Old School Film Hack

Sugarloaf Mountain… and Frank Lloyd Wright


The proposed design for the 1924 Gordon Strong Automobile Objective on Sugarloaf Mountain by Frank Lloyd Wright. (Photo credit: US Library of Congress)

Portrait photograph of Frank Lloyd Wright

Portrait photograph of Frank Lloyd Wright (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Congratulations go to Bert this time!  Yes, the answer to yesterday’s quiz is Sugarloaf Mountain, in nearby Frederick County, Maryland.

Sugarloaf Mountain is unusual; it’s a 1,282 foot high example of a quartzite monadnock — which is a small mountain that abruptly rises some 800 feet from the rolling plain that surrounds it. Sugarloaf is the tallest point in the immediate Washington, D.C. vicinity, and is a draw for climbers, hikers, and bird lovers.  Likewise, it draws its share of near misses, rescues, accidents, and tragic deaths — which happened in a small plane crash on the side of Sugarloaf back in 1992.

Due to its unparalleled vistas, it was used as an observation and signal station by both the Union and the Confederate sides during the Civil War.  Later it was considered as a Presidential retreat by Franklin D. Roosevelt, before the decision was made to use the more isolated Catoctin Mountain, which is present day Camp David.

But the most interesting historical tidbit involving Sugarloaf Mountain was the proposed 1924 Gordon Strong Automobile Objective, which was intended to be a scenic driving destination composed of a planetarium, restaurant, and vista overlook designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  The spiraling ramp that was featured strongly in the rejected design was later incorporated into the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.  Much has been written about the proposal, but I found Frank Lloyd Wright’s response to the rejection of his design to be both elegant and understated:

“I have given you a noble ‘archaic’ sculptured summit for your mountain. I should have diddled it away with platforms and seats and spittoons for…expectorating businessmen and the flappers that beset them.” — Wikipedia

You can read much more detail about the proposal that now resides at the US Library of Congress here, and related articles in the New York Times and The Telegraph.

5 thoughts on “Sugarloaf Mountain… and Frank Lloyd Wright

    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Very true, Dock — and welcome back!

      At the very top of the property we once owned in Colorado, we would have needed to drill DOWN almost two miles to reach the peak of Sugarloaf, and about half that to reach the highest point east of the Mississippi (our property was an old gold mining claim that was on a steep slope in the heart of the San Juan Mountains above Durango, beginning at 11,300 feet and topping out around 12,000). Cindy and I love the big mountains of the American West and always scoff at the notion that the Eastern bumps are anything more than glorified molehills.

      No, I did not realize that he had done a design for an auto showroom! I’ve always thought highly of the exteriors of his architectural designs, but found the interiors and the furnishings that he designed to go with them to be wildly impractical to actually live in. I’ve seen Fallingwater a number of times, plus a number of other designs, as well as the full-scale Usonian Automatic House that the Smithsonian had on display back in 1988. Quite the ar-teest.


    2. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Hey, Dock — try the new comment box. I was able to get some custom CSS code that makes the text box opaque white and the text itself a solid black. Let me know if that works for you.


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