Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Erickson & Stevens & Aspen, Colorado

Don Erickson began his business at age 23 as a solo "practitioner."  It was not until 1962, that he took in Arthur Dennis Stevens, another FLW apprentice, and developed Architectural Enterprises which was later renamed, Erickson & Stevens, Inc.  The Erickson & Stevens partnership was informally dissolved in 1992, when Don again went solo to pursue his design ideals. 

At the time the partnership was created, Don had just boldly walked into Singer Sewing Machine Company and presented his design concept for the Singer Bowl to the corporate Board of Directors.  Don needed all "hands on deck," which included Richard Erickson and Dennis.  Don credited Dennis with being the business developer, bringing in new clients and new business.  It was under his partner's influence, that Don began to do more commercial projects.

As the business expanded, and Don's name and reputation began to precede him, Don became a licensed architect in many other states including Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Colorado, New Jersey, and Florida. 

In Colorado, Charles Matthies (developer of the "Bird Cage" apartments) commissioned Don to develop a building in Aspen, Colorado, a building recently described in an article entitled, "Aspen's 20th Century Architecture: Modernism 1943-1975" and provided to me by Amy Guthrie, City of Aspen Historic Preservation Officer.  For more about modernism in Aspen, please click on the link below to see the full report:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What You Can Get for $1 Million

as compared to $2 Million.  Ten acres of prime real estate, beauty, a unique home designed by an award-winning architect and apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Erickson had a Style Uniquely His Own

As featured on

Price: $1,000,000

The Skinny: The late Organic architect Don Erickson spent three years as an apprentice to, Frank Lloyd Wright, an experience that convinced him to abandon a life as an aspiring concert pianist and turn to architecture instead. Judging from the home he designed for himself and his family, Erickson also took inspiration from the tropics. The "Jamaican roofs," extensive indoor flora, and an indoor pool abutting the living room are certainly rare features in an Illinois home...but the next buyer would be getting quite the deal. Originally listed for $3.9M, the 10-acre property endured a series of serious price chops, all the way down to its current ask of $1M. Quite a savings, but for the less intrepid house hunter, the architect's abode is also available for rent at $3K per month. Try before you buy, perhaps?

Try Before You Buy?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Significant Price Drop on Don Erickson Estate Home

From $1.25 Million down to $1.0 Million.  At this price, the 7,000 square foot home on 10 acres of prime real estate in Barrington, Illinois is significantly under-priced.

Taliesin Fellows on Facebook

The Mission of Taliesin Fellows on Facebook

Saturday, October 30, 2010

An Artist's Soul is Embodied in His Works

For nearly two years, the works of Don Erickson have been in storage, thin pieces of tissue paper on which pencil sketches show the shell of a building, paper napkins marked with felt tip pen, simple structural details with no reference to a building, and original designs dating back to 1951 which show Wright’s influence and Don’s good eyes.

Don was an artist. . .

Don was an architect. . .

Don was well-versed in structural design and engineering. . .

As Richard Erickson, his chief draftsperson tells it, Don’s designs “scared” the builders. It took a special team of engineers, carpenters, masons and bricklayers to build a Don Erickson home or commercial building because Don’s designs were out of the ordinary. . .they tested building concepts…they were architectural feats. This is probably why, when I was a child, my father would take me on Saturdays to the job sites, and why he would spend an hour, or so, with the construction workers going over the plans and explaining how to do things. . .

Don's Drawing of the award-winning Round House
Having worked for Leo Zari, after returning home from Taliesin, Don had spent a few years managing construction sites, while building his architectural business. Richard Erickson also worked for Zari, after coming home from serving his country in the Korean war.

But, back to the works of Don Erickson. . .having myself returned “home” to the prairie state, I had the pleasure of cataloging my father’s works in their entirety. And, the pleasure of negotiating with an international institution who has expressed interest in receiving these works in their entirety as well as preparing an exhibition of the best of these works. My father’s works would be shoulder-to-shoulder with those of the Master, FLW, and of Louis Sullivan, and of Bruce Goff. And, I would receive the benefit of knowing that I had worked to preserve these works for the future. . .thin pieces of paper housed in the right conditions. . .but no monetary benefits would ensue to me. . .

An artist’s works are embodied in their representations. . .and it is through these representations that one can feel the spirit and the soul of the artist who made these works. . .

An artist, like a writer, needs to express him or herself. . .we need an audience. . .for through our expressions we tell the world how we feel. . .and what we’ve learned. . .

It is not easy letting my father’s works go to an institution. . .I have so little of him. . .my story is not unlike that of Wright’s own children…

We children own the works of Don Erickson. . .with half of us wanting to share our most treasured belongings and preserve them for the future. . .and the other half unable to let them go.

Don died on October 24, 2006. . .it is time to honor our father’s memory . . .it is time to unclutch what we hold dear. . .and to let our father express himself through his architectural designs to our own and to future generations. . .

To that end, I have shared a Don Erickson original. . .a sketch. . .oh, so sensitively drawn. . .because, for now, this is all that I can provide. . .

Monday, October 4, 2010

Don Erickson Residence Featured in the Press

Don and Shirley Erickson Wed
About 1 and 1/2 years after Don's residence was built in Barrington, Illinois, a tornado ripped through Lake Zurich and Barrington, and destroyed multiple homes.  Don's home, built with flat roofs more in keeping with the Prairie Style, was one of these homes.

"Tornado Destroys House," Des Plaines Suburban Times, Pg. 1, 1967

Indomitable, Don and his family rebuilt the home, this time, with "pagoda" style roofs that reached for the sky.  Don's second home, built on the foundation of the original home, was added on to, expanding into a nearly 7,000 square foot home of private bedrooms and entertainment rooms where concerts could be played to a small audience.

"Custom Ideas," House & Home, Pg.86-87, features the award winning Seidel home and the Erickson residence.  March 1971.

The fireplace in the living room of Don's residence was featured on the cover of the book, "Book of Fireplaces: How to Build, Decorate and Use Them," 19th edition, R.J. and Marie-Jeanne Lyttle. 1972

"At Home," Suburban edition of the Chicago Tribune, displays Mazur's sculptures hanging through Don's Barrington home. July 12, 1979.

"Just Wright: Erickson's Home Hugs the Earth," Northwest Herald, Sec. E, Page 3, January 13, 2000.

"In the Large Shadow of Frank Lloyd Wright, Former Student Forges his Own Destiny," Blue Prints, November 12, 2001.


