S: Cedar Crest: Life in the "Frank Lloyd Wrong" House
BC: Acknowledgments: Stories - Elaine (Caldwell) Emmi Photos - Hugh Hazelrigg Design - Katrina Folsom | Sycamore Land Trust www.sycamorelandtrust.org | email@example.com | (812) 336-5382
FC: Cedar Crest Life in the "Frank Lloyd Wrong" House
1: By Elaine Emmi Lynton Keith Caldwell was born in 1913 in Iowa and Helen Walcher was born in St. Louis in 1914, to very different families. Helen grew up very active, athletic, and artistic. Lynton was reserved and introspective, preferring bird watching to socializing. Helen was a divorcée with a dramatic flair, while Lynton was deliberate and thoughtful. | Despite their differences they both wound up at the same party in Chicago on one fateful night. The rest is history. They married while Dad was finishing his Ph.D. They started their married life in South Bend, IN followed by Albany, New York. While in New York, Ned and I came on the scene! After living in various places, our family moved to Bloomington, IN in 1956. For Dad, life was almost perfect between his extensive travels as a professor of public administration and a home base to throw himself into. He loved working outside and got a taste of owning his own land. Dad started looking for the perfect property and designing his dream house. After many renditions, in 1958 work started at Cedar Crest. Cedar Crest became the most important aspect of Dad's life and had a huge impact on his life as well as ours. Enjoy the stories! | Cedar Crest became the headquarters of Sycamore Land Trust in 2007. Before that, it had a long and storied history... | Foreword | The Caldwells: Keith, Helen, Elaine, and Ned
2: In the beginning, the Caldwells traveled and lived in many places. Camping, exploring, and learning were always the reasons for living this way. Dad wanted to be an architect, but during the Depression no one was hiring architects so he found himself settled at Indiana University. | He decided to express himself and building Cedar Crest was his artistic creation, inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. By 1958 the property was discovered and planning for Cedar Crest had begun in earnest. Dad even built a scale model of the house. Then the site had to be readied. | At the time, there was no Heritage Woods Rd so we parked on Knightridge Rd and tromped through a corn field to the wooded part (where the gates are today), then wound our way back to our land. We had to carry everything with us: food, drinks, tools.
3: Since our parents had to spend many hours working at the building site, Ned and I needed to be somewhat entertained. So, of course we were presented with hatchets! Now, how many parents would give their young kids hatchets today? One hundred trees had to be cleared, many of them by Mom and Dad with a double-handled saw. Mom had the best pair of biceps I'd ever seen! Ned and I loved to show off our biceps to our friends, who were duly impressed. Once the trees were downed, Ned and I would attack the smaller branches with our hatchets. The end result was the perfectly cut and stacked log piles. It was an amazing process to see our dream house come true from the ground up.
4: Building Cedar Crest caused a lot of consternation in the community. Most of the people who helped create Cedar Crest couldn't quite figure it all out. There were interesting incidents such as when Mom painted the ceiling. Scaffolding was set across the living and dining rooms and Mom had to lie on her back to accomplish the task. We called her Michelangelo! To break up the expanse of the enormous ceiling, Mom decided to do a fresco. First she did blocks of color, but that was a bit too harsh. So, she wielded a secret weapon: an old powder puff with gold paint. When one of our workmen came into the living room one day, he stood there a long time and then in a good Monroe County drawl asked, "What's it supposed to be originally?" The phrase stuck with us and became our family joke! | "What's it supposed to be originally?"
5: Mom and Dad were drawn to the property because they knew that Ned and I would love the woods. But what they didn't know was that untouched woods are carpeted with poison ivy! I seemed to be allergic to everything, so I was miserable every time I went into the woods. Heroically, Mom decided to rid our woods of poison ivy. After all, she wasn't allergic to it. She plotted out the areas she knew we would spend the most time in and ripped out huge vines. This went on for several days, when one morning Mom woke up with the worst case of poison ivy anyone had ever seen! Her eyes were glued shut, her face swollen, her arms and torso layered in rashes. Thus ended Mom's project. But I was able to play in the woods and in no time learned to identify "leaves of three, leave them be!" | "I'm not allergic to poison ivy"
6: Another Cedar Crest anomaly: we swam in our drinking water! The pool was our water supply. Our grandfather designed a filtration system and amazingly, the health department tested our water every year and found it cleaner than the city water supply. We loved telling this to our disbelieving friends after they jumped into the pool!
