Susan Lawrence Dana House, Frank Lloyd Wright 1904

Posted by George Pudlo on October 4, 2012 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (0)


The Susan Lawrence Dana House is located in Springfield, Illinois and is one of Wright's largest prairie houses at 12,000 square feet.  Susan Lawrence Dana, a young and wealthy widow, commissioned Wright to remodel her family's Italianate mansion in 1902. 

Completed in 1904, Wright built an entirely new house around the existing structure, and now contains 35 rooms spread over three floors of sixteen varying levels. Hundreds of art glass windows modeled after sumacs enclose the house and provide for decorative lamps and fixtures. Low ceilings give way to dramatic expressions of space all through out. 

Susan Lawrence Dana was a proud hostess, and had Wright design the house with plenty of social areas and a dance hall. The dining room table can be extended to accommodate forty people. 

An unusual feature of the building is the basement. Wright rarely designed basements for his Prairie Houses, but the original house had one and Wright converted it into a game room. Skylights allow natural light to fill the basement -perfect for using the bowling alley the Frank Lloyd Wright designed for it.

Dana lived in her Wright designed house until 1928, and owned the house until 1944 when it was auctioned. She died two years later. The house is now called the Dana-Thomas House, as it was purchased by Thomas Publishing which used the building for offices into the 1980's. The State of Illinois purchased the building in 1981, and under the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, the Dana-Thomas house became a Historic Site and has been fully restored.

Tours of the Dana-Thomas House are conducted on a regular basis, guided by docents from the Dana Thomas House Foundation. 


Bonus: The house is allegedly haunted by Susan Lawrence Dana's spinster sister, and poltergeist activity is frequently reported.

William B Greene House, Frank Lloyd Wright 1912

Posted by George Pudlo on January 17, 2012 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (1)

William Greene House, front

William Greene House, rear

William B Greene House

1300 W Garfield Ave

Aurora, IL 60506

In addition to the P D Hoyt, A W Gridley, and Fabyan Villa constructions, the far western suburbs of Chicago saw one more house built by Frank Lloyd Wright half a decade later than the first three. In 1912, the town of Aurora, Illinois saw the construction of the William B Greene House. It was one of the first houses to be built in that particular neighborhood on Garfield Avenue. However, despite its arguably disorganized layout, Wright's  Greene House is more modern than any other in the nearby vicinity. The rest are charming tributes. 

The Greene House is larger today than when Wright originally designed it. There was a 1926 addition to the western side of the house, which according to Wright Historian Thomas Heinz, was supervised by Greene's college roommate Harry Robinson. Heinz also suggests the house's disarrayed layout indicates Robinson may have played a large role in the original design process and construction.

Over the years, Wright's Greene House has seen various alterations and additions. Today, the house has a Japanese trellis-like fence closing off the back yard. Early photographs of the house show that the enclosed, back porch originally had a flat slab roof, which has now been replaced with a low hip roof to match the roof of the home. 

A W Gridley House, Frank Lloyd Wright 1906

Posted by George Pudlo on January 17, 2012 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)

A W Gridley House

605 N Batavia Road

Batavia, IL 60510

Set atop a small, rolling hill in Batavia, Illinois is the Frank Lloyd Wright designed A W Gridley House of 1906. Wright worked on three house projects all within a mile of one another between 1906 and 1907, in the far western suburbs of Chicago, in the towns of Batavia and Geneva. Though the three commissions are all independent of one another, the George Fabyan Villa and A W Gridley House commissions came as a result of P D Hoyt's introduction of Wright to Fabyan and Gridley. Wright built Hoyt's house in Geneva first, which then led to the A W Gridley commission. 

The plaque in front of the Mrs. A W Gridley House reads:

Built in 1906, the Mrs. A. W. Gridley House was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, who named it "Ravine House," because of the gently sloping wildflower ravine on the south side of the original 15-acre site. With a low-pitch hip roof, projecting eaves, uninterrupted cedar trim and casement windows grouped into horizontal bands, the 14-room stucco and wood house is an excellent example of Wright's Prairie Style architecture. Wright's plan included a stucco wall surrounding the front wing which has been removed and a barn that was never built.

In 1912, the house was sold to Frank Snow, president of Batavia's Challenge Feed Mill and Wind Mill Company. Members of the family lived in the house, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, until 1981. All restoration work, including a small kitchen addition, was carefully designed to retain the original integrity of the landmark house.

PD Hoyt House, Frank Lloyd Wright 1906

Posted by George Pudlo on January 14, 2012 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

PD Hoyt House

318 S Fifth Street

Geneva, IL 60134

Frank Lloyd Wright designed this Prairie House for the Hoyt's in 1906. The house features a two story, square floor plan capped by a low hip roof with broad, overhanging roof eaves.  The Hoyt House originally had a matching hip roof above the entry, but that was replaced with a Japanese influenced trellis after the privacy wall in front of the house was added in the 1980's. 

