Peter A. Beachy HouseJames Caulfield Collection of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust

To some, spring’s arrival heralds the return of baseball season and gardening, but to architecture buffs spring is marked by the return of the Wright Plus Housewalk.

Now in its 37th year, the housewalk celebrates Oak Park and River Forest’s wealth of Frank Lloyd Wright homes, as well as other architecturally significant abodes. On Saturday, May 21, Wright Plus will feature eight architecturally significant homes designed by Wright and his contemporaries.

Michele Donley, Wright Plus coordinator for the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, says this year’s walk offers a unique perspective into the architecturally rich history of Oak Park.

“Our tour is interesting this year in one respect because participants will get to see a group of houses built roughly within 15 years of each other, and the homes reflect a wide variety of architectural styles. It was a time in Oak Park history when building was booming, and people of means were constructing homes of such wonderful but very different architectural styles.”

Two of Wright’s iconic homes, the Peter A. Beachy and Arthur B. Heurtley, will be featured on this year’s walk as well as three E.E. Roberts’s homes. Every year, Wright Plus focuses on different homes, and rotates between four geographical areas within Oak Park and River Forest. This year, one draw to the housewalk is the proximity of all the homes to each other, making this a truly walk-able house tour.

Donley says the closeness of the homes will add to the community atmosphere of the event.

“This year, all of our houses are on Forest Avenue and Kenilworth Avenue, so it’s an all-walking tour. When that happens, it’s always a particularly festive day,” she says. “This year, the village has given us permission to close the street to car traffic, so for visitors and the community, it should be a fun day.”

As in the past, Wright Plus volunteers have been preparing for the walk for almost a year, researching each homes’ architectural and personal history in order to provide participants with an excellent overview. Every home has its own researcher and two house captains that help plan the specific walk-through. Approximately 600 volunteers work to put the event together every year, including residents from Oak Park and River Forest as well as participants from all over the country.

“One thing about Wright Plus on how it’s different than most housewalks that focus on the interiors of homes, is that Wright Plus is architecturally-based and research-based,” explains Donley. “We provide great general knowledge for the walk’s participants as well as the community’s historic districts. Our researchers often uncover facts about the homes that were not known.”

One of the homes on this year’s tour, the Walter Gale House II, formerly attributed to E.E. Roberts, was discovered this year to actually be the handiwork of architects Handy and Cady.

Wright Plus not only celebrates a particular historic district, but also the entire community. Donley points out, “The architectural history throughout the village is something the community should be really proud of. People come from all over the world just to see this. It really says something about the community’s pride in its architecture and history.”

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