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Wright Studies
Robert M. Lamp Cottage, Rocky Roost, Lake Mendota, Wisc. (1893) (S.021) Remodel (1901)
 
Very little has been published about Rocky Roost. However, John Holzhueter’s extensive essay on Robert Lamp, published in the Wisconsin Magazine of History and also Frank Lloyd Wright and Madison is very complete.
       Wright was around 11 years old (1878) when he met Robie Lamp after Wright’s family moved to Madison. As Wright describes in his Autobiography (page 51-52) “Schoolboys teased the cripple - unmercifully.  ...they were burying him in the fallen leaves until he was all but smothered...” Wright “...rescued him. Drove off the boys so cruelly picking on him...” They soon became best friends.
       After college Lamp worked in the state land office. In 1892, he discovered a small island just off of Governors Island in Lake Mendota. During the Summer of 1892, along with a close associate of his, Melville C. Clark, they built a small cottage on the island. The two were avid boating and sailing enthusiasts, and may have used the island “Rocky Roost” as they named it, as a base. By 1893 they built two more cottages. There
 

 is some debate as to whether Wright designed one or more of these cottages.
       As politics changed, he lost job in the land office. He migrated in other directions and became a successful real estate, insurance and travel agent.  The new design is attributed to 1901 and executed during 1901-1902. By early 1903, the windmill was built, which supplied fresh water, drilled right on the island.
       It was also in 1903 that Lamp commissioned Wright to design a home for himself (S.097).
       Unfortunately, Rocky Roost was destroyed by fire in 1934-1935. Today, there are some claims that even the island itself is now covered in water.  But after further examination, it still exists, joined by growth to Governor's Island.
       Again from Wright’s Autobiography (page 52), Wright and Lamp “were fast friends till Robie, forty-four, died in a little cream-white brick house with a roof-garden filled with flowers, designed for him by this rescuer of his.”         October 2008.

 
  Wisconsin Historical Society    Grant Manson Circa 1925-1934    Evolution of Rocky Roost Island 
  Camera Placement    Postcards    Related Books and Articles 
 
Images of Rocky Roost available from the Wisconsin Historical Society..
1. September 18, 1892 (Sunday).  Four men sit on the balcony of Rocky Roost, located west of Governor's Island in Lake Mendota. The men are (left to right) A. B. Morris, W. A. P. Morris, A. J. Dodge, and Melville C. Clark.   WHi28165.
 
2. May 24, 1896 (Sunday).  Rocky Roost consisted of two cottages (on the left) and most likely a boat house on the right. Seeing that this is May, it may have been the first weekend of the season.  Mattresses are being aired out.  Photographed between Governor's Island and Rocky Roost.  Island is so small at this time that two structures on the right were built on posts, and right structure is built over the water.  Notice reeds in foreground.   WHi39336.
 
3. Rocky Roost 1902.  Decorated with lanterns for a party.  Shown from the left are Matilda Lamp Lueders, Emma (last name not known), and Wilhelmina (Tutie) Lueders Sweet, who was the daughter of Matilda and John Lueders. The Windmill (1903) not yet built on this side of the cottage.  WHi39339.
 
4. Rocky Roost 1902.  Decorated with lanterns for a party. The Windmill (1903) not yet built on this side of the cottage.  Photographed between Governor's Island and Rocky Roost. Notice rocks in the foreground indicating how shallow the area is.  WHi26368.
 
5. Rocky Roost circa 1905-1910.  By early 1903, the windmill was built, which supplied fresh water.  It was drilled right on the island.  The Wisconsin Historical Society dates this circa 1915, but judging from the size of the foliage and trees, it may be closer to 1905-1910.  WHi28164.
 
6. Rocky Roost circa 1905-1910.  The Wisconsin Historical Society dates this circa 1915, but judging from the size of the foliage and trees, it may be closer to 1905-1910.  WHi51322.
 
7. Rocky Roost circa 1915.  The windmill is on the opposite side.  A dock has been built out into the lake, photograph taken from the end of the dock.  Lamp is seated on the left side of the dock in front of the sails.  WHi39337.
 
