June marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of iconic American architect and interior designer Frank Lloyd Wright. Of his thousands of designs, more than 500 private residences, commercial buildings and other works were built during and after his lifetime. Wright pioneered the Prairie School movement and is famous for his philosophy of organic architecture. His masterpieces are marked by hipped roofs, use of horizontal lines, narrow windows, landscape integration and open floor plans, to name a few features. Chicago and the surrounding Midwest feature a large concentration of his standing works, but his designs spanned the country and even as far as Japan. This week’s Bucket List features eight of Frank Lloyd Wright’s landmark properties you can tour in honor of his 150th birthday. In addition to touring his works, the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust is also hosting a variety of programs in honor of his birthday.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
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Arguably the best place to start when delving into the world of Frank Lloyd Wright is with a tour of his home and studio. Located just 10 miles from downtown Chicago in Oak Park at 951 Chicago Ave., the property was designed by the architect and served as his home and studio from 1889 until 1909. It was here that the Prairie School-style architecture was developed. Beyond its architectural significance, the home serves as a personal glimpse into the life of the Wright, his family and his early years as an architect. The home and studio were added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historical Landmark in the 1970's and is open for 60-minute tours daily at $18 a ticket. Booking in advance of your visit is highly recommended. There is also a museum on the property with a variety of Wright-inspired merchandise. While in Oak Park, don't miss the other Wright-designed homes in the neighborhood. The village proudly boasts the world's largest collection of his private residences. Guided and self-guided audio tours are available through the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.
Photo by Fifth World Design, CC BY 2.0
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The Rookery building is one of Chicago's most-iconic properties. Located in the heart of the city at 209 South LaSalle St., it was designed by John Wellborn Root and Daniel Burnham. The powerhouse architects, who worked as Burnham and Root, are perhaps best known for being the masterminds behind the designs of the 1893 Columbian Exposition (World's Fair). The Rookery was completed in 1888, served as the firm's offices and today is considered the oldest standing high-rise in Chicago. The masterpiece building makes this list however for the Frank Lloyd Wright-remodeled interior, which was completed in 1905. Wright created a dramatic light-filled lobby that incorporated the original architects' ornamental ironwork. The Rookery was added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Chicago Landmark in the 1970's and is open for 30-minute tours Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at $10 a ticket.
Photo by clarkmaxwell, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Wingspread, or the Herbert F. Johnson House, is located just outside Racine, Wisconsin in Wind Point at 33 E. Four Mile Rd. The home was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and completed in 1939 for then-president of S.C. Johnson, Herbert Fisk Johnson Jr. The 14,000-square-foot home sits on some 12 acres on a peninsula on Lake Michigan. It is considered one of Wright's most elaborate, largest and the last of his Prairie School-designed homes. It features four wings that spread from, hence the name, the central living space, as well as a cantilevered balcony, clerestory ceiling and five fireplaces. The Johnson family occupied the house through the 1950's when it was donated to the Johnson Foundation to serve as an educational conference center. Wingspread was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989 and remains open for tours.
Photo by Keith Ewing, CC BY-NC 2.0
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While many of Frank Lloyd Wright's works are located in the Midwest, one of this greatest masterpieces can be found in Pennsylvania nestled away on 5,000 acres in the Bear Run Nature Reserve. Fallingwater, or the Kaufmann Residence, was designed by Wright in 1935. The home was designed and built over a 30-foot waterfall, hence its name, and as a result appears to float above solid ground. It is considered one of his most stunning designs and was featured on the 1938 cover of Time magazine. Fallingwater served as the weekend home of the Kaufmann family of Kaufmann's department store-fame (now Macy's). The property includes a 5,330-square-foot main house and 1,700-square-foot guest house inspired by its natural surroundings. As a result, only two paint colors were used throughout, a subdued ochre and Cherokee red. Fallingwater has been preserved by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy since 1963 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. The home is open for 60-minute guided tours everyday but Wednesday and major holidays at $30 a ticket. Booking in advance of your visit is highly recommended. Tours that include Wright's nearby Duncan House at Polymath Park are also available.
Photo by Via Tsuji, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Despite originally being designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1938 Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, or simply Monona Terrace, did not come to fruition until long after his death. In fact, the building wasn't completed until 1997. Located in Madison, Wisconsin on Lake Monona, the process of making Wright's design a reality resulted in thousands of drawings, ten designs and no shortage of controversy, community support and opposition. Today, the curvilinear building sits proudly as a link between the lake and the state capitol building. While the exterior was designed by Wright, it should be noted that the interior is the work of architect Anthony Puttnam, a student at Wright's Taliesin. Monona Terrace features a gift shop and rooftop cafe among its amenities and is open to the public for touring.
Photo by Keith Ewing, CC BY-NC 2.0
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Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple, located just outside Chicago in Oak Park at 875 Lake St., is considered one of the architect's most prolific works and it continues to serve as a Unitarian Universalist church today. Wright, who grew up in a Unitarian family, was commissioned to design the church after the original burned down in 1905. The cubist design and use of reinforced concrete throughout the entire building was unique at the time. It is widely considered one of the first true modern buildings in the world and is said to have inspired a generation of famous architects who followed. This summer, after closing in 2015 for renovation, the Unity Temple opens again to the public.
Photo by Naotake Murayama, CC BY 2.0
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The iconic Frederick C. Robie House, simply known as the Robie House, is located in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood at 757 S. Woodlawn Ave. It is considered one of Frank Lloyd Wright's most iconic Prairie School-style residences. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust defines it as a "masterpiece of the Prairie style and an icon of modern architecture." The home was completed in 1910 and features a layered brick and limestone exterior, as well as a single design motif inside and out. The Robie House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Portions of the house are open for tours at $18 a ticket. Booking in advance of your visit is highly recommended.
Photo by volcan96, CC BY 2.0
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After the success of his Oak Park Unity Temple, Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design the Unitarian Meeting House in Madison, Wisconsin at 900 University Bay Dr. The building houses the First Unitarian Society of Madison, one of the largest congregations of its kind in the U.S. It was completed in 1951 and features a single story beneath a steep angular roof and was built using native limestone, glass and copper. The congregation's campus has since undergone an expansion, but still features Wright's original work. The Unitarian Meeting House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and designated a National Historical Landmark in 2004. It's open for free tours Sunday morning's year-round, or weekday tours from May to September for $10 a ticket.
Photo by Marc Buehler, CC BY-NC 2.0