The Inverness home that Don designed for his parents, Ebba and Gunnar Erickson in 1951, and which is now for sale, was discussed in the following early publications:

"Items from Inverness," Daily Herald, August 15, 1952.

"How Chicago Lives," Chicago Daily News, Page 49, December 1,1954.

"Items from Inverness," Daily Herald, December 9, 1954.  David and Violet Gustafson purchase the Inverness home from Ebba and Gunnar Erickson.

For an inside view of the architect's residence, please see sidebar to this blog, and look for "Tour the Architect's Home" and "Inside the Architect's Home."  Both the architect's home and the house that he first designed for his parents (Ebba and Gunnar Erickson) are for sale.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Publications - The Works of Don Erickson

Among others, Don Erickson's work has been published in the following magazines and news journals:
  • House & Home
  • House Beautiful
  • House & Garden
  • Better Homes & Gardens
  • Friends of Kebyar
  • ICARA (i.e. Association of Licensed Architects)
  • Playboy Magazine
  • Design Ideas
  • Chicago Tribune
  • Chicago Daily News
  • Chicago Sun Times
  • Daily Herald (Chicago Suburbs)
  • Barrington Courier
  • Des Plaines Suburban Times
Don's house, which he designed, built and lived in since 1964, has been featured in books, magazines, and news journals.

A retrospective of Don's work is available for sale from Kebyar, Journal 69, Issue 20.2 and found via the link posted below:

Kebyar Journal

For a list of publications and reference buildings, please contact me at:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Award Winning Architect - Don Erickson

“Custom-House Winners, AIA Homes for Better Living Awards,” sponsored by the American Institute of Architects in cooperation with House & Home and Life magazines. Award of Merit. The Round House, (Owner - Mayes).  Glenellyn, IL. 1958.  Don Erickson, Architect.

Honorable Mention Industrial Division, Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce Architectural Award, 1959. EMMCO Interior Stairs, 1873 Busse Highway, Des Plaines. Don Erickson, Architect.

Award of Merit, Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce Architectural Award, 1959. Don Erickson, Architect.

Citation of Merit Award, American Institute of Architects, Chicago Chapter and Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry – 1965. Decoral Corporation. Don Erickson, Architect.

“Chicago Tribune,” “Award Winner on a Ravine,” Anna Douglas, June 22, 1968, Distinguished Building Award, Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry, the Chicago Chapter, American Institute of Architects. Martin Leaf Residence, Glencoe, IL. Don Erickson, Architect.

Award for Excellence, Society of American Registered Architects, Residential – Honor, 1968, to Erickson & Stevens, Inc. Residential – Seidel Residence, Park Ridge, Illinois. Don Erickson, Architect.

American Institute of Architects and the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry, 1968 Distinguished Building Award, Martin Leaf Residence, Glencoe, IL, Erickson & Stevens, Inc. Don Erickson, Architect.

Award for Excellence, Society of American Registered Architects, Residential – Honor, 1970, to Erickson & Stevens, Inc. Residential – Seidel Residence, Park Ridge, Illinois. Don Erickson, Architect.

Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce and Industry Architectural Award for Outstanding Achievement – 1977 – First National Bank Building. Don Erickson, Architect.

Design Award, Society of American Registered Architects, National Convention, Architect Don Erickson of Erickson & Stevens, Carson’s Indian Lakes Resort. 1981

Association of Licensed Architects, 2001 Design Award Winners, “Gaple’s Gazebo: Don Erickson, Architect.”

Association of Licensed Architects, 2002, Louis Sullivan Copper Medallion.

Association of Licensed Architects, 2003, Gold Medallion - Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Big Plans - Gustafson Home

The Gustafson Home in Winter
In 1958, Dave and Violet Gustafson commissioned Don Erickson to custom design their home in Winnetka, Illinois. By 2009, the Gustafson home was slated for demolition but prior to the demolition, the estate sales agent found a box of the original plans in the house and contacted me. We were able to retrieve these plans prior to the home's destruction, plans which tell a story about the Gustafson home.

Located at 1055 Starr Road, Winnetka, Illinois, the Gustafson residence was notable for its grand foyer, fireplace,masonry and extensive use of glass windows which illuminated the home with natural light. The stones were “imported” from a quarry in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and the masonry was done by Linari Construction, of Highwood, Illinois while the carpentry was done by Carl I. Bengtson & Sons.

In addition to designing the Gustafson home, Don acted as Owner’s Agent and contracted out the jobs. Don’s designs were sufficiently complicated to cause the ordinary contractor to “turn tail and run;" as Owner Agent, Don and Richard could “hand-hold” the contractors throughout the job.
Don's notes to his client concerning their request for changes
Richard Erickson, chief drafts person to Don from 1954 through 1992, would begin his work using a thumb nail sketch from Don, which detailed the design concept. It was not unusual for this thumb nail sketch to be done on a place mat or napkin...Once the concept was provided, Richard and Don would work collaboratively together to flesh out the drawings. The development of the Gustafson plans followed a similar path. These plans were hand-drawn on tracing paper by Richard over a period of months. The box of plans I now own show the evolution of the house, from the basic sketches required to secure the building permit to the final drawings.
Richard Erickson poring over the Gustafson plans
Notable, too, is the fact that the Gustafson plans were developed at EMMCO Interiors in Des Plaines, Illinois; The EMMCO building appears to have been constructed sometime during 1957, when Don was working “solo,” and not affiliated with a partner. Later, when Don took in a partner and established the firm Erickson & Stevens, Inc., Don was the design lead while his partner’s principal contributions centered around business development.

Please contact me, or provide comments on this page, if you would like to submit information that you may have on the work and/or its history. And, if you would like to contribute to championing the preservation of the Don Erickson Legacy, please email me at the address posted under my profile.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Being Outside the Mainstream

"Modernist designs still remain outside the mainstream aesthetic," many preferring homes that architectural aficionados refer to as "McMansions." (See “Too New for New Canaan?”) While Americans invest in the mainstream, foundations like "Save Wright" and Hollywood actors like Diane Keaton who publicized the need to restore and preserve Wright's Ennis house, struggle to preserve the works of Frank Lloyd Wright throughout the U.S. The Ennis home is now being offered for sale, with substantial price decreases offered to tease prospective buyers; none, apparently, have yet come up to the plate.

