Oak Park & River Forest, Illinois – December 2022 – Wright Kind of Towns

As a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture we have had the opportunity to visit a number of his works including:

Bartlesville, Oklahoma – Price Tower – https://rdzphotographyblog.com/2019/06/19/bartlesville-oklahoma-may-2019-frank-lloyd-wright-goes-to-new-heights/

Buffalo, New York – FLW around Town – https://rdzphotographyblog.com/2017/05/17/buffalo-may-2017-frank-lloyd-wright-in-buffalo/

Racine, Wisconsin – Wingspread – https://rdzphotographyblog.com/2014/09/20/racine-wi-september-2014-frank-lloyd-wright-house-wingspread/

Fayette County, Pennsylvania – Kentuck Knob – https://rdzphotographyblog.com/2011/10/09/fayette-county-pa-october-2011-kentuck-knob/

Oberlin, Ohio – Usonian House – https://rdzphotographyblog.com/2011/10/02/oberlin-oh-october-2011-weltzheimerjohnson-house/

Springfield, Ohio – Westcott House – https://rdzphotographyblog.com/2011/08/20/springfield-oh-august-2011-wescott-house/

Grand Rapids, Michigan – Meyer May House – https://rdzphotographyblog.com/2008/08/19/grand-rapids-august-2008-flw-in-grand-rapids/

Scottsdale, Arizona – Taliesin West – https://rdzphotographyblog.com/2005/06/24/scottsdale-az-june-2005-taliesin-west/

and of course Mill Run, Pennsylvania – Fallingwater – https://rdzphotographyblog.com/2008/09/06/mill-run-pa-september-2008-fallingwater/

With an afternoon to spend before heading to O’Hare Airport we wandered the Chicago suburbs of Oak Park and River Forest checking out the plethora of FLW works. Doing this tour in the winter, with a recent snow, gives a very different look to the area, with more of the homes exposed due to lack of leaves on the trees.

We start with the George Smith House at 404 Home Avenue in Oak Park. As an early example of his work this home is in a variation of a Queen Anne style known as Shingle. The rooflines and overall cladding gives the home an unusual look.

As we move north through Oak Park we reach the commercial Lake Street, home of Unity Temple. Home to a Unitarian Universalist Church, the building was completed in 1908. It is considered by many to be the first modern building in the world.

Unfortunately we were unable to view the interior.

There are so many FLW houses in Oak Park the neighborhood has been designated as the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District. Our tour of this area starts at 540 Fair Oaks Avenue – the William Fricke House.

This house was completed in 1901 in a 3 story Prairie style.

Just down the street at 515 Fair Oaks Avenue is the Rollin Furbeck House. The large open porches and front tower modifies a typical foursquare looking home. The cost of the lot and home in 1897 was $8250 – less than $300,000 in today’s money – a real bargain.

The house was a wedding present to the Furbeck’s, who only lived in it for a year before selling and moving to New York.

Next stop is the William Martin House at 636 North East Avenue. When William’s brother Darwin visited from Buffalo, New York, he engaged FLW to design a number of building there.

534 North East Avenue is the Harry Goodrich House. Restoration in the 1990s returned it to it’s original look, which as an early FLW work is very different than the later Prairie style homes.

Just down the block at 520 North East Avenue is the Edward Cheney House. With only 1 level above ground, and a large brick wall, it is barely visible from the street.

Next stop is 710 Augusta Street – the Harry Adams House. Completed in 1913 it was one of his later houses build in Oak Park, thus incorporating more of his famed lineal lines. One of the features we often spot when looking for a FLW house is the large concrete planter, which is evident near the steps (being December in Illinois it is void of any flowers).

North Euclid Avenue is another street with multiple FLW homes on it. We start with 321 – the Charles Roberts House. This house was completed in 1879 with FLW remodeling it in 1896.

Dating from 1897 the George Furbeck House is at 223 North Euclid Avenue. In a somewhat unusual look for FLW the front features two octagon shapes. The rooms in front were originally an open porch that was enclosed in 1922.