8. Rocky Roost circa 1915.  WHi39338.
 
 
Images by Grant Manson, circa 1925-1934..
9. Rocky Roost circa 1925-1934.  Not only has the Windmill been removed, but compared to image 8, the space between the main land and island has been reduced.  See figure 15.  Boardwalk and Gate has been added.  Courtesy Oak Park Public Library.
 
9a. Rocky Roost circa 1925-1934.  Detail of image 9.  Courtesy Oak Park Public Library.
 
10. Rocky Roost circa 1925-1934.  The dock that was visible in image 6 is no longer there.  Rocks piled along the shoreline are still visible, see images 16a-c.  Courtesy Oak Park Public Library.
 
10a. Rocky Roost circa 1925-1934.  Detail of image 10.  Courtesy Oak Park Public Library.
 
 
The Evolution of Rocky Roost Island, 1896-2008
Some accounts of Rocky Roost maintain that water levels of the lake now cover the Island.  But research tells a different story.  Some of the earliest photographs show the area between Rocky Roost and Governor's Island to be very shallow.  It was shallow enough in some spots between the islands for reeds to grow out of the water (photo 2, 1896).  Rocks were visible popping above the surface of the lake (photo 4, 1902).  By 1925-1934 the area between the two islands was overgrown with reeds, possibly all the way to Rocky Roost (photo 9).  The level of the lake fluctuated a few inches between 1916 and 2008, but maintained the   same level for over 90 years (figure 13).  Eventually by 1940-1955, growth connected both islands.  Image 14 clearly shows the placement of Rocky Roost Island (on the right).  By 1981, maps showed the growth of marshland between both islands. (figure 15).  Today, the rocks that were piled up along the west edge of the island are still visible (images 16a-c).  Over one hundred years ago, Rocky Roost grew from a speck of land and a dream.  For those living at the State Hospital it may also have been their dream as they looked out at the lake and Rocky Roost. Seventy years later, it remains a dream.  October 2008.
     
11. 1900: Hydrographic Map of Lake Mendota, Dane Co., Wisconsin and of its Adjacent Topography.  Prepared from surveys made by Civil Engineering Students of Wisconsin. Class of 1897-1900.  And by the Wisconsin Geological and natural History Survey.
 
11a. Detail of Rocky Roost and Governor's Island 1900.  This inaccurately places Rocky Roost Island farther west and running in a NW to SE direction.  Map indicates depth between the two islands as less than five feet deep.  In reality, it was much closer and runs in a North to South direction.  12a is a much closer depiction.
 
12. 1911: Map of Westport Township, Dane County Atlas 1911.  Published by Cantwell Printing Company, 1911. Courtesy University of Wisconsin.
 
12a. Detail of Rocky Roost and Governor's Island 1911.  This is a much closer depiction of the relationship of the two islands than seen is 11a.
 
 

1/1/1916

841.05

 

3/1/1979

841.04

 

1/1/1917

840.90

 

4/1/1979

842.32

 

1/1/1918

840.65

 

5/1/1979

842.37

 

1/1/1919

841.10

 

6/1/1979

841.99

 

1/10/1920

840.55

 

7/1/1979

842.24

 

1/1/1921

840.96

 

8/1/1979

842.32

 

1/1/1922

841.67

 

9/1/1979

842.38

 

1/1/1923

841.26

 

9/30/1979

841.97

Conversion

1/1/1924

841.74

 

10/1/1979

849.65

841.97

1/1/1925

841.04

 

11/1/1979

849.98

842.30

1/1/1930

841.34

 

12/1/1979

849.38

841.70

1/1/1935

841.62

 

1/1/1980

849.14

841.46

1/3/1940

840.85

 

1/1/1981

849.06

841.38

3/1/1945

841.74

 

1/5/1982

849.14

841.46

1/5/1950

841.50

 

1/1/1983

849.87

842.19

4/1/1955

841.82

 

