These Amazing Structures Were All Designed by This Same Architect
Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the main players who helped shape Chicago’s architectural aesthetic. His houses, museums and chapels are scattered all over the country. Some of his buildings are obviously his design, but there are some others that don’t look at all like he had a hand in designing them. Take a look at some of his most famous and his lesser-known structures to see how his famed style shifted.
Unity Chapel – Wyoming, Wisconsin
The Unity Chapel in Wyoming, Wisconsin, is technically Wright’s very first work. It was officially designed by Joseph Lyman Silsbee’s Chicago architectural firm in 1886 when Wright was only 18 years old. He “looked after the interior” of the chapel, though he wasn’t officially employed at the firm.
The chapel was designed for Wright’s uncle, Jenkin Lloyd Jones, who had commissioned the design for his All Souls Church in Chicago the previous year. After the building of the Unity Chapel, Frank Lloyd Wright moved to Chicago and joined the Silsbee firm.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio – Oak Park, Illinois
The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio is, as you can imagine from the name, the historic house and workplace of Frank Lloyd Wright when he was still living in the Oak Park area. The town is a suburb near Chicago, easily accessible by transit, making it an ideal location for Wright and his creations.
The original structure of the house was rather small, but it was extensively remodeled in 1895 and again in 1898. And being FLW’s home, it’s exceptionally singular in design with unusual spaces and a uniquely installed piano over the staircase into the gallery.
Charnley-Norwood House – Ocean Springs, Mississippi
The Charnley-Norwood House was a winter-cottage design by both Wright and Louis Sullivan — father of the modern skyscraper — in 1890. The home was intended as a vacation home for James Charnley, a lumber baron of Chicago. The architectural design is a clear representation of the Prairie School of American residential design that Wright helped to make so famous.
The house was built in the early 1890s and restored nearly a century later in the 1980s. After that, however, it was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina and is now under the management of the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area.
James Charnley House – Chicago, Illinois
The James Charnley House is another residence built for James Charnley of Chicago. The residence in Chicago is located on North Astor Street in the Gold Coast neighborhood of the city. It was originally built in 1892 and is one of the few surviving residential designs by Louis Sullivan. Wright heavily contributed to the design as well.
The exterior is rather austere, but the interior is lavish with beautiful woodwork throughout, built-in bookcases with doors of glass of varying shapes and sizes, a stunning library with a fireplace of African rose marble and dining room with extensive mahogany.
Thomas H. Gale House – Oak Park, Illinois
Here’s another unique house designed by Wright for someone in his hometown. It’s generally referred to as the Thomas Gale House, and it’s located not too far from Wright’s own home and studio in Oak Park,. This is one of Wright’s earlier works, built in 1892.
He designed it independently but was still working with Adler and Sullivan at the time at their architecture firm, something that Sullivan forbade of his employees. Because of this moonlighting work, it’s referred to as one of Wright’s “bootleg houses” — of which there were three total.
Fred B. Jones House – Delavan, Wisconsin
Fred Jones was once a Chicago-based bachelor businessman who had this estate built for him on Delavan Lake to use as a weekend cottage for summer parties. Wright designed all the buildings on the grounds, specifically ensuring each was different from the others.
The estate was constructed between 1900 and 1903. Wright’s ideas for his design style were still forming, and the typical flat-roof buildings we associate with his Prairie Style homes had yet to form. So, instead, these focus more on blending in naturally with their surroundings.
Warren Hickox House – Kankakee, Illinois
This house designed and built for real estate and loan businessman Warren Hickox Jr. in Kankakee, Illinois, spawned from two articles that Wright published in Ladies Home Journal. The exterior was modeled after “A Small House With Lots of Room in It.” The walls are covered in white plaster and stained woodwork.
The interior was designed from the piece “A Home in a Prairie Town.” The walls in the interior are also covered in plaster, but they have a sand finish. The interior woodwork, save for the oak floors, is Georgia pine and suggests an almost Tudor half-timber framing.
B. Harley Bradley House – Kankakee, Illinois
The B. Harley Bradley House, designed for Anna Hickox Bradley and her husband, B. Harley Bradley, sits next door to Anna’s brother Warren Hickox’s FLW home. It’s been said that the builders actually occupied the neighboring Warren Hickox house while this one was being built between 1900 and 1901.
This house competes with the Willits House, built at the same time, for the honor of being the first Prairie Style home designed to Wright’s specifications. Wright was inspired by the natural plant forms of the vegetation of Kankakee when designing this home.
Darwin D. Martin House Complex – Buffalo, New York
When you look at this house, you know immediately that it’s an FLW. The building is so distinctly designed by Wright that it’s even considered the most important work of the first half of Wright’s career, only matched three decades later in significance by Fallingwater.
The complex was the home of Darwin D. Martin and family. Wright designed the complex as an integrated composition of connecting buildings that contained the primary building — the house — and a long pergola that connected to the conservatory, a carriage house and a smaller residence for in-laws.
