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Wordless Wednesday: Pilgrimage to Beth Sholom, Elkins Park, PA, Frank Lloyd Wright’s only Synagogue

Light by Frank Lloyd Wright at Beth Sholom, Elkins Park, PA
Light Fixture by Frank Lloyd Wright at Beth Sholom, Elkins Park, PA. Photo by Wayne Stratz.
Beth Sholom:  Frank Lloyd Wright's Synagogue in Elkins Park, PA
Beth Sholom: Frank Lloyd Wright Designed Synagogue in Elkins Park, PA. Photo by Wayne Stratz.
Margaret's Birthday Trip to the Frank Lloyd Wright Designed Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park
Margaret’s Birthday Trip to the Frank Lloyd Wright Designed Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

Tour Beth Sholom

Photos from my 40th Birthday Trip to the Roycroft Inn, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Houses in Buffalo, NY


Beauty Imported From Detroit: Art Glass, Fox Theater and the Fisher Building

Art Glass Chandelier at Fox Theatre, Detroit, MI
Art Glass Chandelier at Fox Theatre, Detroit, MI

Ruth over at synch-ro-ni-zing wrote about the Imported From Detroit Superbowl ad.  I hadn’t seen it, and was moved by the acknowledgement of strength and beauty in the city of Detroit.  I’ve never had occasion to discover the glories of architecture of Detroit, and the identity of Motor City and Motown seemed all encompassing, so I was delighted to see the art glass at the Fox Theatre, where the ad finishes.  The restoration of the chandelier was done by Rocky Martina and his staff at  A World of Glass:  Detroit’s Premiere Art Glass Company.  Martina remembers practically living at the theater for 7 months while working this restoration. The devoted historians of Detroit’s buildings, Dan Austin and Sean Doerr, maintain a site, Buildings of Detroit, with more photos of the Fox Theatre.


Geza Maroti Mosaic, Fisher Building. Detroit.
Geza Maroti Mosaic, Fisher Building. Detroit.

I always hope to see mosaics, and although the Fox doesn’t have any, I did find the Fisher Building, designed by Albert Kahn, and was awed by the work of Geza Maroti, a Hungarian artist brought to the US by architect Eliel Saarinen.  The roots of this building are deep in the auto industry, as it was built by the Fisher brothers who invented the enclosed auto, so that driving could happen year round. Check out the amazing series of photo essays on the Fisher Building on dETROITfUNK.

I never expected to take a detour into the beauty of Detroit thanks a television commercial aired among the weirdness of Superbowl ads.  I am heartened when art and the beauty of human creativity and spirit appears in a place I didn’t expect, and breathes into the constricted images we have of a place that is written off, as the narrator says, by people who have never even been to Detroit.   The etymology of advertise is from the Latin advertere, “to turn toward” with a connotation at first as a warning, but then as a public notice, bringing attention to goods for sale or rewards.  I haven’t been to Detroit, but this advertisement brought my attention to this city, and makes me want to go there.

Over at Stratoz’s Blog:

Jazz on Tuesdays–Jazz in Detroit

Kate’s Place and Capogiro Gelato: The Wonder of 1929 Sansom Street in Philadelphia

Tile at Kate's Place 1929 Sansom Philadelphia
Tile at Kate’s Place 1929 Sansom Philadelphia. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

I was walking down Sansom Street in Philadelphia, looking for Capogiro Gelato, and this tile caught my eye.  Then I turned further toward the courtyard beyond the tiles, and there in an oasis of peace within the buzz of Philly was a statue of the Virgin Mary.  I was intrigued by this building, with textured walls, with bricks standing proud every foot or so, and ram’s head gargoyles.  The bronze plaque named the place “Kate’s Place,” and later I discovered it was affordable housing in the heart of Rittenhouse Square.  If you’ve ever been to the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, you will know that there isn’t much that is affordable, and to have a building of such beauty renovated for this purpose is a wonderful thing.

Originally, it was Warburton House built in 1926 by Arthur Loomis Harmon, and run by the Emergency Aid of Philadelphia, and the latter’s name is carved in Gothic lettering.  The Dominican Sisters of Elkins Park bought it in 1952 and turned it into a refuge for single women who needed a place to live.  When they could no longer keep it running, they approached Project H.O.M.E. about taking it over.  Kramer + Marks Architects led the renovation, and completed it in 2004.

As I walked on, the very next thing was Capogiro Gelato, which is actually part of the Kate’s Place building. Later, Stratoz and I stopped in for some delicious pineapple mint and orange cardamom gelato, and he took photos of the courtyard, and of course of the gelato:

Capogiro Gelato 20th and Sansom in Philadelphia
Capogiro Gelato 20th and Sansom in Philadelphia. Photo by Wayne Stratz.
Statue of Mary at Kate's Place 1929 Sansom, Philadelphia
Statue of Mary at Kate’s Place 1929 Sansom, Philadelphia. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

Five Cool Art and Architecture Sites in the Philadelphia Area

Long before I began making mosaics I was drawn to visual wonders, places where art was made, and historic buildings.  Moving to the Philadelphia Suburbs, I found some places that delighted me with their creativity.  I would absorb the beauty through my pores, breathing it in.  Here are 5 to put on your list.


