From stable to garage to home

The Roberts Stable makes Wright Plus debut

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By Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

Most likely built in 1885, the structure next door to the Charles E. Roberts House, the Charles E. Roberts Stable has seen multiple uses in its existence. 

Frank Lloyd Wright Trust research captain Sue Blaine, who oversaw research for both the house, which is also on the tour, and stable says that the stable, now a single-family home, has a pedigree as interesting as the larger house next door.

The first picture she discovered of the stable is dated 1888, and she says no original architect's plans survive. 

"It looks like a typical Midwestern barn with rusty paint and a triangular roof," Blaine said. "There are a couple of cows, a horse and a carriage in the photo. My best guess is they didn't use a high-priced architect for the design. They probably thought about how many animals they needed to house and would a carriage fit inside."

Blaine believes the stable was most likely remodeled when Wright remodeled the main Roberts House in 1896. 

In 1888, photos show a barn and in 1908, the stable had been moved and part of it rounded out. She hypothesizes that Wright remodeled the stable so that Roberts could use it to house his car. 

On the second floor, a bedroom was created in the rounded side, while an additional three bedrooms and a bath were on the opposite side with a sitting room. She guesses that the living quarters in Wright's redesign were intended for servants.

In 1929, Roberts had his son-in-law, architect Charles White, remodel the stable again. Based on Sanborn fire insurance maps, Blaine could see that White moved the stable, turning it 90 degrees so that the rounded part faced east. Blaine says that White's drawings label much of the second floor "as is," leading her to believe that he did little to remodel the second-floor spaces. 

Phone directories of that time indicate that both Charles White and Chapin Roberts, Charles Robert's son, are listed in living at the property in the "rear," leading Blaine to deduce the home had now become living quarters for family.

Chapin Roberts lived in the home until his death in 1954. A family purchased the home and, on the death of his parents, the son rented out the house. The third owners, the McBride family, tackled what Blaine calls a "fairly massive" remodel. 

They converted the second-floor sitting room to a Jack-and-Jill bathroom between bedrooms and combined two hall bathrooms to create a master bathroom. On the first floor, they removed interior walls to create a larger kitchen with a breakfast room and a powder room. 

An interior art-glass window created by Eve McBride was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's stork panels at Wright's Oak Park home and studio.

Blaine says the current owners have taken pains to renovate and restore the home. They updated the second-floor bedrooms and turned a potting room into an office and mudroom space. 

They also used space from a bedroom to create a staircase to the third floor and created an attic play space with wood trim inspired by the trim used in the Wright Home and Studio.

Highlighting the curved motif of the east facing wall, the current owners also created a pergola-type carport that sports a curved top. The patio curves to mimic the curve of the house, and the kitchen cabinets are also curved.

For Wright Plus, guests will stand in one line for both homes, viewing the house first and then exiting towards the stable. 

Blaine notes that the Wright Plus volunteers aim to develop a narrative between the Roberts House and Stable for visitors. 

"They are both really fabulous homes with very different feels," Blain said. "It's 1885 versus 1929 in terms of layout."

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