The house bears a resemblance to Frank Lloyd Wright's cottage designed for Grace Fuller of Glencoe, IL, which was never built. Of note is the "H" design, for Hoyt,  seen in the window work. The facade is covered in stucco, and wooden trim defines its geometric massing. Hoyt was responsible for the introduction of Frank Lloyd Wright and AW Gridley and later Colonel George Fabyan. Wright then designed a house for AW Gridley in Geneva's neighboring town of Batavia in 1906, and remodeled a farmhouse for Fabyan on his Riverbank Estate in Geneva the following year. 

B. Harley Bradley House in Kankakee, Frank Lloyd Wright 1900

Posted by George Pudlo on January 12, 2012 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (1)


      Special thanks to Wright in Kankakee for providing the photographs.

B Harley Bradley House

701 S Harrison Avenue

Kankakee, IL 60901

The easiest way to tell the story of the B Harley Bradley House is to first share that the house has had many alterations over the years. From a private residence, to a restaurant, to a law firm, to a museum, the B Harley Bradley House has worn many hats. But its real hat, and the stucco body underneath, have the distinction of beginning Wright's Prairie Period. 

It is in the B Harley Bradley House that we see the first organized realization of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style. Here we begin to see a culmination of new ideas and previously experimental ideas, that would carry through in Wright’s work for the rest of his Prairie Period, and the rest of his seventy plus year career. One could argue that this was the first time a Frank Lloyd Wright house looked like a Frank Lloyd Wright House.

The B Harley Bradley House was incredibly modern for the time period. The contemporary reaction to the house from its late Victorian era neighbors would have ranged from curiosity to confusion. Everything about it was different. The house is low to the ground, hugging the earth, and only half the height of some of its neighboring houses. It is simple in expression, though complex in function. It has an inherent grandiosity that speaks of great prestige and beauty through simplified geometrical masses. If one stands from the street, the house mysteriously conceals the entrance, so that by the time you do find the entrance, you are surrounded by the building before you enter the building. The entrance of this house, and of Wright’s typical house in the future, is unassuming and needs not shout for attention.

Inside the Bradley House, we see common themes of Wright’s later work for the first time with elements such as wooden trim boards running along the ceiling and soft, earthy hues mixed into the stucco. In the spatial layout of the house, the great room, would be the prototype of Wright’s future Prairie Houses, including the Ward Willits House, the Edwin Cheney House, and the Avery Coonley House. As pointed out by Wright historian Thomas Heinz, the great room has dimensions of 24’x 27’ which were replicated in the aforementioned properties.

The Bradley’s moved into their new home in the summer of 1901, but lived there only for twelve years, and moved out by 1913 to a farm in Iowa. Their time in the house named for them, was perhaps the least interesting of its century plus existence. The Bradley’s sold their house to a Mr. Cook, who in turn sold them his Iowa farm.

Cook lived in the B Harley Bradley House only until 1915, when he sold it to Joseph Dodson, a long time Chicago Board of Trade member and bird lover. Dodson was a one time president of the National Audubon Society, and selected the Bradley House as his place of retirement with the intention of using the carriage house as a space for making and selling birdhouses. Dodson lived there until his death in 1949, whereupon he bequeathed the Bradley House and the carriage house to his secretary Mrs. Nellis.

In 1953, Marvin Hammack and Ray Schimel purchased the Bradley House and converted into a restaurant known as The Yesteryear. It was a very popular restaurant for thirty years, with diners sometimes traveling hundreds of miles to eat there. However, Yesteryear closed in 1983 when the owners fell ill and many of the home’s Wright designed pieces were sold off, including some of the original art glass. The following year, a Kankakee resident unsuccessfully tried to revive the restaurant.

In 1986, the B Harley Bradley House was purchased by Stephen Small, a wealthy businessman who intended to restore the house and live there. However, Small never had the chance to restore the house as he was kidnapped and subsequently murdered in September of 1987.

Small was an officer of Mid America Media, a multi-state media conglomerate, and served on the board of Meadowview Bank. In the early morning of September 2, 1987, Small received a phone call from the house he and his wife were living in while the Bradley House was being restored. The caller himself as a Kankakee Police Officer and said there had been a break in at the Bradley House. Small left their home to investigate the Bradley House, where he was then kidnapped.

The kidnappers called Small’s wife and demanded a ransom of $1million for Small, whom they handcuffed and buried alive in a 6’x3’ plywood box underground. Mrs. Small then contacted the authorities against the explicit wishes of the kidnappers, and her phone lines were tapped. She received several more calls from the kidnappers throughout the day regarding the ransom, but later received a phone call from them rejecting the ransom because they knew authorities had been contacted.