Don Erickson was an apprentice to Wright between 1948 and 1951, leaving Taliesin to develop his architectural practice. His first creation began with the Inverness home, which, ironically, is now being offered for sale. David and Violet Gustafson later acquired the Inverness home from Gunnar and Ebba Erickson, and within a few years commissioned a new home in Winnetka, Illinois, a home which, also ironic, was leveled in 2009 to make room for a new addition on adjoining property. See link below.

Outside the Mainstream; Nature Influences Design
To appreciate a Don Erickson designed home, one must appreciate nature, for aside from being schooled in the Wright tradition, Don was influenced by what he saw. . . from the structure of a diatom observed under the microscope to the “engineering” of a nautilus shell with its spiral design. An avid reader of medical journals, science and physics, perhaps Don would have made a great doctor but, it appears, that design was part of his genetic make-up as it was part of his Swedish family tradition. It seems that he was born to be an architect.

In observing Falling Waters in Pennsylvania, I was awestruck by the graceful manner in which Wright’s house became integral with the water falls themselves, and how the house invited nature inside, offering its guests a private retreat where they could listen to the symphony created by the rushing waters below.

Having myself resided in traditional American homes, I have always felt enclosed and cut-off from the natural world. But, life in my father’s home was a blending of nature with human creation. One could feel the seamless connection with the trees and grasses outside, or the snow in winter, a private retreat. Thus, to appreciate a Don Erickson designed residence, or his own home which is being offered for sale, one must also appreciate and marvel at nature.

It requires a unique buyer to appreciate a unique home.

Email me for specifics:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Inside the Architect's Home

Click on slide show on the side-bar of this blog to see new photos; an inside view into the architect's own home.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Too New for New Canaan?

Modernist homes, like that of Philip Johnson, which Don and I visited in Summer 2000, are featured in the article posted below. In 2000, Johnson's home was privately owned and monitored by a caretaker who kept careful watch on the home.  He did not allow us inside, despite Don's best appeal to view Johnson's home.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation writes about modernist homes, like that of Don Erickson, and wonders are these homes "too new" for "modern society?"

Too New for New Canaan?

The following article should also be of interest to Chicago residents.

North Shore House for Sale for $1 Million

You, the Reader

Google has added a new feature to blogs which allows blog writers to review statistics about blog readers (in the aggregate). This addition has provided me with an understanding about the posts that are most read and searched by visitors to this blog. For instance, posts about the Singer Bowl and the Playboy Pad are widely read and searched. And, visitors to this blog, while principally from the U.S., also come from Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, Serbia, the Netherlands, Australia and many other countries (surprisingly, however, not Sweden!)

While I write "when the spirit moves me," I'd like to ask you what you would be interested in reading about Don Erickson and his work. I have many stories to tell, and many photos to offer.

Please contact me, or provide comments on this page, if you would like to submit information that you may have on Don's work and/or its history or if you have articles about Don's buildings that you would like to see. E-mails can be submitted to

Monday, September 13, 2010

EMMCO Stairs, Des Plaines, IL

The Erickson boys were industrious. Each of the four young men immigrated to Chicago from Arvika, Sweden. Eventually, their two sisters, Regina and Signey, and their mother, Anna Louise, followed them to the Second City.

The oldest brother, Martin, formed (or took over) the August J. Johnson Company in partnership with Carl Olson on Eastman Street in Chicago. Employing his younger brothers, Gottfried and Herbert, Martin’s firm, at its height, employed about fifty workers. The firm manufactured wooden cabinets for pin ball machines and supplied such firms as Gottlieb, Williams and Bally companies. During World War II, the firm dedicated its business principally to making wooden coffins. At age fifteen, Richard Erickson, Don’s cousin, worked at August J. Johnson on a work permit on Saturday, making $2.00 for one-half day’s work. By age seventeen, Richard “graduated” to work on the machines. During the later years, Martin, who died at the early age of 54, had moved August J. Johnson to the Chicago suburbs; Gottfried and Herbert worked for Martin throughout their careers.

Although Gunnar probably also worked for Martin’s firm at one time, Gunnar was similarly entrepreneurial. Instead of following in the family tradition, Gunnar established his own firm in partnership with Mr. Nordholm, locating the firm on Higgins Avenue in Chicago. At first Gunnar’s firm turned out hand-built kitchen cabinets, but later Gunnar began to design and manufacture hand-built wooden stairs. Gunnar later earned a reputation for the design and manufacture of hand-crafted free-standing, spiral wooden staircases, one of which is pictured here. His work was inspiration for his son, Don, who became an architect. (Don's dream of being an architect competed with another dream, to become a concert pianist, for, you see, music was in Don's blood. Don’s mother, Ebba Larson, came from a family featuring a long line of organists who played at the local churches of Olmstad, Sweden.)

Gunnar and Don remained closely bonded throughout their lives and often worked on projects together. Gunnar manufactured the stairs for the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Glore home in the Chicago area. Gunnar was probably also the inspiration for the exterior spiral stairs that grace Don’s Bird Cage apartments (see blog archives.)

Gunnar later formed a partnership with Mr. Mathison, whom, it appears, was a financial backer for a new firm, EMMCO Interior Stairs, a firm named after both Erickson and Mathison.

On or about 1957, Don, designed and managed the construction of EMMCO Stairs building in Des Plaines, Illinois. The building earned an Honorable Mention, Industrial Division, for the design which was awarded by the Des Plainer Chamber of Commerce.

The front of the building housed two offices upstairs, the first office being that of Gunnar Erickson, with the office closest to Busse Highway belonging to Don. Don’s office had a secretarial area where clients were greeted. There was a small conference room and a large workspace which housed four back-to-back drafting tables in which Don and his cousin, Richard Erickson, worked. In turn, the drafting room was surrounded by windows, affording natural light to the architects and draftspersons who worked there.

The bottom floor of the building was occupied by hand and machine tools. Large supplies of wood were housed at the back of the building, behind which the Chicago Northwestern commuter train roared by at scheduled times. I remember the smells of freshly sawn wood, sap and glue, and seeing soaked wood being cajoled into curved structures over wooden molds . . . It was in the stair factory that the model for the 1964 Singer Bowl was hand-built by Don and Shirley, painted with painstaking details and landscaped with spray-painted twigs which served as trees. (Today that model sits in storage and has been happily occupied by mice. . .)

EMMCO Stairs is featured as a significant architectural resource by the Illinois Landmark Society. (See sidebar, “About the Architect.”) EMMCO Stairs is now owned by an auto body repair shop and is located at 1873 Busse Highway, Des Plaines, Illinois.