FLW became infamous for abandoning his family and going to Europe with his mistress in 1909, staying there for an extended period. This home, the Oscar Balch Home at 611 North Kenilworth Avenue was the first home in Oak Park he designed upon his return, completing it in 1911.

This home was one of his first flat roofed designs.

Making our way back down to Chicago Avenue we find 1027 – The Thomas Gale House. This home, as well as two others on the same block, are known as FLW Bootleg houses as they were designed independently by FLW while he was still in the employment of Louis Sullivan – eventually being fired for doing so.

The other two bootleg houses are 1031 and 1019 Chicago Avenue. On this trip missed 1019 – below is the Walter Gale House at 1031. These homes, while not quite the classic FLW look, are very different than most of the other homes of the time, both dating from 1892.

A block away is the corner of Chicago Avenue and Forest Avenue, home to the FLW Home and Studio. The FLW foundation offers numerous tours of the location and neighborhood, so if you are in Oak Park and want a more in depth knowledge of him I recommend stopping by for one or more of the tours.

Forest Avenue has numerous FLW homes on it, starting with 333 – the Nathan Moore Home. Completed in 1895 in a Tudor Revival style, FLW never liked it but did what the client asked (something he became famous for ignoring later in life).

A fire in 1922 gave him a chance to do significant modifications more to his liking.

318 Forest Avenue shows the significant change in FLW’s design style, having been completed in 1902 as the Arthur Heurtley Home. Situated on a large lot, with large overhangs, arches and the ubiquitous planters, it is classic FLW.

Just across the street is 328 Forest Avenue – the Peter Beachy House. An extensive update to an existing cottage, the house features a gabled roof and heavy frames around the windows – very un-FLW.

Another remodel at 313 Forest Avenue is the Edward Hills House. This house has undergone numerous changes from it’s original 1883 construction as a Stick style house. FLW redesigned it in 1906, with subsequent modifications between 1912 and 1965. In 1976 there was a a major fire that destroyed much of the house, leading to a reconstruction and restore.

It does contain rooflines similar to the first house featured on this posting, the George Smith House on Home Avenue.

A small street off of Forest Avenue, Elizabeth Court, is the location of the Laura Gale House. This home was built for the widow of Thomas Gale, the owner of one of the bootleg FLW houses on Chicago Avenue.

This home is considered one of the first small home, prairie style houses that he designed.

As we move to the next suburb over, River Forest, we find the 1893 William Winslow house. As one of Wright’s early designs, it reflects the style of Louis Sullivan, his employer at the time, with the graceful arches and the overall symmetry of the design.

The Ashland Avenue home of Arthur Davenport was a result of a collaboration with another architect, Webster Tomlinson. Dating from 1901 it is a very early Prairie style.

Edgewood Place in River Forest has two FLW homes. This one is known as the Chauncey Williams Home.

Dating from 1895 it has a much higher pitched roof than most FLW designs.

It does utilize the octagon shaped front room, as well as a liberal use of large stones gathered from the nearby Des Plaines River, blending the house into the surrounding landscape.

The second home on Edgewood is the Isabel Roberts home. Ms Roberts at the time was the office manager for FLW at his studio in Oak Park.

Ms Roberts later relocated to Florida where she started an architectural practice, despite no formal training. A number of former Wright draftsmen later occupied the house.

Our last stop on this tour is the James Kibben Ingalls House at 562 Keystone Avenue in River Forest. This was one of his last designs before he took off for Europe with his mistress.

It is indicative of his later works with the clean lines and cantilevered balconies.

If you are a fan of architecture in general, or more specifically the Frank Lloyd Wright styles the Chicagoland area is the center of the universe. I have excluded the numerous other homes that were done in this style by proteges of him, as well as those of him that were located outside of Oak Park or River Forest. There are over 70 existing FLW works in Illinois.

Chicago – May 2013 – Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park and River Forest

Having a few hours to spend around Chicago one day, I went on a driving tour of Oak Park and River Forest to find as many Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes as I could. Please note this post is not intended on being the comprehensive list of FLW houses in the area, only a sampling of those I could find, and take decent photos.

If you are interested in further information I suggest visiting the FLW trust website http://flwright.org/

My favorites

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