One interesting architectural feature that has come and gone from Thunderbird Lodge is the enclosed solarium. When I first came to Thunderbird, I came across this picture taken from inside the Great Room.
Solarium at the Whittell Estate.The Frasher Foto Postcard Collection.
However, I could not figure out which room it showed. Then to add to the mystery, I also found the “solarium” listed in the 1939 appraisal inventory, so I figured that the picture had to be it, but where was it?
With a bit of searching and investigation, I figured out that today’s outside terrace on the second (main) floor had at one time been the solarium. However, looking at very early pictures of the exterior, it is clear that it was much like it is today – with an open porch on the second floor on the lakeside. You can see the open area in these two photographs. The first photograph is during construction of the Lodge and you can see the canopy over the terrace.
The Lodge during construction. TLPS Collection.
Lodge from plane. TLPS Collection.
I eventually discovered photographs from Whittell’s time that showed the enclosed solarium from the exterior.
Lodge with solarium and awnings.The Frasher Foto Postcard Collection.
Here we can also see that the enclosed solarium was constructed at about the same time as the upper balconies and walkways on the lakeside and ends of the building. We know that the solarium and balconies were added by 1939 as they appear in September appraisal of that year. It is also noted that George Whittell kept a bed on the balcony to enjoy the summer nights. So, somewhere between completing construction in 1938 and the appraisal in 1939, Whittell made these changes.
The other mystery is when was the solarium demolished and become a terrace again? Today, we enjoy the terrace as a lovely outside space easily accessed from the Great Room. But did Whittell return it to its original state or was it later owner Jack Dreyfus who did numerous changes on the house during his ownership? From this photograph taken shortly before the Dreyfus additions, it appears the solarium is already gone, however, it is hard to say.
Lodge exterior prior to Dreyfus additions. TLPS Collection.
Sadly I have no record of when the changes took place, but we can see that the exterior appearance of the lakeside of the Lodge has changed several times over the years.
View of the terrace today from the remaining balcony area. Originally the balcony would have been larger. TLPS Collection.
Which do you prefer – the enclose solarium or the open terrace?