Oak Park and Frank Lloyd Wright

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Just under 30 minutes from downtown Chicago are the tree-lined suburbs of Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest. Here you can see some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous homes and tour his home and studio and the famous Unity Temple. Why not make a day out of it and enjoy the attractive downtown area and walk and drive the neighborhoods exploring his architecture. You can access the sites by car, by taking the Green Line from the Chicago Loop or the Metra Union Pacific West Line train from the Ogilvie Transportation Center.

To fortify yourself, start the morning at Blue Max Restaurant and Coffee Bar at 26 Lathrop Ave. in Forest Park. They roast their own coffee on the premises and offer a full range of coffees plus a large selection of breakfast and lunch items.

Next stop is Wright’s famous Unity Temple at 875 Lake St. Make sure to book online, before you go, through the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. Guided tours of the interior and self-guided audio tours are both available. Wright designed and built the church from 1905 to 1908. The building elements and architecture are great examples of his organic design. Make sure to take note of  his use of natural light, his decorative art or stained glass, his light fixtures and furniture. You will visit the social area as well as the main auditorium or sanctuary.

Walk a short distance to downtown Oak Park to grab a bite. Sugar Fixe Patisserie at 119 N. Marion St. is a great spot for a macaron or cupcake! My favorite spot at 100 S. Marion St. closed and is now Two Brothers Social Tap. I really enjoyed their Naperville, Il location and look forward to trying it.  I also just read that Spilt Milk is a fun spot with great pies and bakery items, breakfast sandwiches and a small lunch menu including quiche. 103 S. Oak Park Ave. It sound great! Q-BBQ is also a good spot for lunch at 124 N. Marion St.

Next pick up your map and audio guide from the Home and Studio to start your walking tour of the neighborhood. You can just buy the larger map or book an audio tour which comes with the neighborhood map and audio guide for narration; I did both. You will see some of his famous homes: The Arthur B. Heurtley House at 318 Forest, which was one of my favorites, The Laura Gale House at 6 Elizabeth Ct., The Peter A. Beachy House at 238 Forest Ave., The Frank Thomas House at 210 Forest Ave., The Hills-Decaro House at 312 Forest Ave. and the Nathan G. Moore House at 33 Forest Ave. This district has the world’s largest concentration of Wright-designed structures.

At the end of Forest Ave., you will pass the Austin Gardens, where you can enjoy The Oak Park Festival Theatre in the summer months. They feature plays by Shakespeare and others in a great outdoor setting; perfect on a summer night.

On Chicago Ave. you can see some of his older homes, The Walter H. Gale House at 1031 W. Chicago, The Thomas H. Gale House at 1027 W. Chicago and The Robert P. Parker House at 1019 W. Chicago.

Next head west to River Forest where you can see his Waller Gates House at Auvergne and Lake St., The William H. Winslow at 515 N. Auvergne and the stunning Isabel Roberts House at 603 N. Edgewood from 1908. There is also the Chauncey Williams House at 530 N. Edgewood and the J. Kibben Ingalls House at 562 N. Keystone from 1909.

Next stop is for an ice cream break at Petersen’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream at 1100 Chicago Ave. in Oak Park. It is two blocks from the Wright Home and Studio and has been open since 1919 and in this location since 1931.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio: Located at 951 Chicago Ave. in Oak Park, this was Wright’s first home and studio where he developed the Prairie style of American architecture. I would book the guided interior tour online, before you go. Photographers can buy a photography pass for an extra fee. I enjoyed seeing the home but the tour of his architectural studio, where he and his associates worked, was the highlight.

You might also enjoy The Wright Plus Housewalk, held on the third Saturday in May, where you can walk through the homes in Oak Park and River Forest. I have done it twice in the past.

Not far from the Home and Studio is Ernest Hemingway’s Birthplace and Museum. 339 N. Oak Park Ave. You can book a tour, visit the exhibitions or buy his books. They also offer special programs.

 

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