FBI agents were able to track down the kidnappers, and Danny Edwards and Nancy Rish were arrested. Edwards then took police to the site where they had buried Small, and police officers dug up the box with Small’s body enclosed. Also in the box were a light connected to a car battery, a gallon of water, candy bars, gum, and a flashlight. There was also a tube that ran from the box above ground, but its diameter was too small for sufficient breathing and Smalls subsequently suffocated.

After Small’s death, the house remained vacant until 1990, when four business partners purchased the Bradley House and converted it into an office complex. They dramatically altered the Bradley House by knocking down interior walls. In the time lapse of fifteen years through 2005, the carriage house remained vacant and fell into disrepair.

Threat of the carriage house’s demolition prompted Gaines and Sharon Hall to purchase the property and fully restore it back to Wright’s 1901 condition. They poured an ungodly amount of time, energy, money, and heart into the restoration with the hope of it eventually becoming a museum.

In January of 2010, a not for profit corporation called Wright in Kankakee formed with the intent to acquire the B Harley Bradley House and open the house through the Hall’s vision. By the end of June 2010, the Halls sold the house to Wright in Kankakee and it is now open to the public as a house museum.

Darwin Martin House, Frank Lloyd Wright 1904

Posted by George Pudlo on December 27, 2011 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Darwin Martin House

125 Jewett Parkway

Buffalo, NY 14214

The story of the Darwin Martin House begins, not in Buffalo, where the complex would stand, but in Frank Lloyd Wright's own neighborhood of Oak Park, Illinois. Frank Lloyd Wright had designed a house for William Martin, brother of Darwin, in 1902. The house created such an impression on Darwin that he hired Wright to design his own home that same year. In addition to the Darwin Martin House Complex commission came a commission for a commercial building, the Larkin Administration Building (1903) in Buffalo, and a factory, the EZ Polish Factory (1905) in Chicago.

In the Darwin Martin House, Frank Lloyd Wright was responsible for the design of six buildings occupying just under 30,000 square feet. The cost was more than $170,000. By 1907, the complex was considered complete, with the exception of the gardener's cottage, that would come in 1909.

The Darwin Martin House is celebrated for its modernity. The sight of the house would have come as a shock to neighbors and visitors, much as Wright's Prairie Houses were received in Oak Park. A client with money is always an asset to an architect. Wright, especially, was no exception. He was able to fully realize his visions when there was money. Between the six structures, Wright employed 394 art glass windows; The Tree of Life among them. The largest component of the complex was the Darwin Martin House proper, at nearly 15,000 square feet. A sheltered pergola connects the house to the Darwin Martin Conservatory, which is then joined on either side by the Darwin Martin Carriage House and the George Barton House for Martin’s sister Delta and her husband. The gardener’s cottage was built far detached from the main complex in 1909. Martin asserted Wright's genius by remaining in the house until his death in 1935, at which point the story of the house saddens.

The remaining Martin family members abandoned the Martin House after 1937, and it was owned by the City of Buffalo by the end of the decade. Slowly the house began to fall apart, as any structure will do without humans to care for it. In 1962, the Darwin Martin House pergola, conservatory, and carriage house were demolished to make way for an apartment building. The fate of the Martin House Complex was unclear as it slowly began to deteriorate.

In 1992, the Martin House Restoration Corporation formed to save and restore the Darwin Martin House Complex. A decade later, the house was in their ownership, and the MHRC was well into their second phase of five restoration phases scheduled for completion soon. The process included acquisition of the properties; restoration of the roofs and gutters; foundation waterproofing; and complete reconstruction of the pergola, conservatory, and carriage house. The Darwin Martin House stands open to the public.

F B Henderson House, Frank Lloyd Wright 1901

Posted by George Pudlo on December 22, 2011 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

F B Henderson House, 1901

301 S Kenilworth

Elmhurst, IL 60126

The Henderson House in Elmhurst is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s earliest, fully mature Prairie houses. Built in 1901, the Henderson House appeared on the landscape of the Chicago suburbs in the same year as the Ward Willits House of Highland Park, and the Frank Thomas House in Oak Park. The Henderson House blends elements of these. The front façade of the house appears similar in form to the Thomas House, though the entrance is on the side of the house, rather than in the front. The house is faced in a cream colored stucco with horizontal, wooden trim. The neutral color and texture allow for a more forward expression of the simplified, geometric shapes of the house’s massing. Screens of art glass windows allow for a decorative element, while allowing light and nature into the home.

Long, flat, and horizontal, the Henderson House would precede dozens of Prairie houses in the Chicago suburbs, though the only Wright design executed in Elmhurst.

