I am working through a project right now that has required a great deal of research in advance on a bit of an unsung architect who practiced in Indiana during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. John Lloyd Wright, who changed his middle name to that of his famous architect-father's, Frank, grew up in the business bouncing off his father's studio walls in Oak Park, Illinois. John at first rejected the notion of following in the trade but after moving to California and working side-by-side with his brother in a related field he understood he just had to follow his heart and began training under his dad. That led him back to Oak Park. Wanting to be out from under his father's shadow, John moved to Long Beach, Indiana in 1923. Long Beach was a resort community that developed along the Lake Michigan beach just north and east of Michigan City, Indiana. John created a home and studio, and more importantly, relationships with others for whom he would create home plans. John's work at first followed some of his father's styling with the Prairie influence, but after a trip to Europe he began to create his own mark on his architecture. John Lloyd Wright completed only about two dozen designs during his time in Indiana from 1923-1946, and only a few of those were not residential in nature. He created two schools, one in Long Beach and the other for Coldspring Township. The Long Beach school remains today. He also created probably his best known public work-the Long Beach Town Hall, which was recently restored. He created one apartment house, still existing in Michigan City, and a hotel for the Indiana Dunes, which was razed. All but one of his home designs were located in Long Beach, the one other was located in Michigan City and is still there.
Fire & Guard Station, KOP
Now, for the most part, I knew about his career in Indiana and about the handful of projects he created in Long Beach. But I didn't know that during the years of World War II John was contracted by the federal government to design buildings at the Kingsbury Ordinance Plant south of LaPorte.....in fact, I've yet to meet anyone who did know this. I found it listed in an early book written about his projects. So while the kids were home over spring break, and wanting to return to the Bass Pro Shop in Portage, we drove by way of Kingsbury and took a little tour. Once I turned off Highway 35 onto Hupp Road I saw the building pictured at the top and thought to myself-that has to be a John Lloyd Wright design. We saw a second smaller building (above) with the same design as well.
Finished ammunition storage warehouses, three of dozens at the KOPIf you've never driven through the former Kingsbury Ordinance Plant, I would highly recommend it. It is a relic of the war years that likely will soon disappear from the Hoosier landscape. Today it stands as a fading & eerie monument to those who served on the homefront, the Rosie Riveters of Indiana. My dad's parents both worked there during the war, but because of plant rules against husbands and wives working together my grandmother worked under her maiden name. With this new-found information on the plant's connection to John Lloyd Wright, I have a new appreciation for the place. John's drawings for his work at the "KOP" are archived with the Chicago Historical Society and I am planning a trip to get more information about his architecture remaining at the plant. As this project develops I will be sure to post more on JLW, KOP, and the other work he did at Long Beach.