Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Frank Lloyd Wright Tours in Oak Park, IL

If you're an architecture buff, then you are no doubt familiar with many of the works of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Wright designed both commercial buildings and residential houses, and is perhaps most famous for the distinctive prairie-style homes he built in his hometown of Oak Park, Illinois.  Today, you can take a walking tour that will show you 15 of Wright's 25 works in Oak Park.  Though many of the homes are private residences, you can occasionally see the insides of these structures at special times designated by the owners.  Here are the ones that should definitely be on your "can't miss" list.

Wright Home and Studio  
Wright and his family lived in this home on Chicago Avenue for 20 years.  It's a beautiful structure that has been remarkably well-preserved over the years.  Of particular interest in this home are the octagonal library and Wright's studio where he worked on many of his most famous designs.  Guided tours are offered on a limited basis on both weekdays and weekends.  The actual tour hours vary according to the season, so it's best to phone ahead or check the official website (www.wrightplus.org) for current times and admission fees.  

Moore House
The Nathan G. Moore house is one of the most breathtaking of Wright's Oak Park works.  This home is located on Forest Avenue, and is part of the 15-home walking tour.  It is a massive Tudor-style structure that looks quite different from the architect's other Oak Park homes while nevertheless stands out as being a distinctive Wright piece.  This is one of the private residences that occasionally offers inside tours.

Heurtley House
The Heurtley House is not very far away from the Moore House, and is on the same walking tour.  This brick house, with its long line of casement windows on the second floor, really typifies the low prairie-style home that is so closely associated with Wright's name these days.

Gale House
The Walter H. Gale House, located on Chicago Avenue, was built in the Queen Anne style (with a turret and everything), and is yet another reminder of how versatile an architect Wright was.  This house is significant because it was Wright's first independent project after he left the famous Chicago architectural firm Adler & Sullivan.  

Unity Temple
This church is on Lake Street in the heart of Oak Park, and was built in 1908 as a replacement of the original temple that was destroyed by lightning.  Unity Temple, which is distinguished by its concrete exterior and cube-like design, is still actively used for worship to this day.  Both self-guided and group tours are offered at varying times seven days per week, so you should be able to see the inside of the structure no matter which day you visit.

Although there are many other Wright structures in Oak Park, these are the big ones, and as such, they are generally easy to get to and easy to find.  In addition, all of these homes are clearly visible from the street, so even if you encounter inclement weather, you ought to still be able to enjoy the sight of these Wright homes from the comfort of your car.

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