Isidore H. Heller House extends the Wright world to Hyde Park

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By Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

When the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust rolled out the All Wright Housewalk on May 17, the walk showcased many Wright designs in Oak Park and River Forest. In this, its 40th year, the one newcomer to the tour is the Isidore Heller House, located on Woodlawn Avenue in Hyde Park. Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the three-story Heller House is thought to be a turning point in Wright's career as he transitioned from the style of his mentor, Louis Sullivan, and began to design in the more geometric style that was the hallmark of the Prairie School.

Isidore Heller was born in Austria and worked in Chicago at Wolf, Sayer and Heller Packers and Butchers Supplies. He purchased the land in Hyde Park in 1895, and commissioned Wright to design the house in 1896. The total cost of construction is estimated at $12,500, and Heller and his wife Ida lived in the home until her death in 1909. It was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1971 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. In 2004, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.

The three-story home was among the earliest of Wright's three-story designs. The third floor is believed to have originally housed servants' quarters and a playroom. The home was constructed of Indiana limestone and yellow Roman brick. Sculptor Richard Bock designed the floral plaster frieze on the home's third story. In accommodation to the narrow lot, the main entryway is located on the side of the home. The entrance was designed with classical elements: two ornate stone columns were decorated with quatrefoils. While these classical elements display the influence of Sullivan, the horizontal lines, overhanging eaves and flatter roof point to Wright's shift toward the Prairie style in which the house was meant to reflect its surroundings.

The Heller House was Wright's first Hyde Park design and is located six blocks from his iconic Robie House. Currently on the market for $2,425,000, the Heller House boasts seven bedrooms, four fireplaces, an elevator and 33 art glass windows.

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