Unity Chapel (Spring Green, Wisconsin)
Frank Lloyd Wright – likely known first for his architecture, and second for his womanizing. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Wright eventually attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, leaving before he finished his degree. While there, he started work on his first architecture project, and although he didn’t design the Unity Chapel in Spring Green, Wisconsin, he did have a hand in its planning. On a day trip to central Wisconsin on October 2, I had the opportunity to visit Unity Chapel.
When discussing Unity Chapel, it’s best to first look at the early life of Frank Lloyd Wright. The valley in Spring Green where Wright eventually built his home (called Taliesin) was initially settled by Wright’s ancestors during the Civil War after immigrating from Wales. In the early 1900s, Wright bought the land where his favorite hill was in order to construct Taliesin. Later, Wright purchased all of the surrounding land, totaling 593 acres.
Although Taliesin is the focal point for tourists, not too far down the road is the Unity Chapel. When many of Wright’s early maternal relatives settled in the valley, they established seven farms to sustain their large clan. Later, in 1886, Unity Chapel was planned by the Reverend Jenkin Lloyd Jones, Wright’s uncle, who was an important Unitarian minister of the time. Wright comes from deep Unitarian roots on his mother’s side, so it’s no surprise to see this little chapel still standing so closely to Taliesin.
Next to the chapel is a small graveyard with many of Wright’s relatives. You can see it on the left on the picture below
Wright himself was initially buried here when he passed away in 1959 at age 91. Upon his third (and last) wife’s death, it was revealed that her dying wish was to be buried with Wright and their daughter in Scottsdale, Arizona, at Taliesin West (Wright’s winter home). His body was exhumed from Unity Chapel’s graveyard and moved there in 1985.
As time has worn on, Unity Chapel has fallen into disuse.
The chapel is still available for people to visit. Although the doors to the chapel are locked, several large windows allow visitors to peek in. From what I could see, there isn’t much noteworthy – just some chairs. There is the occasional event held there (posted on their webpage), and the chapel can also be rented out for weddings and the like.
Additionally, Unity Chapel has served as a meeting place for descendants of the Lloyd-Jones family (those who initially settled in the valley). Reunions are held every five years. The family also maintains a large amount of biographical information regarding descendents on their website, as well as administrating the chapel for use.
Given Frank Lloyd Wright’s heritage in the midwest, there are several other religious buildings of his I hope to feature in the future. In particular, there is the Greek Orthodox church in Milwaukee, his Unitarian Universalist church in Chicago, as well as another Unitarian Universalist church located in Madison.