All Wright Housewalk – Oak Park, Il. – May 17th, 2014

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Last weekend I had a great get away with my wife and preferable road dog for life, Melissa.  We traveled to a place we often go, Geneva, Il., and we spent last Saturday taking the All Wright Housewalk tour in Oak Park.  Geneva serves as a comfortable, affordable, and entertaining stopping point as you travel into Chicago.  With the convenience of taking the Metra into the city, you can also visit many other similar suburbs like Oak Park.

Oak Park is an area with a highly concentrated amount of Frank Lloyd Wright designed architecture.  On this visit to Oak Park we took a tour called the All Wright Tour, which was in celebration of the 125th Anniversary of his own home and studio that was built in 1889.  To commemorate the milestone this years tour featured eight homes, four of which were private residences originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that are generally not available to be toured by the public.  Below is a list to go along with some pics I snapped during the tour:

Rollin Furbeck House: This was the first home we toured and it was awesome, as well as unique, because it was the first design that Wright started experimenting with vertical elements.  This can be seen by the use of tall columns and octagon shaped points ascending upward perfectly framing out the larger than normal picture window.   This home dates back to 1897 and was a wedding present from Warren Furbeck, a successful stock broker, to his son Rollin Judson Furbeck.

Nathan G Moore House: This home was in fact not officially on the tour and appeared to be undergoing some maintenance in the interior of the home.  Not only does the design of this home stand out from others in Oak Park, it also has an interesting story as most of his homes often do.  This home was originally completed in 1895 in the Tudor Revival style per the request of Mr. Moore but Wright disliked the design because he felt is conformed too closely to the historical styles of other houses in the neighborhood.  Ironically enough Wright got to remedy this in 1922 when he was commissioned to redesign the home for a rebuild due to fire damage.

Hills – DeCaro House: This home was originally built in 1883 in a Prairie Style design by architect Charles C. Miller, then it was bought in 1900 by Nathan Moore and moved to it’s present location just feet away from the Moore House.  Moore commissioned Wright to redesign the home as a wedding present for his eldest daughter Mary.  This home stayed in the Moore family until 1965, then in 1975 the DeCaro family purchased the home to start an extensive restoration project to return the home to it’s original spender.  Sadly restoration came to a halt in 1976 after a fire destroyed much of the upper level of the home.  The fascinating part of this tragic story is that somehow in the burning inferno much of the built in furnishings survived the fire.  One of the pieces is a hutch that was built into the wall in the dinning room and on top of that hutch laid the original blue prints for the home, which also remained unharmed by the fire.  After the clean up processes was done the dedicated DeCaro’s forged on to restore it to the original condition following the guidelines of the original Wright blueprints.

Peter A Beachy House: This home was a redesign that Beachy commissioned Wright to do in 1906.  The present home is completely different from the original structure which was a “Gothic” cottage style home, Wright adapted this after a trip to Japan and you can very much see Japanese design elements in the exterior layout of the home.

Arthur Heurtly House:  This just happened to be the the cream of the crop for me.  It was by far the biggest and most artistically beautiful home we saw that day.  We did not want to leave this house!  Designed in 1902, it is considered to be one of the earliest examples of the Prairie Style homes that Wright went on to be best know for.  It was purchased by Wrights sister in 1920, and in 1930 her and her husband converted it into a duplex with apartments.  Wright’s sisters family lived in the home for 26 years and after that it went through many changes switching hands between a couple different owners.  Between 1997 – 2002 the current owners spent 1.2 million dollars to completely restore the building.

I highly suggest touring one of Wrights homes in your lifetime, it’s like touring a home that is a true work of art built to evoke a sense of self reflection.  This man never ceases to amaze me!

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