Friday, April 6, 2012

Differing Opinions on John Storer

*Architect Sketch of John Storer House

Sometimes, I like to go surfing. I'm somewhat lacking in balance and live on the East Coast, so I of course mean wikisurfing. Oh, the times I've had; the pub-quiz trivia knowledge I've gained! Sometimes though, I stumble across discrepancies, especially when it comes to tangential people in history.

John Storer had his home, of Frank Lloyd Wright's textile-block-house era, built for him in 1923. There's precious little information offered about him on Wikipedia. One spot is in the Millard House entry, while another is in the John Storer House entry. In both articles he is described as a "doctor," yet in one he's described as "homeopathic" and in the other he is described as "failed." The former entry cites Ruth Ryan, a former Celebrity Homes Columnist," but does not provide an active link to the article. Meanwhile the latter does: Hugh Eakin's article is a riot of adjectives; tempestuous, obsessed, untested, free-spirited, and motley, all make appearances in the first two paragraphs of the article, along with rhetorical questions and broad cinematic pronouncements; I can't help but distrust it: there are just too many adjectives to wrangle with.

So my question is, who's right? Or are they both right/wrong? Was he a successful homeopathic doctor, but not a "real" doctor, and thus a failure? Or did he turn to homeopathic medicine after failing to make it as a conventional doctor? Or something completely different?

Searching for "John Storer" and "Frank Lloyd Wright" together on Google returned 9,370 results, but it took till page three to find a substantive article here.

The article is from a series Young calls "Biographies of Homeopaths" (I will, for the purpose of inquiry accept "homeopathy" as medicine), and further down the page she also writes that John Storer was a professor and Dean of The Hahnemann Medical College of Chicago. Hey, professor and Dean (just like my Mom!), that doesn't sound much like "failed" to me. And if like me, you think the failure Eakin refers to may be the mere practice of "homeopathic" medicine, then this article, cited by Young, becomes especially helpful in gauging if not the legitimacy of homeopathic medicine, at least the status of homeopathic medicine in Chicago around the time The Hahnemann Medical College of Chicago was founded.

With a little historical perspective, and with Dr. John Storer's titles, I hope that's not what Eakin is referring to. And anyway, let's remember that at the time (or even sometime after) Dr. Storer moved into his house in 1923, Heroin Cough Drops, Benzedrine Asthma Inhalers, and Lobotomies for Depression were all accepted medical practice.

So, if "homeopathy" isn't what Eakin was referring to at all, what could he be basing his adjective choice on? Another answer emerges when you read deeper into Young's article, as she suggests that Dr. Storer went bankrupt because of the cost of the home. Here the linked source is within a book, Frank Lloyd Wright's California Houses by Carla Lind, which states in the sidebar on the right that Dr. Storer died bankrupt in 1927. The 6 reviews of Carla Lind's books on Amazon are somewhat inconclusive. A few say the books are great, and a few say they're thin and slight on information. That sort of statement makes me doubt that they include a work cited, and I'm not about to buy the book just to find out, which means that without some extra work I can't confirm the possibly sad fate of Dr. Storer.

Regardless, while "failed doctor" adds the flair of desperation to the "motley" bunch that Eakin assembled, and while in assessing his lot at the end of life it's possible that Dr. Storer considered himself a failure, it just doesn't seem like a fair phrase because it implies that Dr. Storer failed "as a doctor," and ultimately, unless other evidence can be presented to contrary, misrepresents the man...

Anyway, if anyone has more information about Dr. John Storer, do let me know.

Differing Opinions of Dr. John Storer

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The Storer House was built in 1923 for Dr. John Storer, a homeopathic physician.

Source: Ruth Ryon (2001-02-03). "Home of the Week: Restoration Has All the Wright Detail". Los Angeles Times.

About Ruth Ryon:

Found at

As The New York Times later said of the California houses built by Wright in the 1920s: "It didn’t help that he was obsessed at the time with an untested and (supposedly) low-cost method of concrete-block construction. What kind of rich person, many wondered, would want to live in such a house? Aside from the free-spirited oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, with whom he fought constantly, his motley clients included a jewelry salesman, a rare-book dealing widow and a failed doctor."

Source: Hugh Eakin (2005-08-14). "Fixer-Uppers That Need Love and Concrete". The New York Times.

About Hugh Eakin:

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