Background of Nakoma*

Think back to the early 1920's and imagine the way of life and the architectural style of the era. Victorian houses were the norm and one might expect to find the fairly indistinctive Ford Model T on the road. In 1923, Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design a clubhouse in Madison, Wisconsin which he named Nakoma.

The name Nakoma, a Chippewa Indian word, means "I do as I promise". Wright's Nakoma design is an inter-tribal celebration to the American Indian. The building consists of a series of spires that are reminiscent of a wigwam. Wright's design was described as having "originality and dignity [and a] feeling of a truly outdoor country club [that should] encourage a spirit of democracy and good fellowship among the membership".

Nakoma itself is made up of a series of contrasting shapes. Its' three-dimensional character is equally varied, consisting of loosely connected series of complex masses separated and accentuated by a variety of roof shapes. A large octagon, 50 feet across, is the focus of the design. Above its walls, a pyramidal roof fifty feet high gives the outward appearance of an immense Indian teepee. In fact Wright had inscribed the word "wigwam" on the plans for Nakoma.

The Wisconsin State Journal called the Wright clubhouse "the most unique building of its kind in America" and went on to say that the clubhouse resembled "wigwams in an Indian village". Indian symbolism can be found in the gigantic fireplace Wright called the "campfire". It opens on four sides and rises up 35 feet through the open interior of the room, like a teepee.

The remaining spires or "wigwams" are exquisite variations of the Indian theme, some topped with masts that reach skyward. Use of natural rock and wood, and roofs trimmed with a decorative beading accentuate the Indian theme. There is extensive use of stained glass within the roof forming the image of eagles rising upwards.

In spite of the initial enthusiasm for Wright's design, the Nakoma Clubhouse was never built. It was left unclear why not, but most likely it was the high cost estimates for its construction and Wright's personal image at the time was at a low point and his marital problems were at a high. Nakoma remained an architectural vision for 70 years until construction begin at the Gold Mountain site.

Taliesin Architects, the continuing practice of Frank Lloyd Wright since 1893, offered the Nakoma design to Dariel and Peggy Garner, owners of Gold Mountain, in 1995 during an architectural planning session. The Gold Mountain site is very much the same as the originally proposed site in Madison. The slope of the land and the direction of views are almost identical. The pine-forested mountain setting is very appropriate for Wright's Indian design and the native Maidu Indians of the area are honored by its presence on the brow of the hill.

The Nakoma Clubhouse was completed in 2000. Wright's buildings still prove that he was anchored in the belief that a building should grow from its site and harmonize with the nature found there. There is little doubt that Frank Lloyd Wright's Nakoma Clubhouse is one of the world's most unique clubhouses.

Wrap-Up

TT West was therapy for me, plain and simple. The net effects of losing my TT enthusiast naivety, re-discovering the simple joy of driving the finely engineered TT Roadster and enjoying great scenery and gastronomical pleasures were abundantly positive. This is one Audi-related event I'm glad I took time to attend.

I would suggest that both my enjoyment and that of the other ninety or so attendees was significantly a result of the hard work of the event organizers Chuck and Jill Guice who were seen throughout the weekend working tirelessly behind the scenes. Gina Castle also put in an A-plus effort leading the Saturday drive. There were certainly others who contributed to the effort. I thank them all.

I also have to take this opportunity once again to thank the sales staff at Lithia Audi for providing my weekend wheels. It just wouldn't have been the same as a passenger for the entire weekend.

I understand that TT East is already being planned for next May in Asheville, NC. Stay tuned.

*The information regarding Nakamo was adapted from Mary Jane Hamilton's article "The Nakoma Country Club" found in "Frank Lloyd Wright and Madison: Eight Decades of Artistic and Social Interaction"

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