1/5/1984

849.65

841.97

1/12/1960

842.10

 

1/1/1985

850.13

842.45

1/5/1965

841.58

 

1/1/1990

849.09

841.41

1/5/1970

841.90

 

1/1/1995

849.56

841.88

1/1/1975

840.58

 

1/1/2000

849.20

841.52

1/1/1979

841.21

 

1/1/2005

848.75

841.07

2/26/1979

841.03

 

1/1/2008

848.89

841.21

 
13. Lake Mendota Lake Level from 1916 - 2008.  Dane County began recording the level of Lake Mendota in 1916.  On 10/1/79 the base line for measuring the lake's level was changed.  When converting the post October 1979 measurements, has been maintained within a few inches.
 
14. Governor's Island circa 1940-1955.  This aerial view shows growth connecting both islands. and also clearly shows the placement of Rocky Roost Island (on the right).  Photographed by Arthur M. Vinje (1888-1972).  Wisconsin Historical Society WHi34750.
 
15. 1981.  Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Lake Mendota - Dane County, Wisconsin DNR
Lake Map. July 1981 - Historical Lake Map.  This map clearly shows the growth of marshland between both islands.  See image 9.
 
16. 2008.  Satellite view of Rocky Roost and Governor's Island.  Courtesy Microsoft Virtual Earth.
 
16a. 2008.  Aerial of Rocky Roost viewed from the South.  Rocks which were piled along the shoreline (see 10) are still visible on the West (left) end of the island.  Courtesy Microsoft Virtual Earth.
 
16b. 2008.  Aerial of Rocky Roost viewed from the West.  Rocks are very visible on the West end (foreground) of the island.  Courtesy Microsoft Virtual Earth.
 
16c. 2008.  Aerial of Rocky Roost viewed from the North East. Rocks are very visible on the West end (right) and heavy marshland on the left between the two islands.  Courtesy Microsoft Virtual Earth.
 
 
Camera Placement
17. Camera Placement.  Dots indicate the approximate location of the camera (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, PC).  Outline is Governor's Island 1900 (11a) and white area indicates Governor's Island today (16).  Rocky Roost is an approximation.
 
 
Rocky Roost Postcards
18. Rocky Roost Postcard.  Circa 1905.  "Rocky Roost, Lake Mendota, Madison, Wis."  Published by "E. C. Kropp Co., Milwaukee, No 5144". Postmarked 9/5/09.
 
19. Rocky Roost Postcard.  Circa 1905.  "Rocky Roost, Lake Mendota, Madison, Wis."  Same image as above (18), hand colored, printed in four color.  Possibly published by E. C. Kropp Co., Milwaukee. Postmarked 1/14/10.
 
19a. Rocky Roost Postcard.  Detail of image 19.
 
20. Rocky Roost Postcard.  "Madison, Wis. The Rocky Roost In Lake Mendota." Back: "The Hugh C. Leighton Co., Manufacturers, Portland, ME., U.S.A. (#) 15040. Made In Germany." PM 7/29/14. Circa 1909. There seems to be a mix of different processes. The sky has a definite cyan (blue) halftone dot pattern, used in today’s printing process. But this process appears only in the sky. The rest of the postcard, including the water in the bottom half, is printed in color using a cellotype, photogravure or lithograph process, a more uneven "dot" process. Under magnification, it appears that the magenta (red), cyan (blue) and yellow plates most resemble the cellotype process. The black plate is a very fine photogravure process printed over the three other colors. Printed in Germany. The Hugh C. Leighton Co. manufactured postcards from 1906-1909. They merged with Valentine & Sons in 1909. 5.4 x 3.4. See below.
 
20a. Rocky Roost Postcard.  Detail of image 20. Circa 1909. There seems to be a mix of different processes. The sky has a definite cyan (blue) halftone dot pattern, used in today’s printing process. But this process appears only in the sky. The rest of the postcard, including the water in the bottom half, is printed in color using a cellotype, photogravure or lithograph process, a more uneven "dot" process. Under magnification, it appears that the magenta (red), cyan (blue) and yellow plates most resemble the cellotype process. The black plate is a very fine photogravure process printed over the three other colors. Printed in Germany.
 
