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  • Writer's pictureEmilene Leone

The Walter House at Cedar Rock State Park (Part 1- Interior Photos)

Having lived in Iowa for the vast majority of my life, I am ashamed to admit that I never heard of Iowa's Cedar Rock State Park , near Quasqueton, Iowa, until this year, when I started my journey into learning about the works of Frank Lloyd Wright.

My first Frank Lloyd Wright related photography excursion began at the Walter House, at Cedar Rock.

I emailed the park to ask if I could come take a tour, with the main goal of photographing the estate as a photography challenge to myself. My real estate photography business was very slow, probably due to a variety of reasons including the pandemic, houses selling quickly without the need for quality photography, and my complete and utter disinterest in marketing myself as a busy and successful "boss babe" elite photography pro.

I've never been in real estate photography for the money (fortunately). I'm in it because I love photographing houses, and here was a chance to photograph an absolutely stunning house.

It was about a two hour drive. I arrived at the lovely visitor's center around 2pm, and my tour guide drove me down a short wooded lane to the house itself.

It was quite the juxtaposition to me, to walk out of the familiar Driftless Zone woodland forest, and suddenly, to the site of an ultramodern and complete unique piece of architecture by the world's greatest architect, Frank Lloyd Wright

Although I am used to it now, it was a surprise to me to learn that the front door was tucked away, almost hidden, and upon opening it, I was startled to find a dark space, with a low ceiling. My eyes took a moment to adjust to the change from the brightness of the outdoor space, to the darkness of the front entry. Once they did, I started taking in the details, especially the beautiful collection of slag glass, a theme that I would find repeated throughout the entire house.

I was delighted to find a marimba in the front closet! It gave such a feeling of joy and whimsy to the home, and I immediately decided that Agnes and Lowell Walter must have been fun people to know.

As my tour guide lead me into the main space, my eyes had to adjust again. "Compression and release" at its best, from the small, dark entry, we moved into a spacious, airy, bright and magnificent space, a space that felt like it was the most incredible treehouse anyone could ever possibly hope to build.

It took me a moment to take it in and I remarked that I had no idea where to even start in photographing this room. The tour guide remarked that she had heard that the Walter House was one of the more challenging Frank Lloyd Wright homes to photograph.

Instead of being intimidated by the idea of photographing a famously difficult-to-photograph space as my first attempt of photographing a Frank Lloyd Wright structure, I was encouraged to hear this.

"Oh good! If my pictures are terrible, I won't feel so bad then."

I went to it.

As I went around the room, I used advice I had picked up years ago as a real estate photographer...early on in my career, I had heard that Frank Lloyd Wright said rooms were designed to look their best from a seated position, if it was a room where people were supposed to be seated. I've always shot rooms from a lower perspective than many photographers choose to do, with this advice in mind, even though I was pretty ignorant about Frank Lloyd Wright's creativity and contributions at that time. Influencing me before I even really knew enough to care about his opinion, I guess.

It was interesting to use that advice in a room he actually designed, filled with furniture and accessories he chose. As I went around the room, I tried to set my tripod in positions that would give the perspective that a person sitting in that spot might see. For example, in this photo, I thought "What would the room look like to someone sitting at the piano?" and I captured this shot, which I really love:

We moved into the other rooms. I immediately fell in love with the warm and efficient kitchen.

Running behind on my allotted time on my house tour, and being aware that the tour guide might be ready to head home after a long day at work, I quickly moved through the gallery hallway and bedrooms

The master bathroom was intriguing, nothing I'd ever seen before, with a sink that rotated on a hinge that moved depending on whether you needed to use the toilet or use the bath

After finishing up in the house, I focused on the exteriors, and boy, oh boy, were there a lot of surprises for me in store outside...

So many surprises, in fact, that I think I will end here and save those features for another post. Stay tuned for Part 2!

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