Seth’s Cottage

Seth Peterson Cottage, Mirror Lake, Frank Lloyd Wright architect

Seth Peterson Cottage © 2011 Bo Mackison

I have visited the Seth Peterson Cottage, the last commission that Frank Lloyd Wright did before his death in 1958. (There are tours of the small cottage every second Sunday of the month in the afternoon.)

And ever since I went and toured this cozy, secluded cottage that stands on the bluffs overlooking Mirror Lake, I’ve had a deep desire to spend the night there. (The cottage is one of only a handful of Wright designed buildings available for public rental.)

Last week I listened to a show on Wisconsin Public Radio regarding the activities planned for this year in honor of Wright’s home in Wisconsin. Taliesin is reaching the century mark. And the conversation about Wright’s houses rekindled my dream of staying in Seth’s Cottage. What better way to commemorate this Wright year? But when I went to the site to check on availability, there was only one night available – the next evening — or the cottage wasn’t available until mid-November.

I made some hasty arrangements and then made my reservation.

I was going to spend a whole day and night at the Seth Peterson Cottage. A mini-Wright retreat in the woods, on a bluff, above a lake–in a Wright designed cottage. Yes!

Entrance to Seth Peterson Cottage, Mirror Lake, Frank Lloyd Wright architect

Seth’s Cottage Entrance © 2011 Bo Mackison

I’m sharing the photos I took of the cottage when it was nearly dark because these are the kinds of photographs you can only get if you spend the night. I have taken many of the cottage’s exterior and interior during daylight hours while I’ve been on the tours. Those were taken a few years ago when I was a true novice with the camera. This time I spent quite a few hours photographing the cottage, both the inside and outside, in daylight and at night. I had the huge advantage of being able to set up my shots, and I was able to use a tripod and long shutter speeds without interfering with a tour in progress.

What a dream come true!

Interior, Dining Area of Seth Peterson Cottage, Frank Lloyd Wright architect

Dining in the Cottage © 2011 Bo Mackison

The cottage was designed to include much in a very small space. The bedroom is small but very functional with built ins and closets. The dining and living area is almost spacious. When dining, one can gaze out at Mirror Lake and watch the water fowl. In better weather–it was drizzly and in the 40s–the lake is popular with canoeists and kayakers, too. There is an outside porch for relaxing and outdoor eating. The flagstone floor has a radiant heating system underneath the surface and the floor is toasty warm for bare feet. Nice touch!

View from Entrance,  Seth Peterson Cottage, Frank Lloyd Wright architect

From the Front Door to the Back Door – A View © 2011 Bo Mackison

Wright knew how to make the most of lighting and windows, and the cottage has plenty of both. The western exposure is a wall of windows set on a short stone base. The rear wall also has windows and insures a great view of the lake and the wildlife.

Central Fireplace at  Seth Peterson Cottage,  Frank Lloyd Wright architect

Central Fireplace at Cottage © 2011 Bo Mackison

He also employed stone in his exterior design and in the mammoth, central fireplace. The kitchen walls, located immediately behind the fireplace, are also entirely of stone. Modern appliances complement the warmth of the small alcove.

Seth Peterson never lived in the cottage he talked Frank Lloyd Wright into designing for him when Wright was 90 years old. Seth committed suicide before its completion, and the home was sold and finished by another party. In 1966 the state of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources acquired the building and property as a part of the adjoining Mirror Lake State Park, but due to its remote location, the building fell into disrepair.

In 1989 a non-profit group formed to save the building which was in near ruins. After much fund-raising, the cottage was fully restored. It has received numerous architectural awards and recommendations for the stunning rehabilitation. The mission of the Seth Peterson Cottage Conservancy is one of preservation and education. But even more, it is one of opportunity, for it provides the opportunity to experience this unique building in an intimate setting, perhaps the exact setting Mr. Wright himself envisioned.

As I sat in front of the fire on my first afternoon there, I wrote and sketched in my journal. It was a serene experience. Silent, except for the pop and sizzle of the wood fire, the scratching of my pen upon my journal pages, and occasional chatter from the squirrels and birds nearby.

I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised to hear a quiet voice whisper in my ear — “Welcome to Seth’s Cottage, Bo.”

And I might just have replied, “Why, thank you, Mr. Wright.”

~~~ I’ll share a few daylight photos and some journal entries written while staying there in a future post. I am back home after spending the first part of 2011 in Arizona. This is my first “explore” since returning to the Midwest.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Wow! What a wonderful experience! I love the cobalt blue of the sky as the background for your photos! How exciting! You are creating one adventure after another!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Yep. I have a whole summer of “explores” planned–and quite a few centered around Wright’s architecture in the Midwest. It’s an exciting project.

  2. Beautiful post, Bo! Love the photographs. What an opportunity to channel and explore your own vision for your art and photography. I’d love to visit there one day.

  3. What a lovely experience to have in a cottage perfect for photography. Just gorgeous!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      It was especially lovely as evening fell, bringing out the lighting. And amazingly, the sky which was gray, turned out a deep blue. Long shutter? Wow!

  4. You took full advantage of that opportunity, Bo! What a pleasant place that is!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      It’s a truly gorgeous place, Montucky. I’d love to stay there in winter and summer and fall, also. I think it would have a different feel each season!

  5. Gandalf says:

    Absolutely fascinating shots. I love the style and feel. I trust you had a very satisfying visit.

  6. What a wonderful experience that must have been! I look forward to seeing and reading more about it.

  7. Dennis Keeney says:

    Hi Bo, we have two nights reserved a month from now. Can hardly wait. Dennis

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