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Frank Lloyd Wright Homes

Insider's Guide to the Oak Park Area for Fans of Frank Lloyd Wright

Only about 15 minutes away from downtown Chicago, the Oak Park area is an enclave of treasured homes and buildings designed by one of America's most treasured architects, Frank Lloyd Wright. For diehard Wright fans or curious amateurs, the Oak Park area is one of the leading destinations in the entire country to learn more about Wright and see samples of his work – in fact, Oak Park is home to the largest collection of Wright-designed structures in the world, a revolution in the architectural field. Tours can be taken on foot or by bike to see some of the Historic Wright District's gorgeous Prairie Style structures. Most buildings are privately owned, which means many tour stops are to be admired from the exterior, but a few - including the acclaimed home and studio - are open to guests. Here's an insider's guide to the top places to see in the Oak Park area for fans of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home & StudioFrank Lloyd Wright - Home and Studio Playroom
ABOUT: The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio on Chicago Avenue in Oak Park served as Wright's private residence and workspace during the first twenty and most prolific years of his career, 1889 to 1909. It was here that Wright executed many of his famous designs, including Oak Park's Unity Temple, that ultimately gave birth to his signature Prairie style. Tours are available every 30 minutes throughout the day, and guests can explore the space in which Wright experimented with design concepts. Fans will also get a glimpse of the architect's living quarters and see his immaculate laboratory filled with his original drawings.
VISITTours are coordinated by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. Go here for tickets & additional tour information.

Frank Lloyd Wright - Unity Temple

Unity Temple
ABOUTNot far from the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, the Unity Temple in Oak Park is another architectural marvel- and an absolute must-see, given that it's only recently reopened to the public following a $25 million dollar restoration project. A National Historic Landmark and the only surviving public building of Wright's Prairie era, the Unity Temple was built between 1905-1908. Despite a low budget, Wright used unconventional methods by pouring slabs of concrete into intricate designs as walls, columns and structures of the building. It was unusual for buildings to be built with such materials that are normally reserved for warehouses and factories. Inside, the temple reveals an upscale interior design of art deco style with yellow walls and vertical wooden stripes. The temple is open to the public, allowing guests inside to admire the renewed grander of its skylights and decorative elements. Time Out has cited the temple as one of the 50 most beautiful buildings in the Chicago area, and Wright himself deemed the building his "contribution to modern architecture."
VISITTours are coordinated by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. Go here for tickets & additional tour information.

Charles A. Purcell House
ABOUTAdjacent to Oak Park is the village of River Forest, which is home to another Wright home: the Charles A. Purcell House. It's named after the father of the renowned Prairie Style architect William Gray Purcell, who was greatly inspired by Wright and founded the Purcell & Elmslie, an architecture firm focusing on Prairie Style architecture. Designed by the firm, the house has unique windows made to resemble stained glass in churches, a high rising roof and crown molding to highlight its structures. 
VISIT: Charles A. Purcell House is a private residence and not open for interior tours, but its exterior can be viewed on a self-guided or guided neighborhood tour. Go to the Oak Park Visitors Center for area maps & more information.

Laura Gale House
ABOUTAnother famed Oak Park residence, the Laura Gale House is noted for its geometrical shapes, a prominent feature of Frank Lloyd Wright's design. Built in 1909, the house reflects the Prairie Style architecture yet is considered one of Wright's more unusual designs. It marks his first use of cantilevering in a private residence, creating the pair of stacked balconies in front. It has been argued that there would be no Fallingwater without the Laura Gale House, as Wright used very similar blueprints for the projects. The house recently sold for just under $1 million, and the previous owner described the home's layout saying, "With his visual cues, it's so obvious where he wants you to go and how you're supposed to go from A to B."
VISIT: Laura Gale House is a private residence and not open for interior tours, but its exterior can be viewed on a self-guided or guided neighborhood tour. Go to the Oak Park Visitors Center for area maps & more information.

Frank Lloyd Wright - Arthur B. Heurtley House

Arthur B. Heurtley House
ABOUTBuilt in 1902, the Arthur B. Heurtley House on Forest Avenue in Oak Park is one of the earliest examples of Wright's Prairie Style architecture. A short walk from Wright's home, the Heurtley House is a reflection of Wright's evolution during his time spent in Oak Park. The entry via Romanesque arch, slanted roof, large and vibrant bricks, and stretching glass cascades contribute to its popularity among tourists, while insiders consider it one of Wright's greatest residential achievements.
VISIT: The Arthur B. Heurtley House is a private residence and not open for interior tours, but its exterior can be viewed on a self-guided or guided neighborhood tour. Go to the Oak Park Visitors Center for area maps & more information.