Please contact me, or provide comments on this page, if you would like to submit information that you may have on the work and/or its history.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Organic Architecture For Sale In Inverness

Organic Architecture For Sale In Inverness

Bird Cage Apartments

Bird Cage Apartments is featured in the AIA Guide to Chicago, edited by Alice Sinkevitch. See link to book on the sidebar to this blog under "About the Architect."

#59) 6901 N. Ridge Avenue, Chicago, IL

An excerpt follows, "former Frank Lloyd Wright fellow Erickson curved this flagstone and curtain wall building to give every apartment a view of open space. The steel-rod staircase gave the apartment it's nickname, 'the birdcage' which originally rose above a fish pond whose reflection doubled its pizzazz."

2nd Edition, May 2003.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The 50-cent Tour

Yesterday, I gave a tour of my father's home to the son of a former client and his daughter. In my dreams this morning, I heard my father asking me to give his visitors "The 50-cent tour." This request was legend in our family. At the end of the tour, I would attempt to collect the 50-cents; of course, the attempt was feigned.

Visitors to our home took the long path up to the front door, greeted by Paolo Soleri bells which lined the front walk. They entered our house through a hand-carved, heavy wood door from Mexico with a metal wood knocker. And caught a glimpse of the Fica tree in the atrium, behind which was the large mosaic of a Mexican woman with flowers in her hair, and tropical jungle behind her.

Giving tours of our home was normal routine, however, it occurred to me this morning that most people do not provide such tours for 50-cents or otherwise. But, then, most people are not the children of an architect whose "bread and butter" was designing residences for his clients. And, many of our visitors were the parents and children of people who wanted a "Don Erickson" home.

The people to whom I was providing the "50-cent" tour and I had a special bond for the son was raised in a "Don Erickson" home on Murphy's Lake in Park Ridge. As we toured the home, he could see the same design concepts used in his home as my father used in ours. And, I realized that this man and his daughter both revered my father's work; further, the son missed the home that he had been raised in.

We walked into the living room, a room whose edges had been softened by an oriental carpet and protected by ancient, bronze foo dogs that used to frighten me when I was a child. Below the living room is the entertainment room where two baby grands used to sit, side-by-side, for both Don and Shirley had trained to be concert pianists. Indeed, I told our visitors, that we used to hold family concerts in the living room, with my father playing the piano, our guests playing the cello, and viola, and me on the violin.

I explained that the entertainment room was an addition to the original structure, a structure which was leveled by a tornado which ripped through Barrington, Illinois. At that time, the house was more in keeping with Wright's prairie style; the home was topped with a flat roof that curved over the brick walls, punctuated with skylights. But, having traveled to Jamaica, and enchanted by the thatched cottages in the Jamaican countryside, my father fell in love with these simple roofs. In rebuilding our home after the tornado, he incorporated Jamaican roofs into the design. Huge, wooden beams arched up to the sky, topped with skylights, covered with cedar shake shingles. (One could lay in bed and watch the rain fall from the sky or see the stars at night.)

The three children's bedrooms are small and intimate. After having read "Swiss Family Robinson," I asked my father to design a loft with a ladder that we could raise and lower (and where we met with our friends beyond our parent's reach.) Our rooms looked out onto trees and lilies of the valley, or to snow in winter, our private retreats.

The master bedroom is reachable through a long hallway, and is deliberately far from the children's wing. Don incorporated this same long hallway in the Inverness home built for his parents. Lined with closets on one side, and dressers on the other, when one emerges from the hallway, the master bedroom is also a private retreat, perfect for reflection.

Perhaps it was the outdoor showers at the "Rock House" in Negril that influenced my father, or not, but the experience of showering in nature was incorporated into the master bedroom. Surrounded by lava rock, windows and tropical plants, the shower is designed to provide the feeling that one is close to the jungle, a celebration of nature.

We circled back to the kitchen area with the adjoining family room. It was the family room that we really lived in, and where my father conceptualized many of his designs. Having resided away from home for much of my adult life, when I visited home, my father and I would convene at the early hour of 6:00 a.m. to speak of my life and his recent designs. This lead to "blueprints" being rolled out on the kitchen table, and lengthy discussions about a design concept for Don's newest client. And, if time allowed, we would make a driving tour of Don's building projects where we gingerly stepped over paint cans and wood piles, and were greeted with the sweet smell of sap seeping from newly cut 2 x 4's.

In our Barrington home, the "studio" which was originally reserved for my mother's creations (she is an award-winning artist), became my father's place to work in 1992 when he broke off a partnership with another FLW-trained architect, leaving even his cousin, Richard Erickson, behind to go "solo." Although Don had a number of apprentices, he said that he was never able to find a chief draftsperson like Richard again. The two men, raised by Swedish immigrant brothers in Chicago, reconciled just prior to Don's death; they left an indelible impression on each other.

But, here I was providing a tour to a man and to his daughter who appreciated my father's work and who knew what it was to live in a "Don Erickson" home. I didn't have to say very much for they already understood so much about our home, for the son's own home had some of the same features. And, I knew that they loved their home, respected my father and his work, and were part of a greater family, a family who had been touched by Don's design. If I have any wish, it is that just such a family would own Don's Barrington home . . .

Monday, May 31, 2010

"Ocean Liner" House Makes Chicago Daily News

The Inverness home and Don's business was established with "seed money" from his parents and from Arnold Dahlke, Don's father-in-law. Gunnar and Ebba Erickson, Don's parents, commissioned their son to design a home that they could live in and that Don could show to prospective clients.

Don left Talisen in 1951, and immediately proceeded to design the Inverness home, which, as family legend has it, he showed to Mr. Wright and Wright claimed the design to be his own. Undoubtedly, the design, Don's first architectural commission, was heavily influenced by Mr. Wright, but the design was Don's own. It would not be too many years later, that Don, in his late twenties, was designing award-winning homes which began to reflect his own unique architectural "stamp."

After residing in the Inverness home for about two years, the Erickson home was sold to David and Violet Gustafson in 1953. Featured in the "Chicago Daily News," in 1953 in an article entitled, "How Chicago Lives," the Gustafson's never did install a swimming pool. Instead, they commissioned Don to design and build a new home in 1957 in Winnetka, Illinois. Their new home was located at 1055 Starr Road, but was demolished in 2009, to make way for an addition to a neigboring home.

The "Ocean Liner" house is now listed for sale. See sidebar to this blog under "Don's First Architectural Creation," for more information.

