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History of Wingspread

The Comfort to Escape & Explore
Located along the western shores of Lake Michigan, Wingspread, Retreat & Executive Conference Center encompasses three unique buildings nestled on 36 acres of lush, natural landscape. The original iconic building, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and known simply as Wingspread, is the heart of this unique complex. Wingspread's  campus includes beautiful dining areas, meeting rooms with natural light and 40 newly remodeled guest rooms.
frank lloyd wright with house plan

A History of Relevance

In 1936, Herbert Fisk Johnson, Jr. (1899-1978) commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new administration building for S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., (also known as Johnson Wax), the family business which has since been renamed SC Johnson, A Family Company.  Johnson loved the plan so much he later commissioned Wright to design a new home for his family in Racine, Wisconsin. Completed in 1939, Wright called the 14,000-foot creation Wingspread, because its four wings embrace the prairie, while the roof over the central Great Hall soars skyward.

Wingspread sits on 36 acres of prairie, woods and ravines and combines the use of grand spaces for social gatherings with smaller, more intimate areas. Its primary materials – Kasota limestone, red Streator Brick, tinted stucco and unstained tidewater cypress – anchor the house to the earth, while its many windows and skylights open it to the heavens by admitting air, light and views of the sky and landscape. Wingspread features a breathtaking 30-foot-high chimney, a teepee-inspired clerestory ceiling, five fireplaces, a cantilevered “Romeo and Juliet” balcony, and a glass-enclosed “crow’s nest” look out.

The Johnson family lived at Wingspread through the 1950s and eventually donated the building to The Johnson Foundation in 1961 to be used as a conference facility. Since then, the fireplaces have been the gathering spots for individuals who come to private Wingspread conferences from around the world including Eleanor Roosevelt, Buckminster Fuller, David Rockefeller, Julian Bond, Frank Lloyd Wright, Les Aspin, and others. National Public Radio, the National Endowment for the Arts and the initial blueprint for arms control all had their roots in Wingspread conferences. In 1990, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior designated Wingspread as a National Historic Landmark.
image of inside house
fire place