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The Jewel in the Woods

The Seth Peterson Cottage is a Usonian design structure in south-central Wisconsin, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. After being in a state of disrepair for decades, this 880 square foot building was renovated and celebrated the ten-year anniversary of its resurrection in 2003. At the time of its rehabilitation, the Seth Peterson Cottage was the only Wright-designed building in the world that the general public can rent and occupy. The cottage was commissioned by Seth Peterson, an architecture enthusiast and one of the earliest computer programmers in the state of Wisconsin. The drawings were completed in 1959, and sadly, neither Mr. Peterson nor Mr. Wright lived to see the completion of the cottage.

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Seth Peterson Cottage’s Jewel in the Woods

The Seth Peterson Cottage was the first Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house in the world available for rental occupancy. Designed in 1958, it was one of Wright’s last commissions. With only 880 square feet of living space, this tiny house embodies many of the qualities that have made Frank Lloyd Wright one of the world’s most renowned architects. The Cottage sits perched on the crest of a steep wooded hill that descends to Mirror Lake. The building’s massive chimney and walls, which rise two stories above the bathroom and kitchen, are powerful vertical elements that anchor and offset the roof’s energetic wedge. The main views to the west and south are framed by the great flying roof, which appears to float in space without support. The flagstones used to pave the outside terrace are used as the cottage floor inside the building, demonstrating Wright’s philosophy of blurring the lines between the outside and inside worlds in which we live.

Exterior of Seth Peterson Cottage, Jewel in the Woods Documentary DVD
Exterior of Seth Peterson Cottage – The Jewel in the Woods

What EMG was Tasked With

The Seth Peterson Cottage had to be photographed in all of its glory, and Elevate was tasked with doing just that. Elevate’s goal was to highlight Seth Peterson’s dream of owning his own Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. After Peterson’s death, the cottage fell into disrepair and was declared a total loss. The cottage would have vanished entirely if it hadn’t been for the efforts of a small group of true believers. Years of dedication and fund-raising, however, were able to save the cottage. It arose from the ashes, much like the proverbial Phoenix. It is now a true “Jewel in the Woods.”  “The Jewel in the Woods” employs compelling archival and current footage, aerial video, contemporary music, and is narrated by well-known Wisconsin Public Radio host and notable author Norman Gilliland.


“The film is beautiful and well-produced. I shared it with my father earlier this month, in advance of our weekend sojourn at Seth’s cottage. He greatly enjoyed watching it, and I know it enhanced his appreciation of his time at the cottage.”

Brian R. Hannan

Jewel in the Woods Documentary DVD
Jewel in the Woods Documentary DVD

Check out: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Smallest Project Has a Dramatic, Tragic Past A forthcoming documentary tells the tragic and transformative story of the Seth Peterson Cottage, a little-known project by the famed architect By Patrick Sisson

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The Jewel in the Woods DVD is no longer available for sale.

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