The Architect, Don Erickson, in his office at EMMCO Stairs, Des Plaines, Illinois.

Please contact me, or provide comments on this page, if you would like to submit information that you may have on the work and/or its history. And, if you would like to contribute to championing the preservation of the Don Erickson Legacy, please email me at the address posted under my profile.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Don's First Architectural Creation - Now Listed for Sale

I just received word that the home that Don first designed and built for his parents, Ebba and Gunnar, circa 1951 is now listed for sale. Occupied by an attorney for many years, I met the owner and I know that the owner loved his Inverness home.

At this listing price, the home is a real "steal" for a collector. I will expound upon the home in my next post, plus provide clips about the home from the local press dating back to the early 1950's.

Please see sidebar, "Don's First Home," to the right of this link for a video about the home. For building watchers, the home is located at 871 Braeburn Road, Inverness, Illinois.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The McNeal Home Today

The McNeal home today...Like Grey Gardens, the Long Island home that had "gone to seed" from disrepair, this home has seen better days. One wonders what happened to the McNeals?

Photos courtesy of Richard Erickson

For photos of the home when built, please see April 14, 2010 post entitled, "The McNeal home."

Please contact me, or provide comments on this page, if you would like to submit information that you may have on the work and/or its history. And, if you would like to contribute to championing the preservation of the Don Erickson Legacy, please email me at the address posted under my profile.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Humble Beginnings

Death can lead to new beginnings. This was true for Anna Eriksson, Don’s grandmother. When Anna’s husband died, Anna’s six children, all of whom had immigrated to Chicago, paid for her ticket on a ship which traveled from Gothenberg, Sweden to New York. From New York, Anna traveled by train to Chicago where she resided with her children and their families. Anna died in 1932; she is buried at Rosehill Cemetery. Her grave site is close to the first wife of Anna’s son, Frits, and Anna’s grandchild, Olivia; mother and child were interred together. Anna’s family marked her grave with a marble headstone, one of the few marked graves among many graves similarly reserved for Chicago’s poor in one of the city’s oldest cemeteries.

It seems that where the family rested, in death, was as important as where they resided in life, for Gunnar and Ebba purchased three lots at Mount Emblem cemetery in Elmhurst, Illinois in the 1940’s. Gunnar and Ebba are interred close to Frits and Doris Erickson at Mount Emblem. Frits, Gunnar’s brother, was the best man at Gunnar’s wedding to Ebba while Doris was the maid-of-honor. The Erickson’s wedding, held on May 28, 1927, and was performed by a minister at Ebenezer Lutheran Church on Foster Avenue in Chicago, which, in turn, is located close to Rosehill. Presumably, the third grave lot was purchased for their only child, Don.

Pictured are Ebba and Gunnar at their wedding, surrounded by Doris and Frits.

However, Don, himself, chose a single grave lot in White Cemetery, a tiny cemetery off Cuba Road in Barrington which was established circa 1852. Don wanted to be near his home and property in Barrington which is about 1 ½ miles distance from White Cemetery. It was Don’s wish to be interred in a simple pine box hewed by a carpenter, a wish that may reflect his upbringing. Carpenters all, Don’s Uncle Gottfried Erickson operated a small factory in Chicago that built coffins for the soldiers who were felled during the war, and kitchen cabinets after the war ended. Like his “second father,” Mr. Wright, Don chose a simple cemetery, a place unadorned by anything but trees, a fence and old gravestones.

Unlike the simple markers used by his family members, Don’s grave is now marked with a marble Chinese foo lion, a mythical protector. The Chinese foo lion is usually paired with its mate. . . The foo lion, a creature that Don loved, is homage to the man who himself created magical homes for his clients, residences that had more than a bit of whimsy and adventure.

Monday, May 10, 2010

House of the Rising Sun

There are now two opportunities to own a Don Erickson home. Don's own home is listed for sale. Situated on 10 acres of land in picturesque Barrington, the home itself is in a private setting and comes with its own guest home, converted from a barn where Shirley and Don raised Arabian horses, and rode them on their land and in and around Barrington. See links on the side-bar of this blog.

The Richardson home, home to the late Mrs. Richardson and her former husband, CEO of Richardson Electronics, is located on Lake-Cook Road in Barrington. See link, "House of the Rising Sun."

"Floating hall" is similar to that used for the Playboy Pad in Johnsburg, Illinois. The Richardson house also features the use of chains from great ships, foreshadowing their use in Hilton's Indian Lakes Hotel.

Please contact me, or provide comments on this page, if you would like to submit information that you may have on the work and/or its history. And, if you would like to contribute to championing the preservation of the Don Erickson Legacy, please email me at the address posted under my profile.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Driving Innovation - IRI's Architect of Choice

At least one of Don’s clients was an entrepreneur and a visionary. John Malec and two other investors mortgaged their homes and started a new venture in 1979 and named their firm, Information Resources, Inc.

Today, IRI is one of the leading market research firms in the U.S., if not the world. Its’ competitor, The Nielsen Company, initially ignored the budding firm but bolstered by investments from the likes of Procter & Gamble, and a team of driven individuals, IRI was responsible for cutting into Nielsen’s market share and causing the dominant firm to stand up, take notice, and change the course of its own direction. The two firms found themselves in guerilla warfare for years, ambushing each other with innovative products which benefitted their clients, leading manufacturers of packaged-goods for consumers.

As quoted from the “Chicago Tribune:”

"IRI, a Chicago company that for 25 years has challenged ACNielsen for supremacy in the consumer market research arena. . .was an incubator for fresh ideas and the kind of people who could generate them.” Chicago Tribune, January 21, 2005.

Given IRI’s beginnings, it was fitting that John Malec, CEO, chose an innovative architect to select and build IRI’s new Chicago headquarters in 1982. Don and Mr. Malec selected an existing brick building to call as IRI’s new home, a building immediately across from the Chicago Northwestern train station, in a neighborhood on the fringe but “up and coming.”

The building was gutted, but the existing beams were left exposed and incorporated into the remodeling. Don designed an entranceway to the building that distinctively marked the new headquarters and invited visitors into a quiet environment which bespoke of the confidence of the firm, while hiding the bustling employee offices beyond where creative minds spun out new ideas and a team of dedicated, hard-working people set about the task of serving IRI’s clients.

The top floor of the building features an employee lunch room with skylights and a rectangular brick fountain which silences the noise of clattering plates and tongues.

