By Anna Lothson
Ownership of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio in Oak Park has passed into the hands of a group with roots as local as the home itself.
Jim Schiefelbein, chairman of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust board of directors, announced Monday that the group secured full property ownership from the Washington D.C.-based National Trust for Historic Preservation — the organization that helped a dedicated group of Oak Park activists preserve and restore the building in the 1970s as part of a first-of-its-kind co-stewardship agreement.
"What it means for us is that anchorship of ownership," Schiefelbein said. "It really positions the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust to secure and achieve our strategic vision and fundraiser goals as we continue to preserve Wright's vision."
From July 2011 to May 2012, the group conducted a quiet capital campaign among Oak Park-area residents to gather the final $130,000 needed to finalize the purchase. Schiefelbein said about 15 contributions from both individuals and couples helped secure that amount.
"We really wanted it to be a local effort," he said. "It puts us in control of our own destiny. It gives us a heightened sense of responsibility."
Under the initial agreement, Schiefelbein said, the Wright Preservation Trust was required to come up with half of the purchase price, interest, fees and funds for emergency repairs on the property. The Preservation Trust then needed to raise the balance to make the purchase. A long-term, low-cost lease on the property left the formal title in the National Trust's hands until Friday, May 4, when the documents were transferred to the Wright Preservation Trust.
"It's a proud moment for the Oak Park community as a whole," Schiefelbein said. This includes the countless volunteers, the "heart and soul" of the organization, he said, who have given their unwavering support and time in maintaining the preservation of the Home & Studio and helping lead the organization into a new era.
"It was the fulfillment of a dream," said Schiefelbein, who hopes their dedication inspires people in terms of what can be achieved when a community unites around a historic cause.
The charge officially began in 1975 when the group approached the National Trust about a partnership, and Schiefelbein said that organization has been an invaluable supporter ever since.
"We share their deep commitment to this important cause and fully expect that we will be allies in this arena as our relationship remains close," he said. "We will ally with them under a new framework."