7: Part of the design of Cedar Crest was to create a most wonderful party space. Mom made all sorts of ethnic food for the guests. People from all over the world came and it was such an adventure just to be in the house with all the ideas that floated around. But the most memorable party happened when our septic tank backed up just as Mom was putting on a huge outdoor event! We had several hundred guests and no bathrooms! | My favorite were the December parties. The living room tree would often touch the 17-foot ceiling. Decorating it was quite a feat that took a couple of days. Dad was in charge of the downstairs tree and often did something very unusual. One year he decorated it with colorful luggage tags from around the world.
8: Dad designed the study so he could look out at the driveway to see who was coming and enjoy an island with beautiful trees and bird feeders. A pair of binoculars hung in the window and were often utilized. The study had 2 hiding places plus a secret stairway so Dad could make a hasty exit via the storage room and out a downstairs door if need be. I don't think he ever did that but he liked to tell us that is why he designed the secret stairs. As kids we found it a very convenient way to never get caught at hide'n'seek! | The Study
9: Fires have always been an important part of life at Cedar Crest. We enjoyed fires during dinner or while watching slides in the family room. But Dad's favorite place was to sit at the desk that had belonged to his father (to this day, that desk is still there) and gaze into the fire while writing. Whenever the inspiration evaporated he would go outside to walk in his beloved woods. Like many of us, he gained inspiration and solace from being in the woods.
10: Often in the evening, Mom would curl into a white leather chair to pay bills and correspond with folks. Mom was the queen of the double-entry bookkeeping method and when Ned and I didn't thrill to the joy of learning this system, she knew we would be lost forever! The reality is that behind every good man is a good woman, as my Mom would say with red pencil in hand. She edited everything he wrote and deserves much more credit than was ever given for her part in his ideas and writings.
11: Mom did all of Dad's editing while maintaining a business of several rental properties around town, investing in the stock market, managing nonprofits like the Friends of Music, and being a "housewife." You can imagine that being a housewife at Cedar Crest was quite an undertaking. Oh yes, she also managed to squeeze in being a sculptress and one helluva golfer! | Sculptress
12: When Dad was sequestered in his study, the rest of us were often in the kitchen, which had a small sofa, rocking chair, kitchen table, and a writing desk. My favorite thing about the kitchen was being able to look out the windows to watch the birds that landed on the built-in bird feeder. Every morning we put out a variety of seeds and the show commenced. | One night Ned was up late playing guitar in the kitchen and noticed a fire blazing at a nearby property. He called for help and raced over to wake the sleeping family. Luckily, the fire was put out without anyone being harmed.
13: We had a TV suspended from the kitchen wall that could be swiveled toward the cooking area or the table. Now it's true confession time: Dad liked watching TV! He would come into the kitchen late at night, scoop a bowl of ice cream and watch shows like the Twilight Zone and Perry Mason. Years later I discovered they had added Dallas to their must-see TV list. Rather than admit to friends they watched something so pedestrian as Dallas, Mom would make excuses for Dad. One night when the 3 of us were out for dinner with friends, Mom remarked that Dad couldn't linger as he was expecting an international phone call. We hustled back to the house and I was rather surprised to see Dad taking a seat in the kitchen in front of the TV instead of dashing to his study to cloister himself for this very important call! | Life - and a snake! - in the kitchen | How does a snake fit in with all this TV watching? One night his gaze caught something large and dark on top of the white kitchen curtains. Balanced above the heat vent was a very large black snake! Ned kept many reptilian friends in the house and had lost him about 6 months prior. You never knew what to expect at Cedar Crest!
14: Dad collected model trains, books, badges, pins, brochures - anything related to trains! The "train room" in its original form had a large table with 7 different tracks for the trains to run around. If you look closely, there is a small hole in the wall as you go into the storage room - that was so the trains could dart in there and back out. The train on the shelf was so large that when Ned and I were small we could sit upon it! Dad organized train trips across country a couple of summers and Ned and I loved the vista dome cars, especially stargazing at night. | The Train Room
15: One day Dad announced we needed a flower garden so we could have fresh-cut flowers and grow vegetables. This was really funny to us because Dad was not a big veggie eater. The real reason was an excuse to build a beautiful stone fence, which would keep the bunnies out. Right? | Wrong! The bunnies enjoyed that space just like every other space at Cedar Crest. But Dad planted many beautiful flowers inside those walls and he was very proud of the end result. | The Walled Garden