Think back to the early 1920’s and imagine the way of life and the architectural style of the era. Prevalent were Victorian houses and black Model T Ford cars. Horses were still the fashion and gingerbread-trimmed porches the rage.
In 1924, Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design a clubhouse for the Nakoma Country Club in Madison, Wisconsin. Golf was only introduced in the United States in the late nineteenth century and by 1920 three thousand clubs were in operation across the country.
The name Nakoma, a Chippewa Indian word, meant “I do as I promise.” Wright’s Nakoma design was a tribute to the American Indian, as each spire on the clubhouse is reminiscent of a wigwam.
This clubhouse 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.”
The building is made up a series of contrasting shapes: octagonal, square, and rectangular. Its three-dimensional character is equally varied, consisting of a 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 55 feet high gives the outward appearance of an immense Indian teepee. There was no doubt that Wright had this image in mind, when he inscribed “wigwam” on the plan.
The Indian symbolism is continued in the gigantic fireplace labeled “campfire” - open on four sides - that rises up through the open interior of the room as a central core, again reminiscent of a central fire in 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.
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.”
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 which were mentioned in the club’s annual report. In addition, Wright’s personal image was at a low and his marital problems were at a high. Thus, Wright’s unusual design for the Nakoma Country Club remained an architectural vision.
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. Gold Mountain is becoming a world-class recreation and golf destination resort offering large acre plus home sites with spectacular high Sierra mountain views. 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 will be honored by its presence on the brow of our hill.
The Nakoma Clubhouse has been engineered and site work has been completed. Construction has begun and It is anticipated that it will be completed in 2,000. Wright’s buildings still prove that he was anchored in the belief that a building should grow from it’s site and harmonize with the nature found there.
We invite you to come visit our sales office to see a scale model of Nakoma by Frank Lloyd Wright and learn about the Gold Mountain project and the spirit of the community that it is embracing “in harmony with life”.