Don was the architect of choice for other leaders at IRI, including Gian Fulgoni who assumed the CEO role when John left IRI to create other new ventures. Gian is the current owner of a home influenced by Don.

And, while IRI has experienced significant ownership and personnel changes since its creation in 1979, its new owner, Symphony Technology Group still calls the headquarters at 150 N. Clinton Avenue in Chicago “home.” The building fosters the spirit of the firm, that of continued innovation.

Please contact me, or provide comments on this page, if you would like to submit information that you may have on the work and/or its history. And, if you would like to contribute to championing the preservation of the Don Erickson Legacy, please email me at the address posted under my profile.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The persistence of the individual

I’ve tried to select some of Don’s lesser known buildings to detail the breadth and depth of his work. Known principally for Indian Lakes, there are many of his designs that have gone unnoticed, one of which is the Larson home.

Mr. Larson worked for Bell Telephone; his wife Beverley grew up in Elmwood Park. In fact, Beverley lived across the street from Don and his parents, Ebba and Gunnar. In speaking with Mrs. Larson in 2007, Beverley remembered being invited to the Ericksons for neighborhood parties, dancing with Gunnar, and the remodeling that Gunnar did in his Elmwood Park home, beginning with a replacement of the stairs and ending with hand-crafted kitchen cabinets and built-in book shelves.

Shown, the Erickson home on 77th Avenue, Elmwood Park, Illinois.

Ebba was a reader; she read everything from poetry to biographies and she ensured that her son, at age four, was privately tutored in classical piano. Ebba hailed from a family of church organists in Sweden. It was important to her that Don follow the family tradition, albeit on a piano versus a church organ. But, again, I digress...

By 1954, Beverley was married to Carl Larson, had three children, $10,000 in savings and the couple had a dream of living in a home inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. Carl purchased a four-acre site in Bartlett, Illinois and, set out to build his own home.

As quoted from "House Beautiful:"

“But an intelligent man knows his limitations. Mr. Larson is a qualified electrician and has handy-man proclivities. . .but he had no illusions about being an architect. So, at the start, he explained his ideas and financial limitations to architect, Don Erickson, whose houses he had seen, and who he knew would understand the kind of house he was driving at. By fall, Mr. Erickson had designed a three-level house of concrete brick, redwood siding, and cedar shake roof . . .While the design demanded materials of high quality, the triple-level plan was a measure of economy. The exterior walls of a house are the most expensive structural parts, and by splitting the floor space of a house into several levels, you can enclose more livable area within your expensive walls. Mr. Erickson acted as advisor and consultant throughout the project. . ."

By December 1957, the shell of the house was built. . . “For nearly four years [Mr. Larson said], all I did was work, sleep, eat, and build my house. It was rough, but then nothing can compare with the swell of pride you feel when you look at the place and think, 'I did it myself.'"

House Beautiful, July 1960.

Like Don, Carl Larson built his house with material, tools, and sweat equity. Today, the house still stands in Barlett but the Larson family outgrew the home. However, Beverley still remembers people driving up the driveway, as the family stood outside to rake leaves or mow the grass, to ask them about their unusual home. . .a home which they discussed with their visitors with pride.

Drawing from "Alit I Hemmet," article entitled,"Hos Carl Larson Illinois," November 1961.

The house is located somewhere near the junction of Sutton Road (Highway 59) and Lake Street, in Barlett, Illinois.

Please contact me, or provide comments on this page, if you would like to submit information that you may have on the work and/or its history. And, if you would like to contribute to championing the preservation of the Don Erickson Legacy, please email me at the address posted under my profile.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sweat Equity

Schooled in the Wright tradition, Don not only learned how to become a designer and a draftsperson, but the apprentices also worked to construct and repair buildings at Taliesin. This training served Don well.

After leaving Taliesin, Don first worked for Flexicore Company, doing drafting. Flexicore manufactured pre-cast concrete slabs and were the originators of floor slabs. Don was later retained and worked for the architects Schewier and Eating, Frank Louis Glick, and Victor L. Charn of Ragnar Benson and finally as a construction superintendent and estimator for E. Zari & Son.

Not only did Don construct his first home in Palatine, Illinois, but having invested in the Barrrington land in 1965, and after finalizing the designs for his second house, Don worked alongside the carpenters and brick-layers to fully invest himself in the construction of his new home.

Pictured is a view from one of the bedrooms from the first Barrington home. Also pictured is Don pouring “sweat equity” into his new home.
The first house was leveled by a tornado, only to be rebuilt on the same foundation but with “pagoda” roofs.

In 1971, the Barrington house, capped by its new "Jamaican" roofs, was featured in House and Home magazine. In 1972, the fireplace in the living room was featured on the cover of "The Book of Fireplaces," which is pictured here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Decorel Today

The original building featured glass windows offset by rose brick. . .today the brick is painted a soft grey. . .the retaining wall is in need of repair. . .the sculptural roof line is still stunning and is reflected in the canal. . .pointing out the need for preserving architectural work that is a work of art.

For more about this award-winning building, see "Landmarks in Illinois," March 2010 archive.

Photos courtesy of Richard Erickson, Chief Draftsperson to Don Erickson, Architect

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Going Green in Jamaica

What I failed to mention was that John Behmiller, owner of the Playboy Pad (see entry, April 13, 2010), had a penchant for peculiar things. Behmiller owned a collection of shrunken heads from Africa. He also owned a phython which, when it died, he had stuffed; the stuffed remains hid among the tropical forest inside his home, to his visitor's surprise.

Despite his peculiarties, Behmiller expanded Don's world beyond the U.S. and introduced Don to Jamaica. Behmiller sold "The Rock House," a few thatched cottages to Don and four other investors, a private and primative retreat on the West End Road of Negril. Don designed and built more cottages with one of his apprentices, Charles, residing in Jamaicia and supervising the construction of the huts. Today, The Rock House features a spa among other amenities, and while less primative, it remains a favorite of visitors to Negril.

Pictured is one of the "rock houses" circa 1970:

Social by nature, Don met other investors native to Jamaica, one of whom commissioned the development of Coconut Cove Hotel.

The Jamaican government "had developed plans for [the east end of Negril] for strict rules against for high-rise buildings and in keeping in tune with the environment. Now, the east end has sprouted...the handsomely landscaped, apartment-style Coconut Cove Hotel, designed for privacy, offering sea or pool swimming, tennis and horse-back riding." "Negril Jamaica's Tranquil Hideaway," The Independent Journal, March 17, 1977.

