Friday, May 24, 2013

Frank Imagery: Photographing My Way Wright Down Forest Ave. in Oak Park

I first became fascinated by Frank Lloyd Wright and his brilliant architecture 20 years ago, in 1993, likely right around this time.

Although I had grown up in the Chicago area, with a childhood enchantment with architecture and a sister who would study it, I don't recall knowing--or certainly much caring--about Wright through college or my time living in California from 1990-1992.

I don't think I had ever gone to Oak Park--Wright's home from 1889-1909 and the city with the largest concentration of his work--nor had I visited any of his glorious California houses during my time in the Los Angeles area (though I would later).

This memory and chronology may not quite be exact, but after returning to Skokie in early January 1993, I went to Europe for the first time (London and Paris, with side trips to Liverpool and Giverny) in May of that year.

Although I'd always cherished and explored Chicago, and L.A. for that matter, I believe it was my  experiences in Europe that truly turbo-charged my passion for becoming a tourist in my hometown, something I think everyone should do.

One aspect of this in 1993 was making a point of discovering classic movie theaters that still dotted the Chicago landscape, and though not quite as acute, I continue to relish old movie houses from the 1920s and such.

But I became even more ravenous about exploring the works of Wright, visiting his Home & Studio in Oak Park, seeing most of his homes (plus Unity Temple) in Oak Park and neighboring River Forest, elsewhere in the Chicago area, several in Madison, WI, his SC Johnson Wax building in Racine and subsequently places like the Guggenheim Museum in New York--my first visit to NYC was also in 1993, but only for a day, so I don't think I got to the Guggenheim--the Robie House in Chicago's Hyde Park, Taliesin in Spring Green, WI, the California homes, Fallingwater (near Pittsburgh) and many others. (Most I've only seen externally, but I have likely been inside at least 20 FLW homes & buildings.)

The Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio is at the corner of Chicago Ave. & Forest Ave. in Oak Park, and six other homes he designed or modified can be found on a 2-block stretch of Forest heading south from the home & studio, plus one other great one that sits just off of Forest on Elizabeth Court.

Though there are many other Wright homes in Oak Park and River Forest, making the area a prime destination for fans of America's greatest architect, I consider Forest Ave. the mecca of the mecca.

Though I believe I took my first walking tour of Forest Avenue in the spring or summer of 1993, that fall I got a job in Oak Park--about 45 minutes from Skokie--and would frequently drive down the famed street. That only lasted a year, but I've probably gotten to Oak Park at least once a year since, either to peruse the Wright sites or those related to the city's other favorite son, Ernest Hemingway.

As I wrote about in my most recent blog post, this Wednesday I went to Oak Park to try a Venezuelan restaurant called Aripo's, as part of my Chicago Dining World Tour. After also catching a movie, which enabled to rains to clear, I took a pleasant stroll down Forest Avenue.

Though I've seen these homes, and taken similar photos, many times, I thought I would share them here. Note that the homes are traditionally named for their original occupants, who commissioned Wright to design (or in some cases, remodel) them.

Frank W. Thomas House, 1901
Peter A. Beachy House, 1906
Arthur Heurtley House, 1902
Edward R. Hills House (remodeling, a.k.a. Hills-DeCaro House), 1906
Mrs. Thomas H. Gale House, 1909 (on Elizabeth Court)
Nathan G. Moore House, 1895 & 1923
Above two photos: Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio, 1889 & 1898
The following four photos are of Oak Park FLW homes not on Forest Avenue and not shot on my most recent visit:

William E. Martin House, 636 N. East Ave., 1903
William G. Fricke House, 540 Fair Oaks Ave., 1901-02
Oscar B. Balch House, 611 N. Kenilworth Ave., 1911
Harry S. Adams House, 710 Augusta St., 1913-14

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