Text by Douglas M. Steiner, Copyright 2008
 

 

Related Books
"Frank Lloyd Wright and Madison: Eight Decades of Artistic and Social Interaction" Holzhueter, 1990, page 3, 13-17, 24, 26, n28, 50.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion”, Storrer, William Allin, 1993, page 21.
"Lost Wright", Lind, Carla, 1996, page 102-103.
"Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace" Mollenhoff, Hamilton, 1999, page 47-49, 65.
"Lake Geneva in Vintage Postcards" Smeltzer; Cucco, 2005, page 58-59.
 
Wright's Relationship to Robert Lamp
"An Autobiography" Wright, 1932, page 51-52.
"Architecture, Man in Possession of his Earth" Wright, 1962, page 19.
"Frank Lloyd Wright America’s Greatest Architect" Jacobs, 1965, pages 27, 34.
 
Related Images and Articles
(Note, due to the fact that the internet is constantly changing, and items that
are posted change, I have copied the text, but give all the credits available.)
A) "Frank Lloyd Wright's Designs for Robert Lamp" Wisconsin Magazine of History - Winter 1988-1989, Holzhueter, page cover 82-125.
B) Rocky Roost Postcards.
 

Additional Wright Studies
 
Adelman (S.344)    Banff National Park Pavilion (S.170)    Bitter Root Inn (S.145)    Blair Residence (S.351)    Blumberg Residence (Project) 
 
Boomer Residence (1953 - S.361)    Brandes Residence (S.350)    Browne's Bookstore (S.141)    Como Orchard Summer Colony (S.144)  
 
Cooke Residence (1953)    Copper Weed Urn & Weed Holder   
Disappearing City (1932)    Elam Residence (S.336)    "Eve of St. Agnes" (1896)  
 
Feiman Residence (S.371)    Frank L. Smith Bank (S.111)    Gordon Residence (S.419)   
Griggs Residence (S.290)    Hartford Resort (Project 1948) 
  Heller Residence (S.038)   
Henderson Residence (S.057)   
Hoffman Showroom (S.380)    Horner Residence (S.142)    "House Beautiful" 1896-98  
  Husser Residence (S.046)    Imperial Hotel (S.194) Silverware and Monogram    Japanese Print Stand (1908)    Kalil Residence (S.387)  
 
Lake Geneva Hotel (S.171)
   Lamp Cottage, Rocky Roost (S.021)    Lockridge Medical Clinic (S.425)    Lykes Residence (S.433)  
 
Marden Residence (S.357)    March Balloons    Midway Gardens (S.180)    Midway Gardens Dish (S.180)    Nakoma Clubhouse  
 
Nakoma Furniture    Opus 497    Pebbles & Balch Remodel (S.131)    Pilgrim Congregational Church (S.431) 
Loren B. Pope (S.268) 
  
Roloson Rowhouse (S.026)    Shavin Residence (S.339)    Sixty Years Exhibition 1951-56    J. L. Smith Residence (1955)    Steffens Residence (S.153)  
  Stohr Arcade (S.162)    Stromquiest Residence (S.429)    Sutton Residence (S.106)    Teater Studio (S.352)    Thurber Art Galleries (S.154)  
  Tracy Residence (S.389)    Trier Residence (S.398)    Usonian Automatic Homes    Williams (Way & Williams) (S.033)  
 
Wyoming Valley School (S.401)   
Zimmerman Residence, (S.333) 
 
Frank Lloyd Wright's First Published Article (1898)
 
Photographic Chronology of Frank Lloyd Wright Portraits
 
"Frank Lloyd Wright's Nakoma Clubhouse & Sculptures." A comprehensive study of Wright’s Nakoma Clubhouse and the Nakoma and Nakomis Sculptures. Now Available. Limited Edition. More information.

 

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