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Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice designed ‘treehouse’ near Spring Green

Posted by Samantha Haas Writer-Marketing on Wednesday, February 7th, 2018 at 7:34am.

Built into a hillside and surrounded by trees, every room of the secluded home at 7315 Mellum Road, Arena, has a view.

This naturally-inspired house was designed by Marcus Weston, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, who incorporated built-in cabinets and corner windows -- hallmarks of FLW's school of thought. Though both architects are now deceased, they had strong ties to nearby Spring Green. And they're not alone.

In the seventies, UW-Madison grads Chris and Deb Pape often drove by the property in Arena and found themselves thinking, "Oh, wouldn't it be nice to live there."

Decades later, after moving to the east coast and Racine, starting a family, and frequently taking vacations to the American Players Theatre in Spring Green, they made a "big change" to come back to this place and fulfill their dream.

This quiet, wooded retreat on 11 acres overlooks the Driftless Area, which TenX Media captured this fall with these breathtaking aerial photos. 

"During the spring, summer, and fall it feels like you're in a treehouse," Chris said.

As we spoke, a chickadee flitted from branch to branch. The Papes said it's not uncommon to see cranes, pileated woodpeckers, and even eagles from the windows -- a birder's delight.

Some of the trees on the property include birch, white and red pine, cedar, maple, oak, beech, dogwood, and apple. During winter, the loss of leaves means a better northwest view of the Baraboo Hills, valleys, and Mill Creek.

All of these natural elements tie into the building materials, from the cedar and limestone exterior to the oak floors and vaulted wood-clad ceilings inside.

Their backyard also boasts a deck, rock-sculpted wall, and garden pond.

The Papes still have the blueprints of their unique house, which was built for Dr. & Mrs. Howard L. Correll in 1974.

The 2,958-square-foot home features 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and a sauna. 

There is also a beautiful kitchen, formal dining room, trio of fireplaces, and three-season porch.

With zoned heating and a new furnace and air conditioning, it's a very efficient home.

The owner between the Corrells and Papes added a horse stable with concrete floors (which could be used as a workshop or another garage) along the winding driveway.

The Papes were drawn not only to the architecture, but also to the culture of this area -- which they affectionately dubbed "Hippies in the Hills." They describe the community as forward-thinking, environmentally-conscious, and filled with artists, musicians, organic farmers, and award-winning cheesemakers.

Just a short drive from Madison, the Wisconsin River, and Governor Dodge and Blue Mound State Parks, there are plenty of opportunities for hunting, fishing, camping, golfing, and biking (with easy access to the 400 State Trail). And in the winter it's a prime area for snowmobiling through the hills and skiing nearby at Tyrol Basin in Mount Horeb. 

Spring Green, home of FLW's Taliesin, the world-class American Players Theatre, and The House on the Rock, was even ranked 11th in the Smithsonian's best small towns to visit

And golfers will be wowed by the 27 holes of championship level golfing at the House on the Rock Golf Resort designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., Roger Packard, and Andy North.

The village became a second home for the Papes, especially because of the APT's strong connection to the River Valley School District, where their youngest child attended middle and high school.

They were impressed with the "high quality, dedicated teachers" and the school's "outreach in the community to APT and other resources," noting that over 12 percent of their son's graduating class were accepted into UW-Madison.

In short, Deb said, "it's got it all."

About the architect

Marcus Weston, the son of William and Anna Weston, was born in 1915 in Spring Green. A few months earlier, his 13-year-old brother, Ernest, was among those killed in the attack and fire at Taliesin in 1914. Frank Lloyd Wright had hired William as a carpenter and Ernest as a groundskeeper at his retreat, and William put out that fire before it destroyed the drafting studio.

According to Wright's autobiography, William Weston "with his nimble intelligence and swift sure hand was a gift to any architect. That William stayed with and by Taliesin through trials and tribulations the better part of fourteen years. America turns up a good mechanic around in country places every so often. Billy was one of them."

Some of those admirable traits were surely passed down to Marcus, who worked alongside his father at Taliesin and also helped build Taliesin West in Arizona. Having grown up doing carpentry and masonry, he was inspired to become an architect and was accepted by FLW into the young Taliesin Fellowship in 1938.

"I think perhaps I enjoyed a 'closeness' or a 'freedom' with Mr. Wright that was unique among the apprentices ... He was always very kind and patient," Marcus Weston reflected in Edgar Tafel's book, "Frank Lloyd Wright: Recollections by Those Who Knew Him."

Weston spent most of his professional architectural life with the Madison partnership of Kaeser & McLeod and working with local architectural commissions, such as the Spring Green Senior Center and "South Hill," originally designed for Dr. Gerald Kempthorne in the wooded hills north of Spring Green.

To the Papes (and perhaps future homeowners), he'll be known for building their beloved Correll home among the trees.

A few years ago, the Papes happened to meet Weston in a grocery store and asked him if he remembered building that house. The 99-year-old said he did and asked them if they liked it.

"Yes, very much," they said.

Weston passed away in 2016 at the age of 101¾ at his home in Spring Green with his children near him, according to his obituary.

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