Video interview with Nancy (Van Bergen) Brigham

I did several hours of taped interviews with John Van Bergen’s daughter, Nancy, in 1999 in Santa Barbara. 

Here are a couple of excerpts from some video that will be running at the exhibit. In this excert, Nancy is talking about her father’s last meeting with Frank Lloyd Wright:

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Other memories of her father:

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Here she talks about how nature was so important to her father and his architecure:

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I am forever grateful for the friendship of Nancy (Van Bergen) Brigham. Nancy died in 2008 at the age of 88. Most of the family documents in this collection were donated by her. Those documents, and several hours of recorded oral history formed the foundation on which I re-discovered her father’s outstanding career.I tracked Nancy down with some difficulty — the only evidence I had of her existence was a 1920 newclipping announcing her birth, in an old Oak Park newspaper — and was richly rewarded for my efforts.

I know the process was sometimes challenging, but also know that it was highly rewarding for her. She gave of herself unconditionally and her father’s posterity lives on only because of her.

Thank you Nancy.

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100 year old wooden chandelier, art glass panel will be on display

This wooden “chandelier” will go into the exhibit sometime in June – or earlier if I have to to restore it before then.  It is the original dining room fixture from a Van Bergen house in Chicago.

He designed several variations of this fixture.  They had reflectors inside, producing indirect light by bouncing it off the ceiling and illuminating the room through indirect lighting.  As fas as I know, this is a unique lighting idea, and one of the earliest uses of a purely indirect electric lighting fixture.

The house has still has two identical fixtures hanging in the living room.

The current owners found this fixture in the basement when they bought their 1915 Van Bergen designed house.  It looks like it had been damaged decades ago.  I will restore it and rewire it.  Once it is up, it will shine light for the irst time in perhaps 50 years!

It is on loan for this exhibit only.

The art glass panel had to be removed from an exterior door in the house because it was completely falling apart.  The old scotch tape repairs were just not cutting it!  This is also waiting in line to get into my workshop for restoration.  It will also be on display when done.

There will also be copies on display of two complete sets of blueprints for this house.  Yes, I said two — for two different designs!

They were recently sent to the current owners by the grandson of the original owners. In conjunction with the exhibit, I had them digitally photographed, so that they can be archived and studied in the future without handling, as old prints like this are delicate and very sensitive to light.

Here are a couple of other original light fixtures tha still remain in the house.

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May 19 – white gloves, hands on viewing access to the collection

The April opening afternoon of the exhibit was very successful!  I talked about how the project came to be, how the collection was started and provoked some other interesting discussion.

The exhibit will be open to the public until the end of September 2011.  The next event is scheduled for Thursday, May 19, 2011.

Besides an opportunity for participants to view the exhibit that evening, many items from my collection (and other collections) that are not on display will be available for viewing by all participants.

Most of these things haven’t seen the light of day for decades, some for nearly 100 years!  Original pencil drawings, blueprints, personal photographs and documents.

Since the exhibit was announced, new items have surfaced recently, or been offered on loan. For example, this original presentation drawing for a Prairie School School (Chicago Junior School, now Fox River Country Day School) built in Elgin Illinois starting in 1929. How exciting is that!?

And people thought (including myself) that talking about the Prairie School any more, after 100-plus years, was just beating a dead horse! Not only is there new stuff to find, there is also lots of mythology about the period and its architects to debunk.

This nearly forgotten about architect and his work are now being brought into the light.  If you are a buff of Prairie School architecture, seeing much of the the work of this outstanding architect for the first time will surprise, and hopefully delight you!

Space is limited for this event and should be reserved in advance. Admission for this special event is $25.00 for members, $35.00 for non members.  The location is:  Old Barrington Center, 212 West Main Street, Barrington, IL 60010

Barrington History Museum (Historical Society): 847-381-1730

Come join us on May 19 starting at 7:00 PM. Or visit the exhibit during regular museum hours. BTW, it’s always a good idea to call ahead first.

Also, books will also be available for purchase – I’ll be happy to sign a copy for you!

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Opening of Van Bergen Exhibit

The Barrington History Museum Presents an exhibit and series of events:

The Life and Work of Prairie School Architect, John Van Bergen

Presented by Marty Hackl, historian/preservationist


Sunday April 17, 2011 — 1:00 to 2:00 PM:

“The Career of John Van Bergen”

The series begins with a discussion by Marty Hackl about the career of John Van Bergen, covering all his work from Illinois to California.  Following the talk, Marty will guide participants through this new exhibit.  The exhibit will run through September 2011.

Members $2.00  Non-members $5.00


Thursday, May 19, 2011 — 7:00 to 9:00 PM:

“John Van Bergen, Rare Original Drawings and Documents”

Join us as Marty Hackl presents drawings and documents never before seen by the public. Marty will begin the program with a brief discussion of Van Bergen as one of the Prairie School’s most successful and prolific architects.  And the evening will conclude with a hands-on, white gloves viewing and examination of some of Van Bergen’s original drawings, letter, photographs, and other personal documents and artifacts, including many not on display in the exhibit.

Space is limited for this event and must be reserved in advance.

Members $25.00  Non-members $35.00


Wednesday, June 8, 2011 — 7:00 to 8:00 PM:

“Redefining the Prairie School of Architecture: From Frank Lloyd Wright to John Van Bergen”

Members $2.00  Non-members $5.00


Seating is limited for all programs and advance reservations are highly recommended.

Free refreshments will be provided after each program.


Old Barrington Center, 212 West Main Street, Barrington, IL 60010

Barrington Area Historical Society: 847-381-1730

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