After a COVID-19 imposed hiatus of over a year, Wright Plus returns on Sept. 18 for the first time since 2019. The walk has been in the works for over two years, and ticket holders are ready and willing to jump back onto the housewalk circuit with the housewalk to end all housewalks.
“It’s been a challenging hiatus,” said event co-chair Vicki Kwarciany. “The team has been working on the walk since June 2019 and research began on these houses in November 2019.”
She says that over 75 volunteers and Frank Lloyd Wright Trust employees work on the leadership team that plans the walk, and all are excited to be back. In addition, many people who purchased tickets in 2019 for the 2020 walk are looking forward to attending.
Event co-chair Corrine Penery says that while 2020 ticket holders were given the option to use their tickets for two or even three years later, many people opted to come back this fall.
“They’re so excited about this year’s houses,” Penery said. “Whether it’s the Ingalls House that hasn’t been on since the 1990s or the Isabel Roberts house, people are excited to come back and do something normal, even if we have slightly different safety protocols.”
Some of the safety protocols in place this year, included halting ticket sales much earlier than in prior years and selling about 30 percent fewer tickets than normal to promote social distancing during the walk.
Multiple Frank Lloyd Wright Trust sites will be open for early check-in for trust members, decreasing the number of people who will be at the Welcome Center on the morning of Wright Plus.
Inside each home, tour group sizes will be smaller, and volunteers working inside houses are required to be vaccinated. All guests and volunteers will be required to wear face masks while inside all buildings and on shuttles, and hand sanitizer will be provided before entry into each building.
Kwarciany stresses that the cautious approach will not dampen the experience for guests.
“People are excited, energized and ready to do something fun and engaging outside in the neighborhood before winter sets in,” Kwarciany said. “There’s a pent- up demand for this. There’s no other housewalk like Wright Plus.”
The seven houses featured on Wright Plus this year include five homes in River Forest and two in Oak Park.
In River Forest, the Isabel Roberts Home was designed in 1908 by Wright for Roberts, who worked in Wright’s studio, her mother and her sister. Roberts is said to have helped work on the drawings for the home, and included plans for a tree that grew through the roof of the home.
Architect William Drummond designed some changes to the house in the 1920s, and in the 1950s Wright remodeled the home. It is the only Prairie Style interior in a Wright home updated by Wright himself.
J. Kibben Ingalls, president of the Western Heater Dispatch railroad car company, hired Wright to design his home in 1909. The River Forest home was last on Wright Plus in 1999. The Prairie Style home includes original oak trim, copper light fixtures and art glass windows. The homeowners recently completed an exterior paint project, aided by historic research into the original colors of the home.
Oak Park’s Oscar B. Balch house was designed by Wright for the decorator in 1911, shortly after Wright returned to Oak Park after his infamous trip to Europe with former client Mamah Borthwick. The Prairie Style home is one of the first Wright homes to feature a flat roof.
The Frank H. Bell house was designed by architect Harry Mahler in 1914. The house is considered Mahler’s only Prairie Style residence and features an abundance of leaded glass windows. The Oak Park house was built by Sherman Edwards as a wedding gift for his daughter. The house is making its Wright Plus debut.
The Henry Einfeldt House was built in 1914 by architect duo Purcell and Elmslie. George Elmslie was Wright’s colleagues in the Chicago offices of both Joseph Lyman Silsbee and Adler & Sullivan.
William Purcell’s grandfather was the original owner of the Hills-DeCaro House, designed by Wright in 1906. The Einfeldt House in River Forest house has not been featured on Wright Plus for 38 years and has been expanded. Original built-ins and leaded glass remain.
William Drummond designed the John A. Klesert house in River Forest in 1915. The American foursquare home has prairie and craftsman influences and cost $4,500 to build in 1915. This is the first time the home has been featured on Wright Plus.
Edward Probst, a partner in Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, designed this River Forest house in 1916 for his family. The house retains 60 original floral art glass windows designed by Giannini and Hilgart.
Ticket sales for this year’s walk have ended, but the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust is looking forward to Wright Plus 2022, with plans for the walk to return in May.