Peter Beachy House
ABOUTPreviously a Gothic cottage, the Peter Beachy House in Oak Park was remodeled by Wright in 1906, adding his signature Prairie elements. The house is recognized for its vibrant red bricks, gabled roofs and dark wood trim. Windows are framed by zinc and copper, giving the interior of the building a dramatic makeover from its original design. The house was home to Emma Beach, the daughter of a prestigious doctor and real-estate investor in the Chicagoland area who later commissioned Wright to renovate the house.
VISIT: Peter Beachy House is a private residence and not open for interior tours, but its exterior can be viewed on a self-guided or guided neighborhood tour. Go to the Oak Park Visitors Center for area maps & more information.

Frank Lloyd Wright - Nathan G. Moore House

Nathan G. Moore House
ABOUTFor a Tudor revival mixed with Wright's iconic Prairie touches, you have to see the Nathan G. Moore House. The original home was built in 1895 but was later damaged by a fire in 1922, giving Wright a chance to give it a makeover. Wright added Roman bricks, gabled roofs, and casement windows while maintaining its original Tudor wooden strips. The house is considered one of the proudest designs of the late architect, once quoted saying, "It was the first time an English, half-timbered house ever saw a porch."
VISIT: Nathan G. Moore House is a private residence and not open for interior tours, but its exterior can be viewed on a self-guided or guided neighborhood tour. Go to the Oak Park Visitors Center for area maps & more information.

Frank Thomas House
ABOUTConsidered one of Wright's first Prairie designs, the Frank Thomas House was reputed to resemble a flower blossoming. Despite its rectangular shapes, Wright explained that the house was designed to "flare outward, opening like a flower to the sky." Identifiable by its geometric prints, arched doorway, and woodwork molding, the house is full of detailed features. Look closer for floral motifs throughout its design and get a sense of Wright's intentional portrayal of nature.
VISIT: Frank Thomas House is a private residence and not open for interior tours, but its exterior can be viewed on a self-guided or guided neighborhood tour. Go to the Oak Park Visitors Center for area maps & more information.

Hills-Decaro House
ABOUTThe Hills-Decaro House (also known as the Edward R. Hills House) sits in the heart of the Wright District in Oak Park. Similarly to the Peter Beachy House, the Hills-Decaro House was remodeled in 1906 by Wright who added dramatic elements of Prairie design. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed a good portion of the house in 1976, but it was was later reconstructed and restored. The design itself is said to be inspired by Wright's time spent in Japan with its high peaking Pagoda-style roofs, stretching upward further than any of Wright's other designs.
VISIT: Hills-Decaro House is a private residence and not open for interior tours, but its exterior can be viewed on a self-guided or guided neighborhood tour. Go to the Oak Park Visitors Center for area maps & more information.

Winslow House
ABOUTIn River Forest, the Winslow House is a controversial and bold design of Wright's. The house was uniquely designed using an outlook of a traditional house with not-so-traditional layouts. One owner so regretted living in such an unusual house that he started taking alternative routes home from work to avoid comments from his neighbors regarding the house. With a low hanging roof and horizontal features, the house is worth visiting to marvel at its uniqueness.
VISIT: Winslow House is a private residence and not open for interior tours, but its exterior can be viewed on a self-guided or guided neighborhood tour. Go to the Oak Park Visitors Center for area maps & more information.

Coonley HouseFrank Lloyd Wright - Robie House
ABOUTThe Coonley House in Riverside is one of the largest Prairie Style homes designed by Wright. At 6,000 square feet and built between 1908 and 1912, the house rests on a 10-acre property with a breathtaking reflection pool and sunken garden. Much of the building's exterior reflects Wright's Prairie style trademarks including low-hanging roofs, artistic glass windows and geometrical shapes. The building is designed as if four houses were attached together, giving it a somewhat odd layout for homeowners to adjust to.
VISIT: Coonley House is currently on the market and not open for interior tours, but its exterior can be viewed on a self-guided or guided neighborhood tour. Go to the Oak Park Visitors Center for area maps & more information.

 

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