Esherick's Silo
Wharton Esherick’s Silo in Paoli, PA. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

1)Wharton Esherick House and Museum

Outside Paoli, just west of Valley Forge Park, in the woods, Wharton Esherick’s house sits like a secret waiting to be discovered.  The carved wood spiral staircase, the custom made furniture, the peek inside a sculptor’s mind–it’s all good.  Guided tours of the Wharton Esherick Studio are available by reservation only.

fonthill by paladinsf
fonthill by paladinsf

2) Fonthill

James Mercer, founder of the Moravian Tileworks in Doylestown PA, built himself a mansion entirely out of concrete.  It rises up from the grounds like a fairytale crossed with science fiction.  The inside is covered in samples of Moravian Tiles, and Mercer’s collection of tiles and artifacts.  There are concrete reading tables at strategic windows so he could follow the sun as it rose and set.

fire place
Fire Place by Vilseskogan

3)Moravian Tileworks

This is where Mercer’s tiles were made Doylestown, and it is open for tours, a tile festival in May(which is a tile lover’s dream), a gift shop full of tile goodness, and classes if you are interested in making ceramic tiles.

bryn athyn door hardware
bryn athyn door hardware by shadysidelantern

4)Glencairn Museum
and Bryn Athyn Cathedral

All I knew about Swedenborgians was that Helen Keller was one, but then I moved within driving distance of Bryn Athyn, and discovered the Bryn Athyn Cathedral and the adjacent Pitcairn museum of religious art.  The Cathedral was constructed in a mini reconstruction of the craft guild past with workshops for stone, wood, metal, and stained glass that were built on site by experienced craftsmen.

Stained Glass Light at the Frank Lloyd Wright Designed Beth Sholom Synagogue
Stained Glass “Basket of Light” at the Frank Lloyd Wright Designed Beth Sholom Synagogue. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

5)Beth Sholom Synagogue, Elkins Park, PA

The only Synagogue built by Frank Lloyd Wright!  Just knowing Beth Sholom is nearby makes me happy.

I’d love to hear about more art places in the Philadelphia area!


Related Posts from my Column at Handmade in PA:

A Gathering Together: Collecting Pennsylvania Craft and the Legacy of Henry Chapman Mercer.

Wharton Esherick and the Pennsylvania Legacy of Wordworking.

Over at Stratoz:

The Ambler Theater


Setting up in the ballroom for Lydia’s Guild Craft Show 2009

Nutmeg Designs at the Lydia's Guild Craft Show 2009

This afternoon Stratoz and I went to Doylestown to set up my mosaics for the Lydia’s Guild Craft Show 2009.  My work is in the ballroom!  Setting up a 6 ft table is definitely speedier than our whole booth. This is a boutique type show, where artist’s set up their work and then get to go home.   A host of volunteers, many of whom have their work in the show,  keep things running smoothly for 9 days.   You can come and browse, and then make your purchases at a central check-out.  I’ve managed to live in the area for 10 years and not ever see Aldie Mansion.  It’s tucked behind Mercer Square Shopping Center, an oasis of unique architecture.  This is the place to come for an unmall shopping experience.  Come check it out!


Philadelphia’s Jacob Reed Building

Reed Building Philadelphia
Reed Building Philadelphia via harpo42 on Flickr.

I had a few minutes before my train in Philly, and I was walking down Chestnut Street, and suddenly my eyes fell upon this building. I looked up at the graceful arched doorway, and there were mosaics! I recognized the work of Mercer’s Moravian Tileworks, and wondered how they got to this street.  The building houses a CVS, but when I went across the street, I could make out an original sign for Reed’;s, set into mosaic medallions at the the top of the building. Mosaic spotting is one of my favorite activities.

When I got home, I did a search, and discovered it was the  Jacob Reed’s Sons Building, built for a clothier in 1903 by local architect William Lightfoot Price.  The tiles are indeed by Mercer, and the ones inside the arch represent crafts related to clothing, including spinning and weaving.  Mercer was a great reviver of handmade tile in the United States, and visiting his home, Fonthill, for the first time was quite an experience.  Picture a cement castle, lined with tiles from all over the world, plus samples of just about every tile line Moravian Tileworks produced.

Then I looked up William Price, and discovered that he was the founder of the Rose Valley Association, just outside of Media, PA.  I had heard of this utopian community, but didn’t expect to stumble across a connection while among the many athletic shoe stores of Chestnut Street.  Rose Valley was modeled after William Morris’s Arts & Crafts Movement ideals.  The houses are still there, and someday I want to see them.

Spinning Mosaic by Henry Mercy Moravian Tileworks
Spinning Mosaic by Henry Mercy Moravian Tileworks by tiz_herself on Flickr