Frank Lloyd Wright, A True Artist

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In my travels with my wife, we often  find homes to tour that Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright designed.  Some are hidden like diamonds throughout the cities and countrysides of the Midwest.  To start naming all the homes and buildings that are available to tour would be like writing a book,  I’ve toured a good handful and only scratched the surface.  Frank Lloyd Wright spent his life maintaining his vision of building homes that were unique, organic, and built into the land as opposed to surveying property only to flatten it to make way for an over stated family dwelling.   Many mansions or homes that people find beautiful these days can be over done, damaging to the acreage it is on, and including more square footage than a family should ever need.  Frank built special homes that maintained an artistic quality, to own one of his homes was truly like purchasing a piece of sculpted art that you could live in.  Below is a guide to the slide show I’ve included in this post highlighting four homes I’ve visited over the last year or so.

  • The Kraus House (photos 1-6) in Ebsworth Park in Kirkwood, Missouri is the first Frank Lloyd Wright home I ever toured which also started my obsession.  As you start researching Frank’s homes you will soon learn the tragic history most of these structures went through.  Most homes of his changed multiple hands of ownership and often ended up in decay costing at times millions of dollars to rebuild as well as many years to restore them to their original glory.  Along with this most of the time the furniture and glass work that were originally in the homes were sold off over time, most fixtures had to be redesigned from the original blueprints.  Frank not only designed the layout of the structure but every little detail down to the windows, glass, fixtures, furniture, doors, and decor.  The reason the Kraus House is so special is because it was maintained and owned by the original owners, when Russell Kraus passed away he left the home to the Frank Lloyd Wright Society. It includes every original piece that was designed by Wright for the home and is built on a series of parallelograms which is fascinating all in its own from a design aspect.
  • The Bradley House (photos 7-12) in Kankakee, Illinois is not far from St. Louis and offers one of the most beautiful plots one of his homes is built on.  The house sits right up on the banks of the Kankakee River and has more open space than most of his structures I’ve seen.  This home was designed in 1900 which also marked the beginning of his Prairie Style era of architecture that he coined in many of his designs to follow.  I encourage taking the tour of this home as it displays some of his most intricate glass designs, and a huge horse stable.  There is also a privately owned home that Frank designed for one of the Bradley family members next door but unfortunately that is not open for touring.  The changing of hands from owner to owner offers quite a different tale compared to some of his other projects as well.  The original owners only had it for 13 years, then many years later it was sold to an owner that was kidnapped and buried alive for ransom by the mob, and it even became a local restaurant called The Yesteryear which was in operation from 1953-1983.
  • The Dana Thomas House (photos 13-18)is also one of the closest to St. Louis, only about a 2 hour drive at the most.  It is located in Springfield, Illinois and is unique for an entirely different reason.  This was a remodel of an existing Victorian mansion and is not a Wright design from scratch but it eventually became a completely different house with only one room remaining from the original home.  It is designed in the Prairie Style that he became most famous for and had many windows to constantly draw the guests attention to the outside.  This is totally worth the short trip from the city.
  • The Westcott House (photos 19-24) is located Springfield, Ohio and was designed in 1908.  Burton Westcott was the Treasurer of American Seeding Machine Company that manufactured farm equipment and he then went on to purchase Westcott Motor Company.  This leads to an aspect of this design that like basements was also not included in the plans for one of his homes.  Knowing Wescott’s love of motor vehicles Frank made an exception to include a garage in the plans for this design.  The  original plans called for a turn table that never got installed, this was done by Wright because cars at that time had no reverse gear and the turntable would allow them to get the cars in and out easily.  Some of my favorite aspects of this home is how the backyard opens up to an amazing prairie style garden,  the upstairs bedrooms have summer sleeping porches that suspend directly out of the side of the house with no other support, and the custom stain glass lighting fixtures.  This is probably the farthest location away from St.Louis at about 6 hours but again well worth the visit.  Also in Springfield, Ohio there is actually one of the largest antique malls in the country called Heart of Ohio, I like old stuff so those type of places fascinate me.

As you can see from a photography stand point touring a Frank Llyod Wright house is just a dream of angles that are really hard to take bad photos of.  Here is a stipulation though, none of the Frank Llyod Wright homes allow photography inside besides Falling Water which you pay a premium package price for.  Everyone I’ve toured was well worth it and if you are amazed by the images of the exterior of these monuments of architecture just image what is in store for you behind the front door.

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