Growing up in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright left an undeniable impression on Lonnie Lovness.
“There was no other place I knew,” she explained. “It was just overwhelming, how exceptional it was. It shaped pretty much everything I did,” noting she went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art. “The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.”
Those impressions and more are the basis for Lovness’ new book, “Growing Up Wright”, about the two houses her parents built on Woodpile Lake, west of Stillwater.
The 288-page book features 600 photos of the houses.
“A picture tells 1,000 words,” Lonnie said. “And this really does, especially in houses like these.”
Lovness’ parents: Don, a chemist, and Virginia, a painter, led “interesting, creative lives” explained Lonnie. In 1955, they decided to drive to Spring Green, Wisconsin, where the world-famous architect was residing and he agreed to design a home/art studio for the couple.
The end result to make the home overwhelming and exceptional wasn’t easy. Her parents built the house from scratch. Over the next two years, as her parents spent time chiseling and laying stone and pouring cement, the family was living in a camping trailer, with no running water, on site.
Besides the first house, which was titled the “Studio,” Don and Virginia also built the “Cottage” in 1973 on the same property.
“This whole process was about finding out who my parents were,” Lonnie explained. “It was an Herculean endeavor.”
“It seemed like with the book we took one step forward, two steps back. The facts and figures were very detailed and we had to make sure the dates were accurate.”
Lonnie also explained Virginia, before passing away in 2018 at the age of 93, was able to read multiple chapters which pleased Lonnie to no end.
“My mother saved everything,” Lonnie continued. “Letters, correspondence. It was a treasure trove of information.”
Another facet that interested Lonnie was even though Wright died in 1959, her mother and father became well connected within the Wright social circles, becoming good friends with his widow, Olgivanna and son-in-law, Wes Peters, who often visited their homes. Virginia was a close confidant of Peters' second wife, Svetlana Alliluyeva, the youngest child and only daughter of Joseph Stalin.
Lovness also talked about the new owner of the properties, Ted and Debi Muntz. One of the later chapters in the book is titled “Passing the Torch.”
“We couldn’t be more pleased,” Lovness said about Muntz. “They are in the best possible hands of its new owner.” She credited the Muntz’s for modernizing the homes, yet keeping the vision her parents had.
Lovness said the book will be available this month on the website growingupwright.com.