Friday, October 21, 2016

Dana - Thomas House and Springfield

Let me start by saying having repairs done on Opus while on the road is the biggest frustration we have with our fulltiming lifestyle. When you are in a stix and brix you can use the same repair people all the time, but on the road you are at the mercy of people who know you will be hundreds of miles away soon after the work is done. This has resulted in more bad than good experiences and often means having the same problem recur, requiring more than one repair stop.  The AC is the latest example.  In July of last year the fan stopped working in the back AC. We had it replaced in North Carolina. Then in August while in Eastern PA both ACs stopped working.  A repairman changed a board and they worked until this August.  A mobile repairman in WashPA had no idea what was wrong so we made an appointment at Duncan, a repair service in Elkhart. We have used them in the past with positive results. So we left WashPA with two RV service stops scheduled, one in Michigan at Spartan for annual engine maintenance and inspection of the chassis and the other in Elkhart at Duncan for the AC and several other RV issues.  The inspection at Spartan found the suspension air bags on our 12 year old rig were showing wear and needed changed.  That was something we did not plan on, but not totally unexpected because Opus is getting old. After the work was done in Michigan we headed to Duncan with a list of items that needed worked on including the AC-heat pumps, broken toilet spring, batteries, broken dead-bolt door lock and bathroom exhaust fan. Most repairs went as expected, but as always there was a couple surprises; the cost of the dead-bolt and the fact a whole new toilet would cost only $20.00 more than the cost to repair the spring. The biggest surprise was we needed new batteries.  We had new AGMs installed three years ago and they were cooked. I think this goes back to an inverter problem we had a couple years ago. Another example of something not corrected the first time.  The biggest issue for us was the AC-heat pumps, and Steve at Duncan was shocked when he took the cover off the roof top unit and found loose wires. Turned out, the fix was to reattach the wires and replace a bad connection.  While all the repairs have lightened our wallet, it was not nearly as expensive as we had planned, so life is good!

After all that it was time to get back to what we love about our lifestyle, traveling America's highways and experiencing new things along the way. Our first stop was in Springfield, Illinois to tour the capitol and  to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Dana-Thomas House. Here is the link to our earlier visit to Springfield when we visited the Lincoln sites. On that visit the Dana-Thomas House was closed and we had not yet put capitol tours on our to do list. 
You never know what you will see along the road. On the way to Springfield we got behind this huge windmill blade. Believe it or not, this truck was making the turn. We sure have seen a big increase in the number of windmills and when you see them you need to be aware of high winds while driving a high profile RV.
We went to Obed & Isaacs brew pub in Springfield where the food was very good and they have cans of fresh brews to go.  You pick the beer you want, they fill a quart can and then seal the pop top with this spinning machine.
I opted for the Isaacs IPA which I had the next evening at home. This is the first time we have seen the use of what they call a crawler. For me it is better than a growler that does not fit well into the RV fridge.
While at dinner one evening we met  Pam, one of the locals, and she told us that her sister and brother-in-law's diner, Charles Parker's, was not to be missed while in Springfield. So, of course, the next day we went for breakfast.  I had the "pony," the small version of the "shoe," a dish with toast, eggs, meat and potatoes in a pile all covered with gravy, cheese or both. It was very yummy.
A panoramic shot of Charlie Parker's. This unique place has been featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives and in addition to having great food and very cool 50's style interior, it is located in an old Quonset hut and definitely worth a visit.
We search out Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in our travels and the Dana-Thomas house is one of the best we have toured. In 1902 Susan Lawrence Dana gave Wright, who had just started his own architectural firm, a blank check commission to remodel her 2,000 square foot Victorian home. 
The end result was this 12,000 square foot, 35 room Prairie Style home with 3 main levels and 16 varying levels that was designed to be used for entertaining, as well as Susan's home. While this house was the 72nd designed by Wright, at $50,000 it was by far the most expensive at that point in his long career.
The entrance through the arched door was unusual for a Wright home where doors are usually placed around corners or hidden behind walls. Susan wanted a welcoming door, as she had guests for parties at least twice a week. The arch theme is carried on inside with an arched fireplace and a couple arched ceiling rooms. 
The dining room has a table that expands to seat up to forty guests. Notice the chair backs with every other one having a low back to make it easier for the servers to serve and clear the table. No interior photos are allowed. I was able to find these interior pictures on line.
This room, designed exclusively for entertaining, includes one of three band boxes in the house, this one located on the balcony. The tables were used to display Susan's art collection because Wright did not want art hung on the walls, as he considered his buildings works of art.
The library is an exact replica of the one that Susan's father built in the Springfield High School. She often opened it to local children who came for games, readings and to borrow her books.
The living room, like much of the house, has many windows.  While it was wired for electric lights in 1902, they were very low power and dim.  After living here for 24 years Susan sold the house to Charles C. Thomas in 1924. He used it as the headquarters for his medical publication business, but made sure the original furnishings were preserved. In 1981 he sold the house and all the furnishings to the state of Illinois for $1,000,000. An example of what a great deal it was is the lamp on the desk which was originally in the home but was later bought at auction for $750,000.
One theme throughout the house is the butterfly pattern. This light projected a butterfly on the wall and ceiling, a great example of the detail in Wright's buildings.
The other theme, sumac trees, is found in the wood and stained glass windows.  
The courtyard of the house is near the railroad tracks and Susan often had guests arrive by special train. While the house was very large and Susan entertained a great deal, she did not have overnight guest bedrooms and there was only one very small bathroom for guests.  
With so much of the original furnishings still in the home, this has to be one of the most important Wright homes that is open to the public. We had a nice time in Springfield and still have a blog post to write about our tour of the state capitol.

Since we are moving cross country I'm a bit behind with the blog. We are presently in Dodge City, KS and have a reservation for four days at the Ojo Caliente Spa in New Mexico early next week. We will then be going to the Good Life RV Park in Mesa and staying until the beginning of the year.


Jan Mains said...

So you'll be in our neck of the woods. There are Escapee luncheons in Apache Junction on the first and third Wednesday of the month. Hope we can meet you there some time.

Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Beautiful Wright House Images. You sure got it right when you talked of the frustration with repairs and finding good repair people.