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After lunch, guests made their way to Hillside School Complex, where Carrie Rodamaker provided an overview of the building’s rich history. Initially commissioned by Wright’s aunts, who operated the first coeducational boarding school in the United States, the structure was considered so groundbreaking that parents were initially apprehensive about sending their children there due to its extensive use of glass. Later, the building would serve as the heart of the Frank Lloyd Wright Fellowship, where apprentices not only honed their architectural skills but embraced a holistic way of life under Wright’s mentorship.
Inside Hillside, Luke Zahm reacquainted with the guests, setting the stage for a deeper dive and recalling his initial connection to the building: “The Taliesin Preservation Gala was kind of the first time that I kind of stepped into my own power as a chef, and what that meant for me is I really wanted to curate a dinner that merged structural elements with food.”
Diving deeper into the architectural nuances of the space with his characteristic enthusiasm, Zahm marveled at the play of light through the vaulted ceiling, transforming the space with each passing hour. He celebrated the prevalence of triangles, a symbol of threes referring to “Truth Against the World.” He highlighted the hearth as a focal point for warmth, community, and inspiration and serving a practical purpose as a source of heat and a conduit for ventilation. Making his way into the hearth to see where the pilot fire was built, he says,
“What happens when you want [the fire] to pull is you light a pilot fire in the chimney, you can see where that’s there, and once that convection current starts moving, then you can light the main hearth. And it pulls all of that smoke and the dissipated carbon up with it. These Wrightian hearths are part, as you’ll see when we go to our next stop, of a huge identity. Fire was a big deal. It was a big deal for heating elements and also a big deal in Frank Lloyd Wright’s life.”
The stop featured a delectable walnut tart celebrating the best of the area’s bounty. Walnuts from Amish farmers in Viroqua blended with Westby Co-op cream butter, while Atoms to Apples‘ apple butter added a touch of sweetness. Sid Cook’s Glacier Penta Cream from Carr Valley provided the perfect finishing touch, showcasing the work of the cheesemaking master. As the guests bid farewell to Hillside, they boarded the bus, passing Midway Barn, Wright’s contoured farmland, and the apple orchard en route to the house.