The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust’s Wright Plus Housewalk returns on Saturday, May 20, 2023, with an all-Oak Park line up. Ticket sales opened Jan. 1, and now is the time to plan ahead and buy tickets before the popular event sells out.
This year’s walk will feature three residences designed or remodeled by Frank Lloyd Wright, including the Thomas and Laura Gale House (1892), the Rollin and Elizabeth Furbeck House (1897) and the Arthur and Grace Heurtley House (1902).
Five private, historic homes also included on the walk include the Maurice and Lillian Lowrey House (c. 1891), the Charles and Alma Schwerin House (E.E. Roberts, 1908), the Dale and Eva Bumstead House (Tallmadge & Watson, 1909), the Edward and Annie Cronwall House (James K. Cady, 1909) and the E.E. and Rossie Roberts House (E.E. Roberts, 1911.)
“It’s an Oak Park walk this year. The houses are clustered on the 500,600 and 700 blocks of Fair Oaks and East and around the Home & Studio, making it easy for the guests,” said Wright Plus Co-Chair Sue Blaine.
The Edward and Annie Cronwall House on East Avenue is new to Wright Plus, and Blaine says Frank Lloyd Trust researchers are already finding out new information about the house. The house is listed as the Cromwell house in village records, but researchers determined that name was incorrect.
One of the first steps researchers take is to try to determine the original owners of the house. Blaine points out that the tract books at Cook County are all handwritten, which can make them hard to decipher. After looking at the census for a Cromwell at the address and coming up empty, the researcher determined the name was wrong.
Another first-time house is the Maurice and Lillian Lowrey House on Marion Street. The Victorian home was built in 1891, and its architect is unknown.
“Lowrey was a contractor and builder,” Blaine said. “We’re not sure who the architect was, but it might have been Lowrey.”
Lowrey never lived in the house but owned it and rented it out for 30 years.
“Interestingly, his son lived in one of the apartments in the house at one point,” said Blaine, adding that the house was a two or three-flat for much of its history.
“It’s not clear if it was built as a single-family home, or if it’s a vintage multifamily. There will be lots of discovery with this one.”
As Trust volunteers and researchers are prepping for the walk, Blaine says the researchers have already started their work. They begin with Cook County tract books, and look into mortgages, sales and transfers. Two title researchers specialize in this early work.
Guests are also curious about what the people who built the houses did for a living that allowed them to live in and build houses like these. When researching this, Blaine states, “The census can help. Sometimes, you get lucky and get a lengthy obituary. Sometimes, the first owners are titans or barons of an industry, and there’s a lot of information on them.”
Researchers then delve into subsequent owners, who may have been notable people themselves. If the architect is someone other than Wright, researchers spend a bit of time researching the architect and their other work. The house itself is also a topic, with researchers documenting changes that have been made to the homes over the years.
While the researchers are busy nailing down details about the houses, architects and owners, other Trust volunteers are working on logistics. Two or three house captains per house meet with the current homeowners and plan the routes through the house. Sometimes, furniture and carpets need to be removed to create pathways for guests. Sometimes, parts of the house are also cordoned off for protection.
House captains will determine where the stops are in each house and how long guests should spend on each stop to keep the flow moving. Blaine says that, typically, the architecturally interesting moments are on the first floors of the homes, which leaves the upper floors as places where guides can discuss the families or other interesting facts about the houses.
Tickets to Wright Plus 2023 went on sale on Jan. 1. Housewalk tickets are $125, or $90 for Frank Lloyd Wright Trust members. Fast Pass Tickets, which allow holders to skip the line, are $600 or $565 for Trust members.
Ultimate Plus weekend packages are $2,675 or $2,525 for Trust members, while the Ultimate Saturday package is $1,375 or $1,225 for Trust members.
Complete information about the walk and tickets can be found at flwright.org/wrightplus