Oscar Balch House, Frank Lloyd Wright 1911

Posted by George Pudlo on December 16, 2011 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Oscar Balch House, 1911

611 N Kenilworth Ave

Oak Park, IL

The Oscar Balch House was one of Frank Lloyd Wright's final projects in Oak Park. By this point in 1911, Wright had just returned from Europe and was living up at Taliesin, with frequent commutes to Chicago for business. The house is perhaps Wright's most fully mature Prairie house is Oak Park. The floor plan is more complex than its Oak Part contemporaries, and reminiscent of the Ward Willits House in Highland Park with its cruciform layout. It is generally unadorned with ornament, with a complex connection of planes and surfaces. Horizontal, wooden trim and flat roof lines pull the house outward. The top floor of the house's three front facades is lined with unbroken bands of windows. The Oscar Balch House is complex in its planning, yet simple in its display of geometric blocks. 

Interestingly, Oscar Balch was an interior designer and would have known that Wright would be the decider of how the home was decorated. 

William Copeland House Remodel, Frank Lloyd Wright 1909

Posted by George Pudlo on December 15, 2011 at 12:30 PM Comments comments (0)

William Copeland House
400 Forest Avenue
Oak Park, IL 

The William Copeland House does not immediately evoke Frank Lloyd Wright because it was not built from the ground up, rather, it is a remodel. The original Copeland House was built in the late 1870's and designed in the Italianate style. The Copeland's hired Frank Lloyd Wright in 1909 to remodel their house in the Prairie mode, similar to some of his other work on Forest Avenue in Oak Park. Frank Lloyd Wright stripped the Italianate ornament off of the building, flattened out the roof lines -note the two, strong horizontal lines created by the roofs, and modified the dormer. Originally there were only two dormer windows, Wright brought it out to four, thus bringing out another horizontal line. There is a strong sense of geometry in both the dormer windows and the entry, but most of the work Wright carried out was inside. Frank Lloyd Wright knocked down the interior walls to give it an open floor plan, bordered it with wooden trim, and painted it Prairie colors. 

Stephen M B Hunt House, Frank Lloyd Wright 1907

Posted by George Pudlo on November 23, 2011 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Stephen M B Hunt House

345 S Seventh Ave, La Grange, Illinois 60525

The Stephen M B Hunt House is one of four houses that Wright designed in the Chicago suburb of La Grange. It is by far the most easily recognizable as a work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Built in 1907, it made its way into the neighborhood more than fifteen years after the others. The house was designed during Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie period, and thus maintains the common features of those houses. The Hunt House has a strong sense of geometry, playful relationship of positive and negative spaces, low hipped roof, broad central chimney, concrete water table, screens of geometric windows, stucco exterior, and overhanging roof eaves. It is a modern exaggeration of the Peter Goan House, also located in La Grange. 

E Arthur Davenport House, Frank Lloyd Wright 1901

Posted by George Pudlo on May 16, 2011 at 8:23 PM Comments comments (0)

E Arthur Davenport House
559 Ashland Avenue
River Forest, IL 60305

The E Arthur Davenport is an early Prairie Style House, not quite as complex as other houses built around that year by Frank Lloyd Wright, but nonetheless displaying Prairie characteristics. The E Arthur Davenport House is cruciform in plan (like the Ward Willets House, also built in 1901), with a large central portion protruding closer to the front of the property line. A board and batten base is brought up to the just beneath the window sills of the second floor, leaving a small stuccoed area with a band of windows just beneath the rooflines. Frank Lloyd Wright often brought the lower level materials -whether they be brick, horizontal clapboard siding, or board and batten wood -up to the second level just beneath the line of windows on the second level. This can be seen in the Francis Wooley, Rollin Furbeck, and Harry Goodrich Houses in Oak Park. The roof lines of the E Arthur Davenport House are a little primitive to the more mature Prairie Style Houses -not quite high pitched, not quite low pitched. Art glass windows, similar in design to those seen in the Frank Thomas House of 1901, elevate the sense of intimacy and privacy while inviting nature and sunlight into the home. 

Isabel Roberts House, Frank Lloyd Wright 1908

Posted by George Pudlo on May 16, 2011 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Isabel Roberts House
603 Edgewood Place
River Forest, IL 60305

Completed in 1908, the Isabel Roberts House is located just down the street from the Chauncey Williams House that was built thirteen years prior in 1895. The evolution of Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style is apparent when comparing the two structures. Art glass windows face the entire central portion of the home, and two wings flank either side of the central massing. True to the Prairie Style, the Isabel Roberts House maintains a low profile with strong horizontal lines. Unique to this structure is the tree growing out of the roof of the south wing. The Isabel Roberts House was originally faced in stucco, but was later covered in brick with Wright's assistance. Isabel Roberts was a member of Frank Lloyd Wright's design team. 


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