Wright Plus 2020 is River Forest forward

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By Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

When Wright Plus returns on May 16, the historic housewalk will have a River Forest focus, and walk participants will gain access to eight private residences and two landmarked buildings designed by Wright and his peers. As usual, the all-day architectural event will provide unparalleled access to private homes in River Forest and Oak Park. Also, as usual, ticket holders will gain access to other Wright tourist sites in Oak Park and Chicago with their tickets. Not so as usual, this year's walk features a majority of homes in River Forest, including two new-to-Wright Plus homes open for the first time to Wright Plus visitors.

Wright Plus Coordinator Angela Whitaker welcomes the opportunity and the challenge that comes with planning the homes for each year's Wright Plus and says this year will be a fun walk for participants. "What is unique this year is that we are so heavily focused in River Forest. It's a really good opportunity to shed some light on that village after being more Oak Park-focused in previous years. We're really excited about River Forest being out in front. It gives us the opportunity to highlight some new houses."

One of those houses is the F. H. Bell House, designed in 1913 by H. Mahler. Mahler's only Prairie-style design, it was commissioned as a wedding present from father to daughter. Whitaker says of the home, "The Bell House is outstanding. The fact that we're able to share it is great. It fits into the time period of all the houses: the first 20 years of the century."

The other new home on the walk is the John A. Klesert House, designed in 1915 by William Drummond. Whitaker says this Prairie design is "a great example of a really sweet, livable family house."

Back on the walk after 20 years, the J. Kibben Ingalls House is a Wright design last open on Wright Plus in 1999. Whitaker says that with new homeowners, the house offers a fresh perspective on living in a Wright-designed home.

As Wright Plus enters its 47th year, Whitaker says homes that have been featured in the past are often quite different when they are purchased and decorated by new owners, creating an entirely new experience for those visitors who attend Wright Plus every year. She points out that Wright's Oscar B. Balch house in Oak Park, also back on the walk this year, has new owners as well. "For sure, people are going to see different things if they have visited these houses in the past," she says.

Also on this year's walk, Purcell and Elmslie's Henry Einfeldt House, which has not been on Wright Plus since 1982, the Seth A. Rhodes House, which features Philippine mahogany and diamond-paned glass windows, and the Edward Probst House. Whitaker says the Probst House "is just a showcase. Everything is museum quality. It's a jewel."

Special events

With just under four months to go until the walk, tickets to the walk and all special events are readily available but are expected to sell out quickly. One hot item? The limited number of fast passes, which allow walk participants to skip the line the day of the walk. Fast passes cost $500.

The Ultimate Plus Package includes an entire weekend of events centered around Wright Plus. For $2,650, you receive access to an exclusive Wright-Night at the Rookery Building, tickets to the day excursion, Wright in the Region, a Wright dinner, accommodations at Oak Park's Carleton Hotel, fast pass tickets to Wright Plus and transportation.

Limited tickets are also available to Wright in the Region, a one day tour on Monday, May 18 to explore Wright's answer to affordable yet aesthetic housing in Milwaukee with a tour of the fully restored Model B1 House and the privately-owned Frederick Bogk House, as well as a tour of the landmark SC Johnson Administration Building and neighboring Research Tower in Racine.

More for your money

Tickets are on sale now at www.flwright.org/wrightplus, and cost $90 for the general public and $80 for Frank Lloyd Wright Trust members through Jan. 31. After that, prices increase each month under the tiered pricing system.

Whitaker says tickets may seem pricey but are quite a bargain when all the inclusions are examined.  "When you break it down, you realize that you get to see the Home & Studio, Robie House, the Rookery, and Unity Temple with your ticket. These four tours can happen any time, not just the day of the walk. It really is a value when you think about the cost per tour of these four buildings, plus you get the added value of access to private homes."

Trust members receive several perks over the walk weekend. Whitaker says members can check in early, picking up their ticket packets on Friday, May 15 enabling them to get to the homes early on Saturday. Members also receive discounted tickets, an extra 20 percent discount at the museum shops all weekend and access to a members-only oasis the day of the walk.

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