The Menomonie Public Library was designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright understudy.
For nearly 30 years John H. Howe was the chief draftsman for Wright. Filmmaker Rob Barros brings Howe’s story onto the big screen in his documentary “John H. Howe, Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Master of Perspective.” Barros will be at the Menomonie Public Library Saturday for screening of his documentary, followed by conversation with the filmmaker. The event begins at 1 p.m. and is free to the public.
“When you started talking to the people that knew him it was very clear that he was far more a part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s practice then he had really been attributed,” Barros said of Howe.
Along with a brief appearance of the library, Bob and Jan Willow also appear in the film as their Menomonie home was designed by Howe, along with the Willow’s car dealership. Barros said the recessed eaves of the library are distinctive Howe characteristic that is typically attributed to Wright.
The design of the library was the second drawing of the building and it took 10 years of planning before the project was approved, Barros said. The building was completed in 1986, according to Dunn County News archives.
Howe attended Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship apprenticeship program in Spring Green after he graduated from high school. Howe became the chief draftsman for Wright in 1937. Together they produced famous works such as Guggenheim Museum, Fallingwater, Unitarian Meeting House, S.C. Johnson Wax Headquarters and Marin County Civic Center among other projects.
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Barros had a friend that worked as an apprentice at Taliesin and he suggested Barros do a film documenting Howe’s story. Howe reportedly did around 40 percent of the drawings that came out of Taliesin, Barros said. When Barros did an internet search for Howe, its results paled in comparison to the millions of results that occurred when Frank Lloyd Wright is searched.
“In my mind the question that was raised is, how could somebody that did all this work be so under the radar?” Barros questioned.
Barros interest was sparked and dove deeper into Howe. He found a book of Taliesin drawings in the Wisconsin Historical Society’s archives. The book had an inscription from Wright calling Howe his accomplice which was something Taliesin archivist Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer was shocked Barros found. Finding this artifact was the final bit of motivation Barros needed to go all-in on his research.
For Barros, he hopes viewers leave a showing of his documentary with a curiosity to learn more about both Howe and Wright and the architectural work created at Taliesin.
“I want people to come away more interested in Frank Lloyd Wright, more interested in John Howe and knowing that it really was a team of very creative people that created these houses and building,” Barros said. “I want people to want to know more.”