Frank Thomas House – Oak Park, Illinois
Another historic home built in Oak Park is the Frank Thomas House, which was constructed in 1901. Wright himself defined this as the first of the Prairie houses — no matter what others might say — with elevated rooms and no basement. The house includes various other elements that are characteristic of the style.
Some of the distinctly FLW characteristics the house bears include a low roof with wide overhangs, leaded glass windows and central hearths and fireplaces. Wright evoked in his description of the house that it emulates the unity of a blossoming flower, suggesting its complexity and cohesive nature.
Emil Bach House – Chicago, Illinois
Built in the northernmost neighborhood of Chicago on the lake, the Emil Bach house is nestled into the area so unassumingly that many people don’t know it’s there. But if you walk by and you’re familiar with Wright’s work, you’ll likely pause and wonder about it.
Otherwise, you’ll walk on, never noticing the masterpiece sitting along the busy road. The original owner of the house, Emil Bach, was co-owner of the Bach Brick Company and a great admirer of Wright’s work. The house was built in 1915 but has changed ownership many times since its construction.
Ward W. Willits House – Highland Park, Illinois
The Ward W. Willits House was designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1901 in Highland Park, a northeast suburb of Chicago. This is one of the houses that’s a contender for the title of “first Prairie house.” The plan of the house is cruciate, with four wings that extend out from the central fireplace that Wright so loved to include.
The stained glass windows, wooden screen dividers and various other elements were also designed by Wright, along with some of the furniture. The house could be viewed as a culmination of Wright’s experimentation leading to the modern Prairie design.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – New York City, New York
One of Wright’s two most famous building designs is one that receives many more visitors than anything else he’s built, even the famous Fallingwater house in Pennsylvania. And that is the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
Wright designed the building in the 1950s, not long before his death. The building was completed in 1959 when the museum moved in. The cylindrical building was conceived by Wright to be a “temple of the spirit.” The unique ramp gallery helps to make it one of the most stunning and recognizable museums in the world.
Maynard Buehler House – Orinda, California
The Maynard Buehler House is a Usonian home designed by Wright in 1948. “Usonian” is a word that describes Wright’s vision for how American buildings should look — streamlined and built using an area’s native materials to blend in with the environment. It was made for Katie and Maynard Buehler of Orinda, California, from a steel frame with redwood panel cladding and cinder blocks.
The home is an L-shaped structure, with the long leg of the L being the wing where the three bedrooms and small workshop are located. At the hinge of the building, the small kitchen with beautiful wood cabinets serves the family. The shorter end of the “L” houses the common rooms.
Malcolm Willey House – Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Malcolm Willey House was designed and built for an administrator at the University of Minnesota and his wife in 1934. Wright named the home “Gardenwall.” The house was commissioned by the family via a letter written by Willey’s wife asking Wright to design a “creation of art” for about $8,000.
The design actually used for the house was the second design that Wright conceived for the Willeys; the first design would’ve wound up costing more than the family could afford. The home also ended up costing $10,000, which the family decided was worth it.
Herbert and Katherine Jacobs First House – Madison, Wisconsin
This house is commonly referred to as “Jacobs I” because it’s not the only house Wright designed for the couple. The house was built in 1937 and is considered his first Usonian home. The house is southwest of downtown Madison, Wisconsin, and is a modest-looking single-story structure.
The exterior is also made up of horizontal boards with glass doors that open from the rear of the house. The house isn’t large at only 1,500 square feet, and it has only two bedrooms. This makes it one of the more modest designs commissioned from Mr. Wright.
Hanna–Honeycomb House – Stanford, California
The Hanna-Honeycomb, or Hanna House, is located on the Stanford campus in California. This was Wright’s first work in the Bay Area and his first non-rectangular structure. Construction on the building started in 1937, and the building expanded over the next 25 years into what it is today.
This is the first and best example of Wright’s innovative hexagonal design, which is patterned after the honeycombs of bees. The house includes numerous tiled terraces and built-in furnishings incorporating Wright’s polygonal modules that create a more open flow.
The Romeo and Juliet Windmill – Wyoming, Wisconsin
Wright designed this wooden structure for the town of Wyoming, Wisconsin. It was commissioned in 1896 by Wright’s aunts, Jane and Ellen Lloyd Jones, who needed a working wind pump to provide water for the Hillside Home School.
The design of the building includes a diamond-shaped portion that intersects with a balcony section that sits on an octagonal structure, which is only accessible via interior stairs. The windmill has two parts to the design: the lozenge-shaped tower, which is named “Romeo,” and the octagonal tower, which is named “Juliet.”
Rosenbaum House – Florence, Alabama
This single-family house was designed for Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum of Florence, Alabama. It’s an example of Wright’s Usonian house concept and is the only Wright building in Alabama. Wright scholar John Sergeant calls this the “purest” Usonian example.
The couple commissioned Wright to build their home after both had read Wright’s biography and a cover story on the man in Time magazine. The newlyweds contacted Wright and asked him to create their home on the empty lot they’d been given in Florence.
