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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 and Studio Playroom

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio

The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio on Chicago Avenue in Oak Park offers tours at this former private residence of the late architect who lived there from 1889 to 1909. There, Wright devised many of his famous designs, altering the architectural landscape of the time. Tours are available every 30 minutes throughout the day, and guests can explore the rooms with oak wood walls and floors. Fans will get a glimpse of the architect's living quarters and see his immaculate laboratory filled with his original drawings (only opened recently to the public for the first time).

What's Nearby: A number of great lunch spots are located within walking distance of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, including Hemmingway's Bistro (French Cuisine), the Little Gem Café (regional cuisine with European flair), and Lou Malnati's (home to the legendary Chicago-style deep dish pizza).

Frank Lloyd Wright - Unity Temple

Unity Temple

Not far from the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, the Unity Temple in Oak Park is another architectural marvel. A National Historic Landmark and the only surviving public building of Prairie Style architecture, the Unity Temple was built between 1905-1908 on a limited budget. Despite the 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 to wander inside and admire the indoor structure and details. Time Out has cited the temple as one of the 50 most beautiful buildings in the Chicago area saying the "stark concrete structure was highly unorthodox at the time of its construction."

Need to Know: The temple is currently undergoing renovations, but is set to be reopened to the public for tours and programming in July 2017.

Frank Lloyd Wright - Arthur B. Heurtley House

Arthur B. Heurtley House

Built in 1902, the Arthur B. Heurtley House on North 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 house currently is a private residence and interior tours are unavailable to the public. But it's still worth a visit to admire the exterior design of its Romanesque arch, slanted roof, large solid bricks and stretching glass cascades. The house is easily distinguishable due to its vibrant colors and organic texture, making it easy to spot on a self-guided walk around the Wright Historic District.

Charles A. Purcell House

Adjacent 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. The home is privately owned and not open for interior tours.

What's Nearby: Check out the local scene in River Forest by taking a coffee break at The Blue Max, a cafe overlooking a picturesque park.

Laura Gale House

Another 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 due to its shapes. The house later influenced the architect to design the famous Fallingwater home using similar blueprints.

Fun Fact: The house was recently on the market, 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."

Peter Beachy House

Previously a Gothic cottage, the Peter Beachy House in Oak Park was remodeled by Wright in 1906, adding Prairie elements to the home. 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.

Frank Thomas House

Considered one of the first designs of Prairie houses by Wright, 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.

Hills-Decaro House

The Hills-Decaro House (also known as the Edward R. Hills House) sits in the heart of the Wright District in Oak Park. Much like 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 was later reconstructed and restored. The house itself is said to be inspired from Japanese buildings with high peaking Pagoda-style roofs, stretching upward further than any of Wright's other designs.

Frank Lloyd Wright - Nathan G. Moore House

Nathan G. Moore House

For 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. He was quoted one time as saying, "It was the first time an English, half-timbered house ever saw a porch."

Winslow House

In 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 admire it from outside.

Coonley House

The Coonley House in Riverside is one of the largest Prairie Style homes designed by Wright. At 6,000 square feet, the house rests on a 10-acre property with its own reflection pool. Much of the building's exterior reflects Wright's design of 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.

Frank Lloyd Wright - Robie House

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This year, the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust is celebrating Oak Park’s treasure trove of dazzling Wright designs with a lineup of special events in honor of the architect’s 150th birthday. Saturday, May 20th is the annual Wright Plus Housewalk event, offering guests a rare glimpse inside 10 private Wright-designed homes in Oak Park. The Art Institute of Chicago is also rolling out a special exhibit from April 22nd to July 23rd, showcasing Wright’s global fingerprint on architectural practices and original photography from Wright’s first exhibition in 1908. Lastly, on June 8th, the architect’s 150th birthday, some of Wright’s most notable designs – his Oak Park home and studio, the Robie House, and the Bach House – will welcome guests for complimentary tours and refreshments.

Click here for more information on the lineup of events.

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