Monday, August 24, 2020

Photo of the Day: A Frank Lloyd Wright Commission, Oak Park IL

Sixteen years ago, while visiting the Chicago area, I stayed in a bed-and-breakfast in suburban Oak Park, which for a decade at the start of the 20th century was home to two authentic American geniuses: the child Ernest Hemingway and the middle-aged Frank Lloyd Wright.

When he started his own architectural practice, Wright did so in this town where he was raising his family. The Frank Lloyd Wright House and Museum remains a magnet to architectural aficionados worldwide, but the added benefit of coming here to this suburb is that a visitor can still see examples of the early work of this visionary.

In fact, Oak Park has the world’s largest collection of Wright-designed buildings and houses—25 of them constructed from 1889 to 1913, in the “Prairie Style” that he pioneered.

The Moore-Dugal Residence, on Forest Avenue, is one of these, designed in 1895 for Wright’s friend and neighbor, Nathan Moore, in the English Tudor style. I photographed it while I was in the neighborhood.

On Christmas 27 years later, the house caught fire, leading Moore to request that Wright design plans for its reconstruction. The new commission surely dredged up painful memories for the architect, as he had left town in a storm of scandal over his affair with the wife of another client. But Wright agreed to take up the work again.

But nothing ever really stays the same, and that proved true in this case, too, as Wright kept the original brick walls but made the roofs taller and more pointed than they had been before—and added elements from homes where he had been inspired since, by sojourns in California and Japan.

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