Four new homes on Wright Plus 2019 tour

This year's housewalk features 8 houses, including two by Frank Lloyd Wright

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By Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

It's the housewalk to end all housewalks, and it's headed to Oak Park on Saturday, May 18. 

That's right, tickets to Wright Plus 2019 are now available and the early bird gets the discount and the best access to all of the extras provided by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. 

This year's walk includes interior tours of eight private residences as well as entry to two landmarked Wright-designed buildings in Oak Park. Visitors come from around the world to take part in Wright Plus, and locals love to get in on the action too. 

This year's walk features four homes have never before been featured on the walk, so if you've always wondered what that stunning home looks like on the inside, now is your chance to see.

Angela Whitaker, Wright Plus coordinator, says that the four debut houses are already creating a buzz among Frank Lloyd Wright Trust volunteers, and she thinks that participants will also be excited about the architecturally significant additions to the walk. 

"The fact that we have four new houses is one of the highlights this year," Whitaker said.

The house selection team always tries to build a cohesive walk, and Whitaker says the process was very organic this year. 

"Many of the houses are in a specific neighborhood, a bit north and east of our footprint in previous years," Whitaker said. "We got really good suggestions for new homeowners to reach out to from people who spend time in the neighborhood."

She credits the walk's reputation and community support with helping make the walk easy to plan every year. 

"It's a testament to the event that we've been around all of these years, and we still find new homes to highlight," Whitaker said. "There's an awareness of preservation here and an awareness of how important these houses are. It helps us as an organization. As people restore, renovate and spruce up these houses, it gives us that much more opportunity to feature these amazing houses."

There is one Wright-designed house making its debut on Wright Plus this year. The Francis J. Wooley House is located close to Wright's Home and Studio, but Whitaker calls it a bit of a sleeper. 

"It's in a unique location, and it's not on our walking tours, so people sometimes miss it," she said. "We're just really excited to finally get this on the walk."

The Wooley House is located directly behind Wright's "bootleg" houses on Chicago Avenue, and diagonal to the Nathan Moore House. Whitaker says that these houses, all built in the 1890s, illustrate the variety of styles Wright was working in during that time. "It's almost like seeing a model home in a subdivision," Whitaker said. "How many of his other commissions came from seeing these houses?"

Another new house for the walk is the Ashley B. Smith House on Augusta Avenue, designed by Robert E. Seyfarth. The circa-1925 house may be new to the walk, but its owners are not. 

Whitaker notes that the homeowners' previous residence was featured on Wright Plus, and they brought a sense of preservation to their restoration of the Ashley B. Smith House. 

"The homeowners' sense of decoration and design is impeccable," Whitaker said. "The interior is so unique. They've done a very thoughtful restoration."

The George L. Smith House is also making its Wright Plus debut. Designed by noted architect John S. Van Bergen in 1914, the Prairie-style home keeps up a continuum for the walk according to Whitaker. 

"We often have one Van Bergen house on the walk," she said. "For people who come back every year, they get a broad exposure to his work. The Prairie ceilings in this house are like those in [Frank Lloyd Wright's] Martin and Fricke houses, but on a smaller scale."

The fourth new house on the walk is the Ernest P. Waud House, designed by Tallmadge and Watson in 1914. Whitaker says the Trust researcher for the house is already delving deep into the home's interesting history and thinks the house will be a treat for all visitors on the walk.

 

More than a walk

For those looking to add to their Wright Plus experience, the Ultimate Plus Weekend Package begins Thursday, May 16, with a Wright Night in the Rookery Building in Chicago. 

The package includes a hotel stay at the Carleton Hotel in Oak Park, and on the Saturday of the walk includes fast-pass access to the homes, a private lunch at the Nineteenth Century Club and an Exclusively Wright Dinner at the Robie House in Chicago. 

An exclusive, all-day tour, entitled Art on the Farm and Prairie is also included in the $2,650 ticket price ($2,500 for Frank Lloyd Wright Trust members.) As of press time, a few Ultimate Plus tickets remain, but it is expected to sell out.

Heike Rass, the Trust's assistant director of communications for audience development, says that the Trust has added two more experiences for architecture aficionados who may not be looking for an entire weekend experience.

A new panel discussion, Renewing Wright's Vision: Restoring Robie House, takes place on Sunday, May 19 and will be led by preservation architect Gunny Harboe and Karen Sweeney of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. The discussion is followed by a separate cocktail reception.

On Monday, May 20, a trip to Muirhead Farmhouse and Fabyan Villa will take visitors on a tour of the award-winner restoration of the farm, and stroll through the estate's award-winning circa-1910 Japanese Garden. The all-day tour includes a lunch in Geneva and transportation.

Rass says of Wright Plus, "It's a packed day and a packed weekend, but at the same time, it's exciting to see it all. The researchers and volunteers put so much work into this. Visitors from far away love it, as do the people who live here. It's fun for neighbors to learn about the houses in their town."

 

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