For more than 40 years Jay Gammon and his wife Joann have been building structures for their old west movie set. According to IMDB more than 40 productions have filmed there, which I am certain is a low count.
Today Jay is in a nursing home and his wife Joann, with the help of others continue to maintain the set. On this day Joann unlocked the building but their dog Gus was our main tour guide, as he seemed walk around with a ‘follow me’ attitude.
There are a number of buildings that make a perfect old west town set.
The set/town includes all the required buildings including a saloon with swinging doors and an old piano. Joann told us one of the film productions said ‘we need a saloon for our filming – is it ok if we build one?’ Of course she said yes!
The town hall with a 1931 Buick parked inside, as well as a number of items celebrating the renown 1934 capture of John Dillinger in Tucson.
The building itself was once a flour mill in Safford, Arizona. It was deconstructed and brought piece by piece back to Gammons Gulch and reassembled as the town hall.
They have done a great job of collecting items for each building, like these cool old keys for the jail cells.
Once Joann had unlocked all of the buildings she gave us a brief overview and said ‘have a good time’, and off we went exploring.
This building is their Welcome Center, and they proudly note that the walls came from a building in Benson, and the large beam on the ceiling came from a 1920s ‘house of ill repute’ in Tucson.
The Mercantile Building was constructed onsite, but like all of the others is filled with items they collected over the years.
These buildings change their signs to reflect whatever each production company needs them to be. In addition they serve as the dressing rooms for the cast.
The church/school at the end of town had the gallows just outside, along with a nearby cemetery. The church/school was constructed for a 2009 movie called ‘Mattie’.
The cross is easily removed when it is supposed to be a school.
The trunks waiting on the 3:10 to Yuma.
In addition to the old car in the town hall, there are a couple of other classic rides parked around town. This backside of the main street serves as a 1920s setting.
A nearby hill provided a nice overview of the town and the surrounding area. Joann and Gus the dog are happy to have you visit, but call ahead as they often have filming occurring – they told me one of the guys from Dukes of Hazard was in town this week to film something.
With an afternoon to spend before heading to O’Hare Airport we wandered the Chicago suburbs of Oak Park and River Forest checking out the plethora of FLW works. Doing this tour in the winter, with a recent snow, gives a very different look to the area, with more of the homes exposed due to lack of leaves on the trees.
We start with the George Smith House at 404 Home Avenue in Oak Park. As an early example of his work this home is in a variation of a Queen Anne style known as Shingle. The rooflines and overall cladding gives the home an unusual look.
As we move north through Oak Park we reach the commercial Lake Street, home of Unity Temple. Home to a Unitarian Universalist Church, the building was completed in 1908. It is considered by many to be the first modern building in the world.
Unfortunately we were unable to view the interior.
There are so many FLW houses in Oak Park the neighborhood has been designated as the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District. Our tour of this area starts at 540 Fair Oaks Avenue – the William Fricke House.
This house was completed in 1901 in a 3 story Prairie style.
Just down the street at 515 Fair Oaks Avenue is the Rollin Furbeck House. The large open porches and front tower modifies a typical foursquare looking home. The cost of the lot and home in 1897 was $8250 – less than $300,000 in today’s money – a real bargain.
The house was a wedding present to the Furbeck’s, who only lived in it for a year before selling and moving to New York.
Next stop is the William Martin House at 636 North East Avenue. When William’s brother Darwin visited from Buffalo, New York, he engaged FLW to design a number of building there.
534 North East Avenue is the Harry Goodrich House. Restoration in the 1990s returned it to it’s original look, which as an early FLW work is very different than the later Prairie style homes.
Just down the block at 520 North East Avenue is the Edward Cheney House. With only 1 level above ground, and a large brick wall, it is barely visible from the street.
Next stop is 710 Augusta Street – the Harry Adams House. Completed in 1913 it was one of his later houses build in Oak Park, thus incorporating more of his famed lineal lines. One of the features we often spot when looking for a FLW house is the large concrete planter, which is evident near the steps (being December in Illinois it is void of any flowers).
North Euclid Avenue is another street with multiple FLW homes on it. We start with 321 – the Charles Roberts House. This house was completed in 1879 with FLW remodeling it in 1896.
Dating from 1897 the George Furbeck House is at 223 North Euclid Avenue. In a somewhat unusual look for FLW the front features two octagon shapes. The rooms in front were originally an open porch that was enclosed in 1922.
FLW became infamous for abandoning his family and going to Europe with his mistress in 1909, staying there for an extended period. This home, the Oscar Balch Home at 611 North Kenilworth Avenue was the first home in Oak Park he designed upon his return, completing it in 1911.
This home was one of his first flat roofed designs.
