Unity Temple anecdote—November, 2020

Many of us longtime interpreters at the Home & Studio and at Unity Temple have stories to tell about exceptional tour experiences. A memorable one for me happened in the spring of 2015 before the restoration began at Unity Temple. I knew ahead of time that the group would be my favorite kind, college-level architecture and design students. This group of about twenty were from the graduate school of architecture at Yale.

The group’s faculty member graciously introduced himself, but I did not recognize his name. He had a request: Could I begin the tour in the temple? I held my ground by saying that the temple would make much more sense if the students heard the rest of the tour first and that they would have ample to time to move around after the tour. He kindly acceded.

At the end of the tour, I asked for questions and comments. Then, the faculty person asked if he could add some observations. I was amazed to hear things about Unity Temple that I had never heard before. This guy clearly knew what he was talking about.

After the group left, I asked the staff person for the name of the leader. It was Tom Beebe. Still not registering with me, we Googled him. Oh my, he grew up in Oak Park, was the past dean of Yale School of Architecture, and was the design director for the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago. What an opportunity I had missed to connect with him personally.

To compensate, I emailed him via the Yale Architecture website, and he generously replied. He connected me to a magnificent resource, an article he had written for the Journal of the Taliesin Fellows, Issue 25, Fall 1999, titled “Emerson, Wright, and Unity Temple.” It is a very sophisticated must-read that will deepen your appreciation for Wright’s work and especially for Unity Temple.

Bob Trezevant, UTRF member since 1978