Wright Trust abandons teardown plans for visitor center

Group will "reconsider its plan" following preservation commission vote

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust has announced it does not plan to pursue its current proposal to demolish a historic home and substantially alter a second building to make room for a new visitor and education center adjacent to the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park.

The announcement comes about a week after the Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission unanimously rejected the request to tear down or move the residential building at 925 Chicago Ave. and remove additions to another home – now used as office space by the trust – at 931 Chicago Ave.

The proposal faced fierce opposition from historic preservation organizations and members of the public, several of whom own Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District.

The trust could have appealed the commission's decision to the Oak Park Village Board of Trustees, which would have had the final say on the proposal.

The trust released the following statement on Sept. 5: "The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust will not exercise its option to appeal the decision of the Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission but will reconsider its plan. Cultural and educational values are central to the Trust's mission and will continue to guide us."

Frank Lloyd Wright Trust's executive director, Celeste Adams, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Douglas Gilbert, a local architect who has advocated against the proposal, said he has not spoken with anyone at the trust since it released its announcement, but added, "We're obviously pleased with the decision."

"I think we all hope they continue to develop a plan or design for a visitor center but one that incorporates the historic buildings that are there," he said.

Gilbert reiterated his position that the site is large enough to accommodate the historic homes as they currently exist as well as the visitor center.

He hopes the trust studies the buildings in greater depth and produces a historic structure report to give more detail about the two homes east of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio.

One of the points of contention is over additions made to the building at 931 Chicago Ave., which served as a residence for Wright's mother during the time he lived in the home and studio.

It is unknown whether the additions to the building, which the trust planned to remove, were added by Wright or some other architect.

"I hope they do [a historic structure report] even if they're not proceeding with the demolition," Gilbert said. "This unveiled the curious question about what did happen with that house, and what was Wright's involvement."


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Reader Comments

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Kevin Brubaker  

Posted: September 10th, 2019 4:09 PM

My two cents: FLW Trust should buy and renovate one of the commercial properties just to their west. Neither the Baird & Warner building nor the cleaners' is exactly historically significant.

Nicholas Kalogeresis from Oak Park  

Posted: September 9th, 2019 10:16 PM

Is the FLW Trust not a "preservation organization?" I'm looking forward to people finally connecting the dots on this one.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: September 9th, 2019 4:31 PM

Mr. Souders - Since the FLW Trust only paid $340,000 for that property, I imagine there could be plenty of folks who'd be willing to give them at least what they paid and then renovate and flip it for a very nice profit. According to the Cook Co. Assessor's office, the house is valued at almost $600,000 - - so I'm not crying any crocodile tears for the Trust over this. https://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/1-23-2018/Wright-Trust-extends-reach-east-on-Chicago-Avenue/

Brian Souders  

Posted: September 9th, 2019 2:55 PM

I'mlooking forward to all the preservationists, architects, and preservation organizations pooling their funds to buy the house from the Home and Studio. I'm sure Mr Gilbert will be first in line with a check for both the home and the "historic structure report."

Susan Montgomery from Chicago  

Posted: September 9th, 2019 12:19 PM

Terence Jones, that's a great idea!

Terence Jones  

Posted: September 6th, 2019 7:21 PM

It would be educational, particularly for the younger generation, if they would show the construction methods and materials used in building these homes 100+ years ago, not just the high end architecture and bells and whistles. e.g Lath and plaster, gas piping, full sized 2x4's, knob and tube wiring.

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