From the windows, to the architecture, and the design, the influence of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright can be found throughout some houses in Downtown Naperville.
“Frank Lloyd Wright introduced or really promoted the prairie school of architecture. He was what Bruce Scoff would later be termed as an “organic architect.” He used things around nature to inspire his designs,” said Bryan Ogg.
While his designs may pop up around town, it was the handiwork of one of his draftsman, Harry Franklin Robinson, that was commissioned to actually build three homes in Naperville- two of those residential and one, now called the Abe House, part of North Central College.
“It was constructed at the request of Dr. Truitt and his wife. The house was built in 1916 as a combination of residents and office space for Dr. Truitt,” said Rebecca Skirvin, the Coordinator of Archives and Special Collections at North Central College.
Dr. Trutt was a doctor at what is now Edward Hospital. The house was passed down through the family until 1985 when another family purchased it and turned it into an office space. From there, the building was marked as a historical landmark and later became part of the North Central College campus.
Seen throughout the house are many Frank Lloyd Wright inspired designs.
“One of the main features is the fire place, which is intended to be more organic looking then your normal fireplace. The other key factors are there are lots of horizontal lines and the buildings tend to look lower to the ground,” added Skirvin.
It was those same designs that can be seen at the Elm Home at Chicago Avenue and Sleight Street, and caught the eyes of the homeowners at 401 Highland Avenue.
“It was beautiful and you could tell from the outside that there was a really special charm and uniqueness to the house,” said Caren Wittman, one of the homeowners.
Originally owned by the Nichols family in Naperville, the Wittmans purchased the home in 2013 and made renovations to clean up the now 100-year-old house.
But they kept the architecture and design elements they were initially drawn to.
“When you look at the mantel, it’s a 14-foot mantel that really ties into a Frank Lloyd Wright look, where it’s kind of a centerpiece. Going up the stairwell the wood there and in places just stands out very, very well, which we kept in their original places,” said Wayne Wittman, the other homeowner.
While it’s a treat for the eyes, the design has proven to keep visitors on their toes when approaching the house.
“The pizza delivery guys don’t know to go to the back or if they can find the front. So it is interesting because people also stop and look at the house and the no front door is another one of the Frank Lloyd Wright ties, because he had the house shining and it wasn’t broken up by a front door,” added Wayne Wittman.
“He wanted you to appreciate the house and then enter the house, in a very small confined space. But then open up to a much larger room-there was that compression and release which was part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s design,” said Ogg.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Naperville News 17’s Alyssa Bochenek reports.
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