Making our way back down to Chicago Avenue we find 1027 – The Thomas Gale House. This home, as well as two others on the same block, are known as FLW Bootleg houses as they were designed independently by FLW while he was still in the employment of Louis Sullivan – eventually being fired for doing so.
The other two bootleg houses are 1031 and 1019 Chicago Avenue. On this trip missed 1019 – below is the Walter Gale House at 1031. These homes, while not quite the classic FLW look, are very different than most of the other homes of the time, both dating from 1892.
A block away is the corner of Chicago Avenue and Forest Avenue, home to the FLW Home and Studio. The FLW foundation offers numerous tours of the location and neighborhood, so if you are in Oak Park and want a more in depth knowledge of him I recommend stopping by for one or more of the tours.
Forest Avenue has numerous FLW homes on it, starting with 333 – the Nathan Moore Home. Completed in 1895 in a Tudor Revival style, FLW never liked it but did what the client asked (something he became famous for ignoring later in life).
A fire in 1922 gave him a chance to do significant modifications more to his liking.
318 Forest Avenue shows the significant change in FLW’s design style, having been completed in 1902 as the Arthur Heurtley Home. Situated on a large lot, with large overhangs, arches and the ubiquitous planters, it is classic FLW.
Just across the street is 328 Forest Avenue – the Peter Beachy House. An extensive update to an existing cottage, the house features a gabled roof and heavy frames around the windows – very un-FLW.
Another remodel at 313 Forest Avenue is the Edward Hills House. This house has undergone numerous changes from it’s original 1883 construction as a Stick style house. FLW redesigned it in 1906, with subsequent modifications between 1912 and 1965. In 1976 there was a a major fire that destroyed much of the house, leading to a reconstruction and restore.
It does contain rooflines similar to the first house featured on this posting, the George Smith House on Home Avenue.
A small street off of Forest Avenue, Elizabeth Court, is the location of the Laura Gale House. This home was built for the widow of Thomas Gale, the owner of one of the bootleg FLW houses on Chicago Avenue.
This home is considered one of the first small home, prairie style houses that he designed.
As we move to the next suburb over, River Forest, we find the 1893 William Winslow house. As one of Wright’s early designs, it reflects the style of Louis Sullivan, his employer at the time, with the graceful arches and the overall symmetry of the design.
The Ashland Avenue home of Arthur Davenport was a result of a collaboration with another architect, Webster Tomlinson. Dating from 1901 it is a very early Prairie style.
Edgewood Place in River Forest has two FLW homes. This one is known as the Chauncey Williams Home.
Dating from 1895 it has a much higher pitched roof than most FLW designs.
It does utilize the octagon shaped front room, as well as a liberal use of large stones gathered from the nearby Des Plaines River, blending the house into the surrounding landscape.
The second home on Edgewood is the Isabel Roberts home. Ms Roberts at the time was the office manager for FLW at his studio in Oak Park.
Ms Roberts later relocated to Florida where she started an architectural practice, despite no formal training. A number of former Wright draftsmen later occupied the house.
Our last stop on this tour is the James Kibben Ingalls House at 562 Keystone Avenue in River Forest. This was one of his last designs before he took off for Europe with his mistress.
It is indicative of his later works with the clean lines and cantilevered balconies.
If you are a fan of architecture in general, or more specifically the Frank Lloyd Wright styles the Chicagoland area is the center of the universe. I have excluded the numerous other homes that were done in this style by proteges of him, as well as those of him that were located outside of Oak Park or River Forest. There are over 70 existing FLW works in Illinois.
The very impressive Chicago Cultural Center started out life as the Main Chicago Public Library. Despite the plethora of legendary Chicago architects this building was designed in the late 1890s by the Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge.
The details are immediately evident as you enter from the Washington Street entrance and start up the staircases.
The main circulation room when it was a library is now known as the Preston Bradley Hall. This room features the largest Tiffany glass dome in the world.
A second view looking straight up with the light in the center, changing the look and coloring of the dome.
At the north end of the building is the Grand Army of the Republic dome. This 40′ diameter dome was designed by Healy & Millet. It contains over 50,000 pieces of glass in a Renaissance pattern.
The Chicago Cultural Center has free admission and a number of exhibits, none of which are as impressive as the building itself.
A day in Boston included wandering various neighborhoods checking out the architecture.
177 Huntington Avenue is a 355′ high skyscraper built in the brutalist style. It is on campus of the Christian Science Center, but is no longer owned by the church.
The Prudential Center (left) was completed in 1964 as the tallest building in North America outside of New York City. It is still the 2nd tallest building in Boston. The tower on the right is officially known as 111 Huntington Avenue, but is better known as the R2-D2 building, with it’s rooftop dome, which is not visible from the street level.
The Four Seasons Hotel and Residences.
