Lodge
The Phoenix

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Historic Seagull House

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

A relatively new addition to our rental pool, Seagull House has a rich and unique history that is strongly connected to architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Below is a history of the house and it’s designer, John Howe. If you are interested in learning more about the home or booking it for your group, please view the website call 1-800-950-4361.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture or “Prairie Style” permanently transformed residential home design.  Mr. Wright believed that the design of a home starts with the building site, and that the home should be an extension of the land on which it is built.  He wanted each home to “open up” from its lower-ceiling entry area, leading you forward to vaulted areas and views beyond. Most Wright homes have a large fireplace made of natural stone near the center of the house.

Mr. Wright was also famous for the use of leaded glass at selected windows during the period when he designed mostly urban homes. Since these were removed from nature, he added the leaded glass to distract the eye from less than beautiful city views. However, when he designed a home in a more scenic area he did not use leaded glass where he wanted the beauty of nature to be seen.  He believed that, whenever possible, natural materials of the geographic area should be incorporated in the construction of homes he designed

A number of beautiful books we have collected at Seagull House will introduce you to more examples of Mr. Wright`s Prairie Style architecture, a style that served as the foundation for Howe`s work. These can be found on the shelves just above the front foyer.

We invite you to view the PBS Frank Lloyd Wright video to get a better idea about how Mr. Wright`s ideas about architecture evolved and changed throughout his lifetime.  This documentary makes no secret of Mr. Wright¡¦s character flaws which, in our opinion, also include the fact that he took credit for much of the good work of his Apprentices, each a genius in his own right. The Apprentices were often intentionally kept in the background in order to put Mr. Wright in the limelight. Mr. Howe was perhaps the most important of these under-appreciated Apprentices, and he does appear briefly in the PBS video.

Frank Lloyd Wright`s Apprentices

In 1932 Frank Lloyd Wright was gathering a band of young apprentices into what would become known as the Taliesin Fellowship. Howe, often called “Jack” within the Fellowship and is so referred in many of the references within Frank Lloyd Books, was among the first to join, and as it turned out, among the last to leave this great experiment.

John H. Howe was called the “pencil in Mr. Wright`s hand”.  He was talented and worked well with Frank Lloyd Wright. Thus, Mr. Wright put him in charge of the design studio in the late 1930`s, where he became Mr. Wright`s Chief Draftsman, a position he held for more than 25 years. Mr. Wright would always wake up early with ideas and bring them in and explain them to me and then I`d lay them out, Howe remembers. (cited from St. Paul paper). Or, Mr. Wright would start a design, John Howe would take over, then Mr. Wright would work on it again, and this cycle would repeat during the day. Thus, many of the “Wright designs” were influenced by Mr. Howe. Howe was very good and extremely quick – able to turn out drawings, as was Wright at breakneck speed.  John was particularly talented in creating drawings of the buildings showing the integration of the actual site.

John married his Lu in 1946. She was trained as an educator, but was working at Taliesin at that time as the transcriber of Wright`s lectures and manuscripts. Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959 and John Howe left the group five years later to launch his own successful architecture firm called “John H. Howe, Architect”. After leaving Taliesin, Howe and his wife lived in San Francisco, California briefly, but found the demand for his work much greater in Minnesota.  They eventually moved to Minnesota in 1967, and lived here until 1992.

John Howe`s work after Frank Lloyd Wright

John Howe remarked that if ever a book was ever written about him it could be called “The Land is the Beginning”. His architecture after Taliesin continued in Prairie Style, but with a more practical touch. In Minnesota alone there are more than 80 Howe buildings, which are some of the finest examples of organic architecture in the Midwest.  According to Mr. Howe, organic style requires that a building be in harmony with its site, naturally expressing its purpose, and incorporating as many materials of the area as possible. “The site”, he maintained, rather than any architectural preconception, is…the primary basis and inspiration for an architectural design. “I endeavor to maintain a human scale, avoiding unnecessary heights and overwhelming structure, letting the space flow horizontally, and keeping supporting members as light as possible.  A low sheltering roof remains the predominant feature in all of my houses.” (MIA brochure) These principles are clearly visible in Seagull House.

Frank Lloyd Wright and John Howe worked together for years, yet, these two people working under the same philosophy came to two completely different conclusions.  Howe said (JTF Journal) “I am not continuing Mr. Wright`s work…You can`t blame my houses on Mr. Wright! That would be doing both Mr. Wright and me an injustice” Geoffrey Childs (John Howe¡¦s Apprentice) concludes:  “If you look at Mr. Howe`s work, and become familiar with it, you can tell that nobody else could have done it.  Even though it does resemble the feeling that Mr. Wright had…The buildings have two completely different feelings to them. What you pick up right away is that Jack Howe`s buildings are a lot more airy.  Mr. Wright`s are rather dark” (p. 14)

