I still remember when, on my first day of art class as a high school freshman, our new teacher gave us a test to find out how much we knew about art history. Later, going over the results, he remarked that only two students knew who Frank Lloyd Wright was – me and the boy sitting next to me looking over my shoulder. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an architect, and so my interest in this most fascinating character was inevitable, even as a youngster. Combining always spectacular building forms with a sometimes outlandish persona, he dominated the 20th century American architectural scene until his death at the age of 89 – if there was an internet in 1935 he would most certainly have gone viral.
As it happens, one of the last projects he designed was the Pilgrim Congregational Church in Redding. When I arrived in town in 1985, I was certainly surprised to learn that there was a FLW designed building here. Almost immediately I took a tour to learn more about this building – and the story behind how it came to be. I learned that he never actually visited Redding, which may explain why a rendering of the church by his office depicts the final design against a backdrop of giant redwood trees. I listened to stories of leaky roofs and cost overruns while admiring the quality of the interior space and custom designed light fixtures. Since then, I have heard so many different anecdotes about the church – both good and bad – it’s difficult to separate reality from fiction.
Well, on March 16th at the Cascade Theatre we should all look forward to the Shasta Historical Society premiere of The Wright Time, a locally produced film. Admission is free, and according to the producers, we will have a chance to see for ourselves how this building went “from concept to completion though the eyes of those who devotedly worked to transform their dream into reality”.
For more information, you can call the Shasta Historical Society at 530. 243.3720
Written by James Theimer for The Record Searchlight’s Redding Sketchbook blog at redding.com