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Geneva museum highlights famous architects, buildings in new exhibit

GENEVA – The Geneva History Museum’s new exhibit, "Inside & Out: Geneva’s Faces, Places & Spaces," highlights the people who designed, constructed and lived in some of the city’s most interesting homes and buildings.  

The exhibit, at 113 S. Third St., Geneva, will feature architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Frazier and J. Howard Raftery, Jacques Brownson and Thomas Emma, as well as current local architects, museum executive director Terry Emma said.

Vignettes of each house will include artifacts from the museum’s collection spanning from the years 1906, 1931, 1949 and 1964, she said.

“A lot of these architects who did these jobs in Geneva were influential in other places, such as in Chicago,” Terry Emma said. “It’s amazing that our small town had such influence, especially in designing homes and buildings here.”

For example, through Wright’s association with Col. George Fabyan, he converted a barn into what is now Fabyan Villa, Terry Emma said.

“And how cool is it that we have this letter dated Dec. 8, 1933, signed by Frank Lloyd Wright,” Terry Emma said. “It’s a response to the founder of the Friends of the Geneva Public Library, when they asked if Frank Lloyd Wright could come out to talk about a possible addition for the library in 1933.”

Wright’s response was, “I would be glad to come to Geneva some Sunday and confer with your group.”

However, the cost for Wright’s visit would have been $250, and he asked what they could afford. But there is no proof that Wright ever actually came out, Terry Emma said.

Author Forrest Crissey lived in Geneva, Terry Emma said. He wrote for the “Saturday Evening Post,” and among his books were “Tattlings of a Retired Politician,” “The Story of Foods” and “Where Opportunity Knocks Twice.”

“We have his desk from 1906 and it has a Frank Lloyd Wright style,” Terry Emma said.

Also the famous brothers Oscar and August Wilson, who were contractors for Wright, Terry Emma said.

“Oscar and August built a lot of downtown Geneva and you can see a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright's influence on them,” Terry Emma said. “Wright has had an influence on design in that era.”

Wright designed a house for Agnes Hoyt at 318 S. Fifth St., two years after her husband died.

Terry Emma said they theorized that Hoyt met Wright through Jane Addams’s Hull House, as Addams had spoken in Geneva several times, and Hoyt may have gone to listen to her.

Addams and Wright knew each other through the suffragette movement, and through Wright’s Chicago Arts and Crafts Society, as Hull House was the center of it, Terry Emma said.

“We are assuming this,” Terry Emma said. “I know it’s a stretch, but that is how we traced these connections."

A glass house, at 949 S. Batavia Ave., was designed by Jacques Brownson, the architect who also designed the Daily Center in Chicago, Terry Emma said. It was his master’s thesis for architectural school.

“And we have three video screens showing some of these things being built,” Terry Emma said. “One is our first museum built in Wheeler Park, designed by Walter Frazier and J. Howard Raftery. Howard was the son of the founder of The Little Traveler. They designed the museum and we have the shovel from the first groundbreaking.”

The exhibit also includes video interviews with local architects on their thoughts about Geneva architecture, Terry Emma said.

The exhibit will be open through November.

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