Robert P. Parker House – Oak Park, Illinois
This is another one of the bootleg houses that Wright designed while he was working for Sullivan and Adler, who forbade moonlighting work. The Parker House is fairly similar to the Thomas H. Gale House and was built on a speculative basis for Wright’s neighbor, Walter Gale, in 1892.
Gale sold the house to Parker the following year. When Sullivan found out about Wright designing this house and the two other bootlegs, he fired Wright, which only allowed Wright to further design and create more homes and buildings.
Chauncey L. Williams Residence – River Forest, Illinois
This Roman brick and plaster home was designed and built in 1895, making it one of Wright’s earliest Chicago commissions. The house reflects the influence of Japanese design, which Wright strongly admired.
Williams, the original owner, was a member of a wealthy Midwest family. The two men attended the University of Wisconsin together and remained friends afterward. Williams commissioned his skilled friend to design this home, which, unlike Japanese structures, was built to accommodate Williams’ 6-foot 4-inch height.
William and Jessie M. Adams House – Chicago, Illinois
This house was built in the South Side area of Chicago long before it was the South Side neighborhood we know today. Wright designed it around 1900, and construction was completed in 1901. The two-story house has a square shape and brick-faced first floor with double-hung windows, which Wright disdained, making this an unusual design for him.
Scholars speculate that this feature means that it may not have been completely designed by the famous architect but by William Adams with Wright’s assistance. Wright’s name is on the original drawings, and the low, wide-hanging roof indicates his contribution.
Nathan G. Moore House – Oak Park, Illinois
The Nathan G. Moore House, or Moore-Dugal Residence, is another house in Oak Park that Wright designed. The house was originally completed in 1895 in the Tudor Revival style, which Nathan Moore requested for his property.
Wright did as he was asked but always disliked the stylistic elements of the house. In 1922, a fire gave Wright the chance to redesign the home into something he preferred more, though it was still Tudoresque. He was able to add Sullivanesque and Mayan details, which remain intact today.
Isidore H. Heller House – Chicago, Illinois
Located in the Hyde Park community of Chicago, the Isidore H. Heller House stands out a bit from the other homes in the area. You might not immediately recognize it as a Wright home, but without too much thought, you’ll get there as you observe its lines.
This house is credited as one of the turning points in Wright’s career, representing a shift into the geometric designs of the Prairie School architecture he’s so famous for. The building is defined by its horizontal lines, hipped roofs with overhanging eaves and windows grouped in horizontal bands.
Harrison P. Young House – Oak Park, Illinois
The Harrison P. Young House is, admittedly, one of the more “ordinary-looking” homes that Wright designed. The reason? It wasn’t actually built from Wright’s original design, but instead, he remodeled it during the early stage of his career in 1895.
The remodel didn’t change the total appearance of the house, but it did add a number of Wright’s pioneering elements, including several early Prairie-style designs. The remodel also involved setting the home back another 16 feet from the street and adding a porch overhanging the driveway.
George W. Smith House – Oak Park, Illinois
Another early home built in Wright’s own neighborhood is the George W. Smith House, which belonged to a Marshall Field and Company salesman. It was designed not as a mansion or massive home but as a humble, low-cost home for the working man.
The house was not originally designed for Smith, but rather for engineer and inventor Charles E. Roberts as part of a series of low-cost homes. It also wasn’t built at the time of its design but a decade later.
Avery Coonley House – Riverside, Illinois
The Avery Coonley House, sometimes referred to as the Coonley Estate, was designed by Wright and constructed between 1908 and 1912. This is a residential estate along the banks of the Des Plaines River in Riverside, Illinois, and is made up of several buildings Wright designed.
This is one of the very few full estates that Wright developed during his career, and it happens to be one of the largest and most elaborate Prairie School homes ever built. This home is also the first example of Wright’s zoned plan, featuring three distinct living areas.
Rollin Furbeck House – Oak Park, Illinois
The Rollin Furbeck House is considered a major transitional work for Wright. His former designs were either square or rectangular, but this is one of his earliest cruciform-pinwheel layout designs. The arrangement allows for abundant natural lighting.
This particular design created a sense of extra space where there wasn’t much and used woodwork to impart the effect of coziness and warmth. Some of Wright’s other early characteristics are still present though, like the diamond-paned windows.
Fallingwater – Stewart Township, Pennsylvania
Probably the most famous structure Wright designed, Fallingwater in rural southwest Pennsylvania is a beautiful example of using natural design and geometric shapes to create a home that stands apart from anything else you’ll probably ever see.
The house is so stunning and unique that it’s been listed many times as one of the most important things to see before you die, Wright’s most beautiful design and the “best all-time work of an American architect,” according to the American Institute of Architects.
Lewis Spring House – Tallahassee, Florida
During the 1950s when Wright was getting on in years, he met a couple from North Florida who adored his designs. “We have a lot of children and not much money,” they told him. Wright agreed to design a house for them if they would “find [their] ground.”
Two years later, the couple found a 10-acre lot in Tallahassee and let Wright know. He designed for them the Lewis Spring House, a home with rounded walls that somewhat resemble a football in shape. This is one of two “pod” houses Wright designed and the only private residence he created in Florida.