And speaking of Wright, recently we passed a gaggle of tourists on Forest Avenue and one asked if the Cheney house was on their tour. The docent said no, but it led to a short discussion of two bestselling books about Wright’s love life, Loving Frank, Nancy Horan’s account of Frank’s notorious affair with Mamah Cheney, wife of a client (hence the Cheney house question) and The Women, T.C. Boyle’s tome about all of Frank’s love interests.
A call to the Wright Preservation Trust confirmed that the Cheney house is not on any of their tours, largely because the home is privately owned. Dale Smirl formerly ran a bed & breakfast out of the lower level (and lived upstairs), but apparently that enterprise has ended.
Another factor working against inclusion is the Cheney house’s location at 520 N. East, just north of Chicago Avenue, a fair walk from the Forest and Chicago location of the Wright Home & Studio.
But it raises an interesting notion. A tour of Frank Lloyd’s love nest would probably spark a lot of interest, especially in the wake of these two books. An added attraction is that famed scientist Percy Julian’s home is located directly across the street (his daughter Faith still lives there) at East and Chicago.
Maybe the Preservation Trust and the Historical Society of Oak Park-River Forest should run a trolley past that corner on a regular basis.