George Washington Maher apprenticed in the Chicago offices of Joseph Lyman Silsbee, where Wright and Elmslie were both working as draftsmen. In 1888 Maher opened his own practice, designing many houses in the Chicago suburbs, as well as in Minnesota. Like his Prairie School colleagues, he believed that architectural form should follow function and that American architects should strive to create a new vocabulary of forms.|
Taking the idea of a unified interior, as practiced by Wright, Purcell, Elmslie, and other Prairie School architects, a step further, Maher developed what he called his "motif-rhythm" theory. The theory involved adopting a particular motif used consistently throughout a building, such as the poppy, the tiger lily, or the flattened arch. Maher believed that repeating a few motifs consistently, so that one was surrounded with them, would make the home -- and therefore one's life -- harmonious. The symmetry, mass, and centralization inherent in Maher's work sets him apart from other Prairie School architects and gives his buildings a more classical feeling.
Maher developed his motif rhythm theory to its full extent in the architecture and furnishings for Rockledge, a house built in 1912 near Winona, Minnesota for Ernest L. King and his wife, Grace Watkins King. Because the Kings were among his wealthiest clients, Maher designed lavish interior details and nearly every object that would be used at Rockledge. The flattened arch and the tiger lily were the prevailing motifs of the interior architectural elements, the furnishings, and a multitude of everyday objects, some of which are installed in the Prairie School gallery at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. see objects >