Mr. Howe`s starting point for a home was also different from Mr. Wright`s. “…the land is the beginning of architecture.  I don`t have a preconception for a house or building.  Mr. Wright, I think, often did.  I rely on topographical maps the location of trees and other natural features, the views and the points of the compass.  That`s where I start.” (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Although clearly inspired by small homes Wright began designing in the 1930s, Howe`s houses are not mere imitations. Instead, Howe works endless variations on Wrightian themes, creating houses that tend to be simpler, less costly, and far more practical than those designed by Wright himself. In an interview published in the Journal of the Taliesin Fellows (Issue 23, summer 1998) Howe says …”We don`t waste any space.  If somebody comes in and says I`d like 2,500 or 3,000 square feet in my house, I figure 1,500 would do them plenty well. They don`t need more. The conventional house is a big box and it`s filled with a lot of smaller boxes and the furniture is arranged around the walls…and the middle of the room is just empty.  You`re just talking across to each other.  It`s a terrific waste of space.”<p>Mrs. George Johnson, describes the elemental connection with nature and serenity that a Howe house provides:  “Every piece must fit, must harmonize, with the whole.  Of course, one must disagree with John occasionally, although it`s never easy or too often wise. His sense of what is right for his houses is indisputable. The sense of comfort and serenity we derive from living in them (Howe houses) is proof of that.”

John Howe`s calling was architecture. He described biking around Oak Park, Illinois as a child, observing and admiring the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Later he said, “I can`t remember a time when architecture didn`t interest me.  When the other boys were out playing ball or marbles, I sat in my room drawing houses¡¨.(JTF p.21) Lu Howe summed it up well: “To know all your life what you want to do and then to do it…that`s a rare and wonderful gift”. Mr. Howe began the process of retirement by about 1980 but continued working on a limited basis until his practice ended in 1992, when his failing health prevented further work. At that time, he and his wife moved to California, where he died in 1997 at the age of 84.

Lu Howe displayed John Howe`s complete works at his Memorial service in 1997, allowing all of us who attended to appreciate at one time and in one location the full scope and genius of Mr. Howe`s designs. His memorial service was held at the beautiful First Church of Christ Scientist in New Brighton, Minnesota, a masterpiece John Howe designed in 1970.

Mr. Howe summed up his own work when he said “New techniques and materials present an ever-increasing challenge to architects who wish to follow the principles of organic architecture.  However, one must use these new materials in a humane way.  Buildings are for people, after all.” (MIA brochure, back page) After his death, Mrs. Howe donated all of John`s architectural work from the Taliesin years to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and all of his work as an independent architect to the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.  Mrs. Howe is currently living in a beautiful compact home outside of San Francisco. We look forward to her plan to publish a high quality volume of her husband`s works in the not-too-distant future.

Seagull House is built

Mrs. George R. Johnson worked with John Howe in the design of several personal residences.  The first were in the Minneapolis area and are often featured in articles about the work of John Howe.  Mrs. Johnson is very artistically talented, loves Prairie Style Architecture and worked very well with John Howe.  Seagull House was their final personal residence project.

Mrs. George R. Johnson met many of the Apprentices, and met Mrs. Wright – but never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Wright.  When Mrs. Johnson decided to sell Seagull House and moved to Terrace Point, we purchased her home with the intention to preserve it both for our own use and to share it with others who would appreciate it.

Interesting Facts about Seagull House:

Seagull House was designed by John Howe at the peak of his career, in about 1982. The building was completed in 1984.

The house got its name when John Howe was walking the site for inspiration. As he stood by the water`s edge, a seagull flew over.  It came to him that he should create a house using the shape of the seagull, as seen from above.

Mr. Howe always created two drawings in color pencil of each home to be built. He gave one copy to the owner, and kept one. We have a reproduction of the color pencil drawing of Seagull House, framed, in the foyer of the house.

The fireplace of Seagull House uses “Carleton Peak” granite.  Carleton Peak, a short distance down the shore, is one of only a few areas of the world where this type of granite can be found.  The fireplace represents Mr. Howe`s commitment to using local materials.

The primary interior and exterior wood in Seagull House is red cedar.  The builder purchased the cedar more than a year before building the house to assure that the wood was fully dried.  Notice that the 25+ year old house sports wonderfully tight seams despite its age, because of the care that was taken.

Door knobs in the home are placed high, in keeping with John Howe`s individual style.

The seven antique Japanese hand-blown glass globes located above the built in couch were in Mrs.Johnson`s possession before Seagull House was designed, and were intended to be a part of this house. Mr. Howe made sure to create the perfect area for them when he created Seagull`s design. The globes were sold with this home, because Mrs. Johnson considered them “part of” the house.

The black leather chairs near the great room windows are “Swan Chairs”, originally designed by Arne Jacobsen of Denmark for a hotel lobby in Copenhagen in 1958. Mrs. Johnson had used Swan chairs in this spot, because of their organic, complementary design so we purchased chairs of the same design. These unique chairs also allow the occupants to face the fireplace or the large windows with equal ease.  Note how the chairs bring out the black accent within the Carleton Peak Granite of the fireplace.

We have decided to leave a number of valuable books, pottery and other personal items in our home, hoping that you will treat them gently and respectfully, as you enjoy your visit.

Publications referenced:

The Architecture of John Howe. Minneapolis Tribune – Picture Section, June 12, 1983

John Howe in Minnesota: The Prairie School Legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright (Exhibit Brochure) Minneapolis Institute of Arts: Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2000.

John Henry Howe: The Consummate Apprentice. Journal of the Taliesin Fellows, Issue 23:  Summer 1998

Wright Disciple Still Designing Homes. St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper, Sunday,  November 29, 1987

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