River Forest, IL
Frank Lloyd Wright residences in River Forest, IL
A 15-year old Frank Lloyd Wright studied engineering and drafting briefly at the University of Wisconsin. He made his way to Chicago, IL, and apprenticed with architect J.L. Silsbee beginning in 1887, and by 1888 had joined the top Chicago architecture firm of Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler. There he had the opportunity to design the interiors of the Chicago Auditorium and work directly with Louis Sullivan. In 1889, Wright married his first wife, and purchased his own piece of real estate. After a $5,000 loan from his mentor, Louis Sullivan, he designed and build the first of many homes.
Wright had risen to head draftsman and handled all residential design work in the office. Unless specifically request by clients of major commercial projects, Adler and Sullivan did not design houses. Wright was occupied by the firm's major commissions during office hours, so house designs were relegated to evening and weekend overtime hours at his Oak Park home studio.
Wright accepted his first significant independent commission in 1893 to be built on Edward Waller's real estate in River Forest, IL. Wright would pay the price for moonlighting, and was fired the same year his mentor, Louis Sullivan. The design for the Winslow House was Wright's first attempt at changing the traditional American home, and illustrated early concepts of his version of residential Prairie Style design. The Winslow House on Auvergne Place would be the first of many River Forest homes that Wright would design. All of this was accomplished by the age of 26. This was followed up shortly with the Chauncey L. Williams House, 530 Edgewood Place in 1895.
Between 1893 and 1909, Wright would design a total of eight River Forest homes, plus four commercial structures. However, he was re-commissioned to perform renovations on a number of his orginal designs. Wright is generally credited with design of the first American split-level residence in the Isabel Roberts house, built for his bookkeeper in 1908. Designed to be economical, living rooms and dining rooms with kitchen were at ground level, bedrooms a half-level up to the rear, and plans called for built-in garage a half-level down to the rear, but local building codes turn this into a standard basement. Wright re-designed the house in 1958 at the age of 91.
The one commercial structure still standing is the River Forest Tennis Club.
back to Cities & Villages