Sometime in the late 1970's, Don flew to Jamaicia to accept an award from the Prime Minister. It appears that Coconut Cove Hotel is now owned by Sandal's hotel chain, as evidenced below:

"Amidst a pristine tropical setting, this world-class beachfront resort combines the laid-back atmosphere with refined elegance. Spanning the longest and best stretch of Jamaica's famous seven-mile beach, this is the only hotel in Negril to have won the coveted Green Globe Award, emblematic of its environmentally friendly ambiance. Where even the architecture has been designed to be lower than the highest palm trees. At Sandals Negril, kicking back and doing nothing is considered a native art form...and doing everything is 'no problem.' Discover why Sandals Negril is perfect...for an ocean of reasons."

It seems that Don's designs attracted many hotel owners from executives of the Hyatt Hotel, to the Hilton, to Sandals...

Please contact me, or provide comments on this page, if you would like to submit information that you may have on the work and/or its history. And, if you would like to contribute to championing the preservation of the Don Erickson Legacy, please email me at the address posted under my profile.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The McNeal Home

Mr. Wright thought that the Ennis house would stand on a hill for 100 years. Perhaps he thought that because the house is built of concrete block; the house has withstood the test of earthquakes and floods and, while damaged, the house is still standing. But, other houses are less permanent.

Built of wood and stone, one reader of this blog informed me that the Playboy Pad was destroyed by a fire and that in its place a Prairie home now stands. He also informed me that Mark Zinni, an architect, remodeled the “Pad” while owned, I believe, by DePorter.

These comments lead to much thought about Don's homes and how permanent they have been. Don’s first home was one level and located in Palatine, Illinois. Given seed money from their parents, Don and Shirley built the home themselves, and with associates. A simple home with Taliesin red concrete floors, this is where Don’s first studio was located. Growing up together, two Chicago boys, Don and Richard stood at wooden drafting tables developing designs for business that slowly “arrived.” Even the Glores came to the Erickson home to share Wright’s plans and to consult with Don about the construction of their home.

Today, the Palatine home no longer exists nor was it an architectural masterpiece. It was Don’s first family home, a simple structure that sheltered a young family, an artist, and an architect.

Even Don’s Barrington home was once leveled by a tornado and rebuilt immediately after the debris was cleared from the land. Indomitable, Don and Shirley worked on the home, recruiting their children to lay brick and saw wood.

The award-winning Round House in Glen Ellyn no longer stands . . . the Gustafson home leveled to make room for a new addition to the neighboring home. . .

So, reflecting, I thought that I would tell you about a house that, while standing, is a shell in great need of repair. . .In fact, Richard, Chief Draftsperson to Don, who located the house on Irene Road and who worked on the plans, said, "To see the house would make you cry."

“Spiral stairs spins way through unique new home.”

“A spiral stairway designed by a master of his craft, 85 tons of Wisconsin natural rock, 10-foot sliding glass doors, and a dumb waiter to take the groceries from the garage to the kitchen are some of the feature of the area’s most unique new homes.”

Located on Irene Road, Belvidere, Illinois, the home was commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Earl McNeal. “Four of the eight points of the house are done in natural rock hauled from near Tomahawk, Wisconsin” and constructed by stonemason Maynard Thorp."

“The entranceway has a floor of black stone imported from Mexico.”

“The house sort of surrounds the stairway…which is fabricated for steel, but looks more like sculpture, is supported on a foundation of its own within a 12-foot square piping running from the bare ground to the peak of the open-beamed Jamaican-style roof.”

One wonders what happened to the McNeals. . .

"Register-Star," Rockford, November 28, 1971. Byline: Doug Adams. Photo from article.

Please contact me, or provide comments on this page, if you would like to submit information that you may have on the work and/or its history. And, if you would like to contribute to championing the preservation of the Don Erickson Legacy, please email me at the address posted under my profile.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Playboy's Pad

This 5,000 square foot home at 2627 Knob Hill Road in Johnsburg, Illinois included two waterfalls inside the home dating "from the home's 1965 origins as a ... Jamaican style 'bachelor pad' worthy of featuring in Playboy magazine."

See "Water world: Waterfalls and pools make Japanese-decorated mansion a liquid asset." Daily Herald, August 9, 1996.

Little did the author know that the home was featured in Playboy magazine in March 1967. Having met one of the men who commissioned the home (John Behmiller) as a child, I remember the hanging walkway in the home which overlooked the pool room, replete with a lava rock bar (foreshadowing the "Cave Bar" at the Hilton Hotel in Indian Lakes), and waterfalls. Behmiller, in turn, owned resort property in Negril, Jamaica which led to Don's development of "The Rock House" and of the award-winning "Coconut Cove" hotel on the beach near Hedonism Village.

In 1984, Don DePorter, a former executive of Hyatt Hotels purchased what came to be known as "the House of Many Waterfalls." DePorter redesigned the interior of the home, using Japanese artifacts and decor, as his private retreat. DePorter died two years later, at age 54, when the home was sold.

Prior to DePorter's ownership, Dorie Koenig acquired the home on or about 1975. Ruth Dietel, Chicago Daily News, wrote an article entitled "Jamaica on the Fox River," some of which is quoted below:

"Mrs. Koenig admitted that it was easy decorating such a great house."

The house was "a little bit of Jamaica nestled into a hillside along the Fox River . . . [and designed for] a man who liked the Caribbean Isle and wanted a bit of it up North."

"The tri-level house...consists of three cedar shingle domes supporting gently curving laminated beams and capped by [skylights.] The interior is of natural cedar and...cypress with lots of stone and greenery and all those waterfalls. The super-sized boulders used to build the falls came from New Mexico and many of the other materials were imported from such faraway places as Hawaii, Tahiti, Haiti and Jamaica."

I hope that "Playboy" doesn't mind. Featured are a few of their photos (sans adult content) that made this home unique...

But, then, Don Erickson's own home echoes the love of nature, cedar walls, "pagoda roofs," and the green interior while all without is a world encased in snow...

Please contact me, or provide comments on this page, if you would like to submit information that you may have on the work and/or its history. And, if you would like to contribute to championing the preservation of the Don Erickson Legacy, please email me at the address posted under my profile.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Award Winner on a Ravine"

In 2007, this award winning home was listed for sale for $1.6 Million as "Exciting and Dramatic House with Spectacular Ravine Setting. Family Room Opens to Kitchen. Wonderful Space throughout Offers Total Livability. Most of the Rooms Overlook a Lovely Large Terrace. Beach Rights. Designed by Architect, Don Erickson."

