This year’s Wright Plus housewalk takes place on Saturday, May 21, and the sold-out event features some old favorites as well as some new homes and newly discovered history.
Wright Plus Co-Chair Sue Blaine says focusing the walk on the immediate neighborhood that Wright lived and worked in provides a lot of interesting context.
“You can look at Wright’s own home, which of course was built in three stages, and you see the evolution of his design as you go through the house,” Blaine said. “What’s fun about this year’s walk is seeing the built environment of his work. You can get a feel for what the environment looked like when Wright started working and how his work differed so much from what was being done at the time.”
This year’s homes include eight private residences in Oak Park on Kenilworth and Forest avenues as well as Elizabeth Court, which runs between the two.
Blaine says three homes — the Hayden, Kennedy and Humphrey homes — are all some of the more historic homes on the walk that are good examples of design that was common during the period they were built.
The Simon and Elizabeth Humphrey House 2 was built in 1887. Its architect is unknown. The three-story Queen Anne style home has an interior with many original wood details and decorative moldings.
Until this year, the home was known as the Reed House, but Wright Plus researchers determined that the Reed family rented the home and that the original owners were the Simon and Elizabeth Humphrey, for whom Elizabeth Court was named.
The David and Carolyn Kennedy House, designed by Patton & Fisher in 1888, is a grand-scale Queen Anne home with a gable roof and wide front porch. When it was built, the home occupied a large lot on the corner of Kenilworth and Elizabeth Court.
Over time, parcels of land were sold off to form 9 and 11 Elizabeth Ct. as well as a parcel to the north of the house. In 1939, the homeowner defaulted on the mortgage, and the coach house was separated from the main house and became an independent property.
The David and Carolyn Kennedy/Charles and Besse Boynton Coach House was designed by Patton & Fisher in 1893 for the original owners of the Kennedy House. It is likely that the coach house was originally planned as a stable and later morphed into a garage with an apartment on the second floor.
The Boyntons are honored in the name of the structure because they are the owners who converted the structure into a single-family home.
The James and Helen Hayden House was designed by William K. Johnston in 1893. The Queen Anne-style home has a unique exterior of brick, cedar shingles and limestone.
The local landmark is significant as it is the only major known work of architect William K. Johnston in Oak Park and because it differs architecturally from its neighbors in the variety of materials used, its asymmetrical massing and avoidance of flat wall surfaces.
The John and Elsie Vette House was designed by architect William Barfield in 1905. The Prairie Style residence has a brick base with stucco above. The two-story home features a side-entry porch, hip roof and brick chimneys.
The Edward and Mary Hills/Thomas and Irene DeCaro House, remodeled by Wright in 1906, is a Japanese-influenced, Prairie Style home.
When built for William Gray in 1883, the home was a Stick-style Victorian home. In 1900, neighbor Nathan Moore purchased the home as a wedding gift for his daughter, Mary, upon her marriage to Edward Hills, and he eventually brought in Wright to remodel the home.
The home was altered significantly throughout its history. Tom and Irene DeCaro purchased the home in 1975 and began a restoration that was halted when a fire devastated the home. The DeCaros then restored the house, relying in part on Wright’s blueprints from his earlier remodel.
The William and Frances Copeland House was remodeled by Wright in 1909. Built in 1873 for William Harman, an unknown architect designed the Italianate style home on Forest Avenue. Wright remodeled the interior to reflect the Prairie Style for the surgeon Copeland, renovating much of the main floor and designing dining room furniture for the family as well.
The Laura Gale House, designed by Wright in 1909 on Elizabeth Court is the third house Wright designed for the Gales, after two houses he designed for them on Chicago Avenue.
This Prairie Style home is unique among Wright’s Oak Park works for its extreme rectilinear shapes and masses. Blaine says it’s as if Wright were saying with this house, “I’m almost done with the Prairie Style. Look what we can do here.”
All eight houses have been extensively researched by Wright Plus volunteers, many of whom are experts in their fields.
“Our researchers really dig in and find more information and things about prior owners,” said Wright Plus Co-Chair Vicki Kwarciany. “It’s such a gift to our homeowners, even those who have been on the walk before. The researchers are always finding new things.”
Blaine says those histories are a big draw for Wright Plus.
“You can talk about the architecture- and we do have fabulous architecture,” Blaine said. “And you can talk about building materials, but otherwise, guests really like to hear about the people who built and remodeled these houses and how they lived.”
Wright Plus, says Blaine, allows guests “to really imagine what happened here and why people called these places home. The walk shows us what makes a fabulous house a home.”
Wright Plus 2022 is sold out
Tickets to the Wright Plus 2022 housewalk sold out a few weeks before the walk, marking a triumphant return for the venerable housewalk after two years of pandemic upheaval.
In addition, the Ultimate Plus Weekend package which includes fast pass tickets to the walk, hotel accommodations, a Friday Wright tour, and an exclusive dinner in a Frank Lloyd Wright home for $2,675 is also sold out.
Ultimate Saturday tickets which include fast pass tickets to the walk, a luncheon and an exclusively Wright dinner for $1,375 are also sold out.
The date has been set for May 20, 2023 for the next Wright Plus, and ticket sales will likely commence in early 2023.
Research reveals close-knit history of Forest Avenue neighborhood