Monday, October 31, 2011
I've been trying to pump myself up for Nano this year. Not going so well. Last year I was swamped with work so I didn't get past 11K. I'm a Cubs fan, so I'll say it... this is my year! We begin at midnight so I have to get my focus into gear and crank this month! Crossing my fingers it will be a good one! Wish me luck.
Frank Lloyd Wright built his home & studio (951 Chicago Ave, Oak Park- #1 on the tour) out in the burbs and the family stayed there from 1899 to 1909. Well, techinically he built his home in the burbs while he was working for the famous architect and his mentor, Louis Sullivan and got tired of the commute so he when he opened shop for himself, he added his studio space later. Some of the design elements that his homes are so famous for are evident in their beginnings here. He changed his space around for his growing family and for their convenience to fit into the natural settings of the area... set on a Prarie. He would ride his horse outside and built views of that vista.
I can't say enough about the details of this home and the care with which it has been restored. Anyone in the area would be well-served to take a trip out to the burbs to see it if they have a free weekend day.
These are my cohorts for the day, Ric and Dale... two super nice guys who are both big fans of architectures and this era. It was a great way to tour the area (plus I didn't get lost- which is great for a directionally challenged person!)
From our tour of the home, we decided to take a walk, taking in some of the other FLW homes in the area. The Oak Park Visitors Center has great map of the area detailing where a lot of the homes are. Or you can buy a map in the gift shop as well. The route we took took us first past a home unrelated to FLW, but still interesting for historical significance... the unassuming boyhood home of Ernest Hemmingway. He was born in Oak Park in 1899, the same year that FLW built his home there.
# 16 on the walk: Down the street you get to see one of the houses from 1911. Kind of an unassuming home, but beautiful and easily identified as a FLW home. The windows, different levels and planter in the yard were definite tip-offs as we walked up to it, even without the map.
Next we walked over to the Harry S. Adams house up the street.
#17 on the Walk: Again, the oganic levels, beautiful detailing in the door, windows and the signature FLW planters out front all add beauty to this home.
As we walked around we clearly got a good view of some other Prairie School homes that were built around the same time. The Ashley C. Smith House (630 N Euclid)
The excellent home of Edward and Caroline McCready House  on 231 Euclid Ave by architect Spencer & Powers has a lovely doorway and other great design elements that caught our eyes.
Next on the street, we noted the tiny home that apparently is for sale? It is #25 on the walk.
Next, we made our way down and had a bite to eat at Tasty Dog in downtown Oak Park (you probably will want to walk further as there are a number of nicer cafes and restaurants down the street). Tasty Dog was good diner experience and a lot of fun where we could take a break and sit outside for a bit. Then we made our way down Lake Street to the Unity Temple a bonafide National Historic Landmark.
We actually didn't go into the church, just enjoyed the view from the outside- there was a concert going on inside so that will have to be another trip. It is an interesting view from the outside. I liked standard Christian cross on the planter. His family emblem is the cross with the circle and you can see the planters outside his own home had that implant built in. The church's planter was essentially the same thing, but just the cross alone. The building is made of a rough concrete in place of masonry. The design elements still lend an air of sophistication and beauty that might be missing otherwise.
FOR THE WORSHIP OF GOD and THE SERVICE OF MAN
Down block is the US Post Office, not typically something you would think of as a design star, but the building was pretty cool (901 Lake Street). Cool murals bookended the great hall and it turns out it was designed by Charles E White, Jr., a student of FLW. I am curious as to whether the muralist who did the murals in this building are the same who did the murals in FLW's home- particularly those in his bedroom- American Indians robed in Egyptian-style clothing- per the popularity of the Egyptology at the time.
# 10 on the tour (since we sort of did the tour backwards) I was ready to move in as soon as I saw this house. It is on a little hook of a drive off of the main drag of Lake Street and is really just a beautiful, peaceful home. Our guide to the FLW home & studio metioned the discovery access that FLW built into it so you couldn't really tell where the main entrance was at first glance. This concept continues here with the false arched doorway masking the real entrance on the level above.
#9 on the tour: This house at first glance seemed a little boring compared to the other home, but to just stand and look at it, you once again got some good vibes. The multi level construction, it revised the former gothic cottage that had been its predecessor. There is a little bit of cantilevering going on. The planters here were built right into the wall so the foliage becomes part of the architecture.
Across the street and up the block a bit is another, very different FLW house.
# 8 on the walking tour, the Hills-DeCaro house (DeCaros recuonstructed it after a 1976 fire, when it lost some of its original detailing apparently. It is a pretty house regardless.
#6 on the walking tour: This house was a literal marvel to behold and frankly not my favorite. It was like different styles threw up on each other. I couldn't even see FLW in it at all at first. Reading the history that he designed it based on a specific request for a Tudor style home, that he had to come back and redesign after a fire in 1922. You can still see FLW (if you look really, really hard).
#7 on the Walking Tour: This house is absolutely gorgeous in person, the brickwork is amazing and really stands out as a classic FLW. The house has been kept impeccably and even better, kids were outside playing soccer when we were there. People were commenting that if they had kids they wouldn't be kicking balls around those FLW windows. But, I think that misses the point with FLW. He, himself was a father and regularly adapted his own homes to allow for their upbringing. The organic nature of the architecture was meant to lend itself to that lifestyle and I think that seeing a family enjoying the home just made it all the more accessible today as it must have been in the early 1900s. (after the first house we saw on Forest- the 210 Address, this is my second favorite of the houses we saw).
We had to backtrack to Elizabeth Court because we walked right past it with the excitement of seeing the other FLW houses in obvious plain view. Go back. It is a great little street with lots of interesting houses. Of course we were headed to #11 on the walking tour
I really like the unassuming nature of this house. One of the smaller ones we saw, it still had some of the classic FLW presence, but in a more understated way. I think it is more obvious as you look at a SE view of the house. Planters on the 2nd floor must have been a pain the dupah to maintain.
We were so excited by finding Elizabeth Court and the excellent houses that lined it's street that we skipped #5 on the tour, but cut over and went instead to #12.
A cute little house, obviously in the style of the last three houses we saw... known as his bootleg houses.
We walked around the block and made our way back to Chicago Ave, which is where we had parked in front of the the FLW home & studio. The last of the three houses we saw were the so-called "bootleg houses" which were rogue designs done against the will of his employer Louis Sullivan who forbade FLW to take outside commissions.
#4 on the walking tour: This was my favorite of the 3 bootlegs, a Queen Anne design with some hints of FLW. I think I was drawn mostly to the windows and wood panelling.
#2 on the walking tour: Lastly, the first of the pair to the other house, not really as interesting as anything else we had seen up to that point, though a perfectly fine house.
Anyway that was the last of the houses we saw on a perfect October day with some new friends. Hopefully you can make the trek out to Oak Park too!