A quick subway ride over to the North End for some cannoli’s from one of the most renown bakeries in the city – the Modern Pastry Shop. Well worth the stop!
A new development known as Bulfinch Crossing, including the 528′ apartment building The Sudbury on the left. The right tower is obviously to be the home of State Street Corporation.
The venerable 1820s Quincy Market.
The former Board of Trade Building.
The Former Custom House building, now a Marriott Hotel.
John Adams Courthouse.
A Beacon Hill street.
The former Suffolk County Jail – now the Liberty Hotel.
The hotel’s impressive lobby had a collection of decorated Christmas Trees – hanging upside down!
The Boston Public Library.
Just outside the library is this spectacular subway station entrance for the Green Line’s Copley Station.
The Granary Burying Ground. It is very unusual to see a cemetery in the center of a large American city, but Boston has a number of them. This is the 3rd oldest in the city, having been founded in 1660.
There are few times in life that I have visited a place that impacted me the way that a tour of the National Braille Press did. There are over a million people in the country who are legally blind, with millions more who have impaired vision.
The National Braille Press is located in a predominately residential area of Boston near Northeastern University in a classic old building since 1927, with a mission to help those people have a better life.
Nearly 70% of the people who are blind are not working. Of those who are working, virtually all are able to read braille. Our personal tour was lead by Joe, who is the Vice President of Development and Major Gifts. Joe has not let his disability stop him from being an advocate for those with sight challenges.
Our personal tour started out in a conference room where Joe, and his associate Chris, explained the history of braille, their company and their efforts.
The National Braille Press is a leader in the printing of braille products. They are a non profit whose main goal is to help those who need it get as close to an equal opportunity for education and entertainment as those who are sighted.
They gave us an overview of how braille works, including a card showing the alphabet.
It is an expensive effort to print in braille, but at National Braille Press they make sure that people have the same chance as sighted people to get the books they need or want. It costs $80 to print a Harry Potter book in braille, but they still sell it for the same $20 a regular Harry Potter book would sell for. They recover some of this cost by making a profit on other items, such as fliers for corporate meetings and other commercial endeavors.
This cost includes the effort to transcribe the book into braille before being sent to the printer.
As Joe was explaining braille we could feel the entire building rumble at times. Once we headed to the basement we found out why – a collection of Heidelberg printers.
Khith is the person who has been operating these printers for decades. He examines the plates before setting them into the printer.
Once he starts up the printer you feel it as much as you hear it – the rumbling is fantastic.
Amazingly they can print 2 sided at what seems like a fast pace.
The next stop was stitching where we met George. All the machinery in the shop has been in use for years, but continue to operate to deliver the much needed books.
Our final stop was at a station known as the PED – Plate Embossing Device. Here they do smaller, more specialized productions like a United States map. These particular plates are essentially one of a kind, developed by two elderly ladies in New Jersey who have since passed away.
A big thanks to Brian, who showed us the thermoform printer for the above plates, Joe, and all the staff for their time and knowledge. I strongly encourage all to help support the National Braille Press, or others who do similar work for a portion of our population who deserve this valuable service in their lives.
And if you are ever in Boston reach out to the good people at National Braille Press, the tour is so enlightening.
A true Arizona legend and character was the artist Ettore ‘Ted’ DeGrazia. Born in the mining town of Morenci, Ted grew up the son of Italian immigrants. When the mine closed the family eventually moved back to Italy, where Ted spent his informative years, before returning at the age of 14 when the mines reopened.
He made his way to Tucson at age 23 and enrolled in the University of Arizona, working as a musician and landscaper to pay his way. It was here he became an artist, eventually becoming renown enough to work as an apprentice for Diego Rivera.
He had a studio in the city of Tucson, but decided he wanted to escape to the desert, so he bought 10 acres in what was then remote land along the mountain foothills. That land now makes up De Grazia’s Gallery in the Sun.
The main building houses much of his life’s work.
The gallery is much more than just the works of art in the main building. Ted built numerous buildings and other structures on the property.
One courtyard has a desert garden.
The day of our visit coincided with the Fiesta de Guadalupe. This festival included music and dancers, we were fortunate enough to see the Ballet Folkorico.
The Gallery in the Sun is a unique place well worth the visit.
As the city of Tucson grew it often took over large areas of the desert that were ranch lands. Today some of ranches still exist, often being surrounded by suburbia. The Franklin Auto Museum is in one of those areas.
Thomas Hubbard became a collector of Franklin Automobiles in 1950, and brought them home to his ranch in Tucson. The ranch consists of an adobe home, along with numerous out buildings.
One great feature of this museum is being able to tour the home.
The collection of automobiles are housed in 4 different buildings.
The Franklin Auto Museum is a hidden gem of Tucson.