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Frank Lloyd Wright on the “Taliesin Smell” of Winter

Frank Lloyd Wright | Dec 21, 2017

The following excerpt titled “Sniff Taliesin,” was taken from the fifth section of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “An Autobiography,” Form.

Independently of wide-open windows seldom shut, letting in the varying smells of the four seasons, Taliesin is pervaded by its own very especial smell. The visitor on coming in for the first time will sniff and remark upon it, ask what the fragrance is.

In the Spring and Summer the windows at Taliesin are thrown wide-open. The odor of the long white drifts of wild-plum bloom on the nearby hillsides drifts in—the crabapple and hawthorn in the meadows send their scent on, over the treetops. Later the sweet breath of the clover fields rides in to the rooms on the morning and evening breezes. Soon the scent of new-mown hay pervades the place. So our windows, like the doors, are seldom closed in Spring and Summer. In Autumn, when they are closed, mingling with the odor of freshly burned oak, is the smell of bowls of apples and unshelled shag-bark hickory nuts— the prince of all perfumes.

And the sumach. But for the Winter, there inside the rooms is newly gathered, everlasting, cream-white antimony. This gentle pervading odor of antimony is to the sense of smell what the flavor of slippery elm is to the young boy’s sense of taste. Oak fires then start in the seventeen ever-present stone fireplaces to go out but seldom until the following Spring, unless fuel gives out.

A few of the many fireplaces smoke just a little enough to contribute the fumes of the burning oak when the evenings are chill in Autumn or Winter, and Taliesin is covered with its thick protecting blanket of snow, thin white wood-smoke going straight up toward the evening star. So it is in Winter especially that Taliesin is most itself and smells best.

The Taliesin smell, then, is compounded of the acrid odor of oak-wood fires, overlaid and softened by the odor of great bundles of antimony gathered from the fields in Autumn. Great masses of the decorative creamy white herb-blossoms stand about on the tables and ledges in big old Chinese jars. The tang of burned oak and the strange odor of antimony together in fresh air—this is the authentic recipe for “the Taliesin Smell.”