Located on Brentwood Drive, in Glencoe, Illinois, this home won the the 1968 Distinguished Building Award of the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry and the Chicago Chapter, American Institute of Architects.

Quoting from a Chicago Tribune article published on June 22, 1968, "Award Winner on a Ravine:"

"The architect, who said too many contemporary houses today are sterile and without heart, has used sweeping curves and circles throughout to soften the hard lines of brick and beams. The circular staircase between the two floors is a dome of its own projecting from the ground..."

"Another skylight illuminates the circular staircase. . ."

Similar to his own home and that of other residences that Don designed, "among the...evidence of the architect's attention to detail are the strategically placed lighting fixtures . . ."

And the common theme, echoed throughout the buidling of spirals and things round. . .another home that is part of Don's architectural legacy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

That Bank with the Trees

This blog, like a tree, is growing organically, and branches grow as a result of patient searches through the tangle of the Internet and comments from readers. Out of curiosity I entered the phrase, "the bank with the trees" and was surprised to see "The Care of Trees" featured the Wauconda bank on their Web site.

They said, "The Care of Trees worked closely with architects and builders to develop ways to minimize impact to tree roots, create water distribution channels for root systems, and carry out the architect's vision of building within nature."

And, they featured several photos of the building with the giant oak trees, a building that grew out of a need and creative inspiration, just as this blog is growing. . .

Has the bank, under new ownership retained the same spirit as its predecessor, while wearing the mantle, "that bank with the trees...?"
Also see "Care of Trees - Wauconda Bank" under "About the Architect" on the side bar to this blog.

Photo from web site:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Preserving the Architectural Legacy of Don Erickson

I am pleased that visitors from Hawaii to Arizona to Texas and beyond have visited my blog. I hope that I have captured your attention and whetted your appetite for more updates, if not succeeded in securing your contributions, large or small.

In today’s economic environment, art – in the form of architecture - sometimes suffers the fate of the wrecking ball. The “Round House,” underwent such a fate as did the Gustafson home, both homes designed by Don in the 1950’s, one of which was featured in Life magazine for its architectural bravery. Even the Ennis house, one which Wright expected to survive for 100 years, is listed for sale, the foundation unable to raise the monies required to restore the home to its former glory. (See side bar concerning all three homes...)

Don’s house aired on NBC TV’s “Open House” on March 14, 2010. (See “Invitation to Our House” to the right of this message.) And, while the TV airing shows the home unadorned with the hand-built furniture and art collection that used to be resident in the home, it depicts the unadulterated beauty of the design and construction of Don's home. Photos of the home, furnished, are included here, to show how loving attention to detail add warmth to the surroundings, surroundings that make a house a home.

Don’s house is close to 7,000 square feet, inclusive of the “coach” house where at least one apprentice lived. Nestled in the woods, on a private expanse of ten acres of land, the house should be owned by an architectural aficionado – someone who appreciates living in a work of art, for that’s what Don’s home is – a beautiful sculpture done in brick, mortar and wood.

A PayPal donation “button” appears to the right of this message to help preserve his architectural legacy. Please contact me, personally, for more details by email and a follow-up telephone conversation. For every donation valued at $1,000 or more, Shirley Erickson (see link to the right of this message), has agreed to donate one of the following signed prints of your choice. Choices are as follows: 1) Ruffed Grouse, or 2) Timberdoodle. Details about each of these prints can be found on the blog, “Shirley Erickson, Artist.”

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Singer Sewing Machine Company

Don continued to do work for Singer and was retained to develop their new store at Randhurst Mall in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. Probably not the most practical of designs, the magic of the design attracted visitors to the store where goldfish swam in skylights sealed together and displayed in the center of the store. . .skylights were using as lighting fixtures. . .and used for the front gates. . .

I am reminded of Wright’s Civic Center in Marin where circular windows adorn the building and a delicate gold framework greats visitors at the front door.. .

For more about the Marin Civic Center designed by Mr. Wright, please take a virtual tour. See link under “Architects and Architecture.”

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Singer Bowl - 1964 New York World's Fair

As I sit here, looking out onto a lush backyard of Cala lilies and fig trees with mountains just beyond, I am at peace. I am grateful for the generosity of people who have been moved by our story. . .To date, two people of modest means have each offered to donate $1,000.00 to helping preserve our father’s legacy, and their choice of a signed and numbered print of an original oil painting done by Shirley Erickson shall soon be gracing their wall. . .

So, in gratitude and as a gift for readers of this blog, I shall share with you a less well known story, a story about the Singer Bowl…

In 1964, Singer Sewing Machine Company set out to find an architect who could develop the Singer Bowl for the New York World’s Fair. Singer had acquired ½ of the “Bowl,” a large stadium in Flushings, Queens. Singer intended to display their sewing machines, dress patterns and machine accessories to the millions of visitors who would visit New York City and attend the World’s Fair. But, 6-months before the day the Fair was to open, Singer fired their architect. They were desperate to discover another or face the embarrassment of not having delivered against their promise to have the Bowl refaced and open for visitors.

My father learned about their plight. He was working out of EMMCO stairs and he was a “one-man show.” In a down-market economy, Richard Erickson (chief draftsperson) had found work for architects who designed churches where he worked for two-years.

Don flew to New York to learn about Singer’s requirements for the job; other architects from big firms were also present. After hearing about Singer’s plight from the President and the Board, Don returned to Chicago. And, on the flight back, with a cocktail in hand (and a pretty woman nearby), and so inspired, he began to etch out a design. The woman remarked on the beauty of the sketch, and asked what exactly Don was drawing. He said, “That’s the new Singer Bowl.”

One week later Don returned to New York to present his concept. Other architects sat outside with him, all waiting to present their designs to the President and the Board of Directors. Don watched as these architects walked in with their design boards and conceptual plans. When it was his turn, Don walked in with the cocktail napkin on which was drawn his “thumb nail” sketch for the Singer Bowl. He walked around the room, and spoke of Singer and their machines, the millions of visitors to the fair and his concept of marshalling the visitors through an impressive array of all things Singer. At last, he drew out his thumb nail sketch and presented it to the President, stating that this was his new Singer Bowl . . . Don walked out with the commission and Richard returned to work.

Photos of the Singer Bowl can be found to the right of this blog on the side bar under "About the Architect."