Frank Lloyd Wright's Cedar Rock - the original 'man cave'

Historic site being rehabilitated

Orlan Love
Published: July 6 2012 | 4:23 pm - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 9:23 pm in
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QUASQUETON -- Lowell Walter had a man cave at least 50 years before the expression came into vogue.

No big flat-screen TV, sports memorabilia or lavish bar. Just an elegant brick pavilion complete with fireplace, sleeping and lounging quarters, storage and launching facilities for his boat and a deck overlooking the scenic Wapsipinicon River -- all designed and executed by the world's foremost architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

"It was his personal retreat, a place where he could get away and relax," said Pat Schmitz, site manager at Cedar Rock, the state-owned estate built by Wright for Lowell and Agnes Walter in the early 1950s.

"I use the expression 'man cave' often during tours," said James Dains, a part-time Cedar Rock employee and vice president of the Friends of Cedar Rock.

Though the house itself is in good condition, Schmitz said "deferred maintenance" has jeopardized the river pavilion, prompting the Friends of Cedar Rock to make its rehabilitation a top priority. Rain seepage has damaged the pavilion's flat roof and deck and discolored much of its masonry, she said.

The Friends will kick off their effort to raise $160,000 for pavilion repairs with a canoe and kayak voyage Saturday on the Wapsipinicon. They hope to raise enough to begin repairs in 2014, Dains said.

Schmitz said the trust fund established by Lowell and Agnes Walter for the maintenance of their property has been largely exhausted.

The trust fund, which consisted of two bequests totaling $1.5 million, covered Cedar Rock's expenses from 1982, the year the Walters bequeathed it to the state, until 2009, according to Schmitz.

Schmitz said the Department of Natural Resources, which operates the Walter property as part of its state parks system, has no funds available. Meanwhile, she said, weather-related damage to the pavilion continues to mount, as does the cost of repairs, which goes up 10 percent each year the work remains undone.

The project will include chemical cleaning of the masonry and cold patching of weak spots as well as tuckpointing of all the mortar joints and replacement of many deteriorated bricks, she said. Water repellent will then be applied to the brick and concrete, and the structure will be repainted both inside and outside, she said.

The Cedar Rock river pavilion is one of only two extant boat houses designed by Wright, according to Dains.

"It's almost a miniature of the house with its overhanging roof, cantilevered construction and Wright-designed furniture. It is also the perfect counterpoint to the house, sitting at the opposite end of the limestone spine known as Cedar Rock," he said.

Many of Cedar Rock's approximately 10,000 annual visitors say they could live in the boathouse, said Katie Hund, the park's assistant manager.

Saturday's paddlers will travel the Wapsipinicon from the Buchanan County Iron Bridge access to the campground in Quasqueton, with a stop at the river retreat along the way.

The fundraiser has a $20 registration fee. Watercraft rentals are available for an additional $20 per canoe or $15 per kayak; rentals include a personal flotation device.

To register or for more details, call Cedar Rock at (319) 934-3572.

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