Roughly 85,000 people visit the historic Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio every year in Oak Park, making it clearly the top tourist destination in the village.

But when they get there, tourists are greeted with something that’s not quite so historic – aerial utility wires that run through the property from a wooden telephone pole that stands in the public way outside the compound at 951 Chicago Ave.

The AT&T and ComEd power lines run to the south of Chicago Avenue, drooping through the branches of a historic Ginkgo Tree – it’s been there since Wright inhabited the building in 1889 – just above the courtyard.

The village of Oak Park is planning to fix the problem by paying to have the wires submerged, which will serve the dual purpose of securing the wires, which could now easily be downed by falling tree branches, and restoring the historic view of the compound. The price tag for the project: $19,798.

Karen Sweeney, preservation architect for the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, said she notified the village of the unsightly power pole last year during the street resurfacing of Chicago Avenue.

“(The village) reached out to us because we were going to be impacted (by the project),” she said, noting that’s when she inquired about removing the aerial wires.

She said the project is being funded solely by the village, adding, “As a not-for-profit every dollar we have to raise (is targeted) and right now we didn’t have the funds for it.”

Sweeney said the aerial wires have been part of the compound for at least 30 years, the length of time she’s been associated with the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.

“It’s always our goal to restore (the compound) to the historic nature of the building and the landscape,” she said. “We do have a lot of visitors walking under, and that always gets us nervous when you have utilities – especially going through trees that have potential limbs coming down on (the aerial wires).”

The village notes in the agenda item, approved earlier this month: “The FLW Trust was working separately with Comcast to have a fiber optic communications wire installed. The proposed Comcast work involved installing underground conduit at the same location being considered by the village for the relocation of the aerial wires.”

The village notes that the project is an opportunity to bury both the AT&T and village’s aerial wires at the same time.

Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said in a telephone interview said the wires “hang really low” and “look unsafe and ridiculous.”

The project is expected to take place sometime this summer.


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