Molly Schecklman —
The Menomonie Public Library architecture looks much like the designs of renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. How did Wright become so successful as an architect? Well, that would be with the help of his right-hand man John Howe.
Howe had served as the head of Wright’s drafting room for nearly three decades and became known as “the pencil in Wright’s hand” according to Jane Hession, co-writer of the new book “John H. Howe, Architect: From Taliesin Apprentice to Master of Organic Design.” This year, the Menomonie Public Library will be celebrating their 30th anniversary with an emphasis on John Howe, the architect of the building, by featuring the authors who wrote a book on his life: Hession and her colleague Tim Quigley.
Hession and Quigley met at an annual conference held by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in Minneapolis back in 2000. Hession had the opportunity to be the guest curator at the exhibition on the work of John Howe held at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. After that, it occurred to her that Howe would be a great subject for a book.
During the conference, Hession and Quigley discovered a mutual interest and admiration in the works of Howe. This eventually led them to jointly submit a book proposal to the University of Minnesota Press, who later agreed to publish the book.
Although the idea for the book came rather quickly, the research, funding, and writing process did not. It took about four years of work: researching, interviewing, writing, and editing. This included a ten year hiatus where “life got in the way” to complete the book, according to Quigley.
“The biggest challenge of writing the book was that neither Tim nor I had the opportunity to know or meet John Howe, who died in 1997. As a writer, it’s so helpful to be able to talk to your subject, as so many questions arise during the process of researching and writing. Instead, we had to rely on Howe’s correspondence and records and conduct interviews with those who knew him,” said Hession.
But the finished product is a reflection of that hard work. It is a sweeping narrative of Howe’s life, complete with lavish illustrations. It is not only serves as a memorial for Howe but as a reminder of his architectural prowess.
Hession and Quigley will be at the Menomonie Public Library to speak about the book on Sunday, April 10 from 2-3:30 p.m.