After OPRF flood, first edition Wright portfolio bobs to surface

? Rarely used, numbered edition is worth about $800. Will now go to Wright Preservation Trust as permanent loan, OPRF official says.

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By DREW CARTER

A recent flood at Oak Park and River Forest High School may have ruined ceilings, wallpaper and floors, but it revived a forgotten treasure.

A Frank Lloyd Wright portfolio kept for years in a closet in an architecture room was discovered during salvage and cleanup work at the school. School officials plan to permanently loan the portfolio to the Wright Preservation Trust pending approval of the Trust's board.

"I'm very pleased that [OPRF] looked to us as a repository," said Valerie Harris, collections librarian and archivist for the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust. "It certainly will be a boon to our collection."

The Trust's Collections Committee is expected to vote on the arrangement at its Feb. 16 meeting. Harris said she will recommend that the board approve accepting the piece.

The portfolio, commonly known as the "Wasmuth Portfolio," is complete with 100 plates of Wright's works?#34;drawings, floor plans and detail sketches of famous works and local favorites such as the Winslow House in River Forest; the Wright Studio, Unity Temple and the Cheney Mansion in Oak Park, the River Forest Tennis Club, Dana House in Springfield, and Coonley House in Riverside.

The first edition portfolio?#34;an unbound collection of drawings on heavy 16-inch-by-26-inch paper kept together by an elegant folding cover?#34;was published in Berlin in 1910-11, according to a description in OPRF's edition, published in 1963 in English. Known as the Horizon Press Publishers edition, OPRF's copy is number 407 of only 2,600 copies produced. Sources did not know how many copies remain, but Harris estimated between 70 and 100 appeared on a library holdings search.

Most copies of the original edition were damaged or destroyed during a fire in the early 20th century at Wright's Taliesin estate in Spring Green, Wis., Harris said.

Because the portfolio introduced Wright to many Europeans, the portfolio was much more influential in Europe than in the U.S., where his work was already known, Harris said.

The Trust has an original edition, but the addition of OPRF's portfolio would serve as an access edition for researchers at the Trust's Resource Center, she said.

The center is open to the public from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and by appointment.

The portfolio would have been a substantial purchase in 1963, said Don Vogle, director of instructional technology and applied arts. Library records do not show its purchase, though, so it may have been a grant to the school or a special purchase, he said.

Vogle estimated that although most books at that time cost between $2 and $5, the Wright portfolio could have cost as much as $100.

"Architecture was a big program [at OPRF]," Vogle said. "I'm sure Frank Lloyd Wright being from the community, they asked the library to make the purchase."

The portfolio is now worth about $800, Vogle said. He said the plates are in excellent condition. "Clearly it was a rare occasion that they took them out," he said.

Harris did not know the value of the original edition, but said individual plates were worth about $300, and that a complete edition would add value.

The flood was caused when a pipe in the school's north attic feeding the sprinkler system froze and burst, pumping 35,000 gallons of water into the school before it could be shut off, causing an estimated $700,000 in damages.

The architecture room where the portfolio was kept was one of the rooms worst hit by the flood. Cleanup and room improvement work kept it closed until last week. The school has just one room still not open to classes.
Contact: dcarter@wjinc.com

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