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Chicago Architectural History - Frank's White City

Updated on April 21, 2018
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (Active AF Civil Air Patrol).

The White City

Part of Chicago was renamed "White City" during the 1893 Columbian Exposition, because the fair's buildings were constructed of white stucco. Against the dark buildings of the city, the fairgrounds looked lit up already, but the addition of thousands of electric light bulbs made the illusions real at night.

The White City was found around the marked areas on the map below and it became a much-used recreational area from 1905 all the way into the 1950s, about the time that Frank Lloyd Wright died.

A
Greater Grand Crossing, Chicago:
Greater Grand Crossing, Chicago, IL, USA

get directions

B
Woodlawn, Chicago:
Woodlawn, Chicago, IL, USA

get directions

C
Jackson Park, Chicago:
6401 S Richards Dr, Chicago, IL 60649, USA

get directions

D
Auditorium Building, Chicago:
50 E Congress Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60605, USA

get directions

This is the first building Wright designed. It still stands near the White CIty.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
White buildings of the 1893 fair.Agricultural Building at Night
White buildings of the 1893 fair.
White buildings of the 1893 fair. | Source
Agricultural Building at Night
Agricultural Building at Night | Source
Source

Frank Lloyd Wright Blueprints

Frank Lloyd Wright was born in 1867 after the American Civil War, three years before my grandfather was born in 1870 to live on an Ohio farm with no running water and no electricity for decades. On the other hand, electricity became an important part of Wright's architectural work long before the Ohio farms stopped using candles and lanterns.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Falling Water blueprints. According to my tour guide, Wright walked the property for three months, began the blue prints on a Saturday morning, and presented them when the customer walked in at noon.Falling Water house.
Falling Water blueprints. According to my tour guide, Wright walked the property for three months, began the blue prints on a Saturday morning, and presented them when the customer walked in at noon.
Falling Water blueprints. According to my tour guide, Wright walked the property for three months, began the blue prints on a Saturday morning, and presented them when the customer walked in at noon. | Source
Falling Water house.
Falling Water house.

In 1887, Frank moved to Chicago to be an architect, while my grandfather at age 17 had been working the farm for nine years already, 12 to 16 hours a day. Parts of Illinois advanced more quickly in technology than did Ohio.

My father somehow came into possession of some Frank Lloyd Wright blueprints and these helped him to study drafting in college. I don't know how those paths crossed, but it must have been a good story.

Meanwhile, Wright and my grandfather died in the same year: 1959. Education certainly makes a difference in success. The first was famous, the second was unknown. The first attended high school and some college classes, going on to work for an architectural concern in Chicago until he could start his own firm. My grandfather was pulled from the third grade and did back breaking farm work until his 80s.

Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio - Oak Park, a Chicago suburb.
Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio - Oak Park, a Chicago suburb.

The Chicago School

The Chicago School of Architecture is not a school. It is a style and styles were called schools in the 19th and early 20th century, Another example is the word "House." One of my martial arts is named the House of Wisdom. House here means school and school means style.

The Chicago style was often called Commercial Style from about 1890 to World War I, when Wright was becoming active in architecture, streamlining old hulking European designs and hanging everything in cantilever. For comparison, just one state to the east, my grandfather was just getting running water and electricity into his two farmhouses. He could have used Frank's help.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Dana-Thomas drawings.Interior and furniture designed and built by Wright.Exterior of house.
Dana-Thomas drawings.
Dana-Thomas drawings. | Source
Interior and furniture designed and built by Wright.
Interior and furniture designed and built by Wright. | Source
Exterior of house.
Exterior of house. | Source

The second floor room is the dining hall of the Dana-Thomas house that Wright designed and built around 1904 before the Chicago's World Fair. He always constructed the furniture to go with the house and the Dana-Thomas work was no exception.

This dwelling is "prairie style" architecture, a more flowing space than the cookie-cutter boxes that were coming into fashion at the time in the city. Frank filled much of the Chicago suburbs and center city with this type of flowing work, adding a new chapter to Chicago Style.

One particular innovation that Wright introduced was the double-paned window that is sound proof.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
F. Robie House, ChicagoEmil Bach House, 7415 N. Sheridan Rd. Chicago, IL.
F. Robie House, Chicago
F. Robie House, Chicago | Source
Emil Bach House, 7415 N. Sheridan Rd. Chicago, IL.
Emil Bach House, 7415 N. Sheridan Rd. Chicago, IL. | Source

The Wright School in Chicago

The Robie House was built around 1908 in Chicago, and it is another example of prairie style architecture, with plenty of room. Wright designed commercial buildings and residences in and around the White City portion of the community from 1888 through 1908, but designed buildings elsewhere across the United States.

For an interesting visit, look at the "Student Work" page of the Taliesin website to view the jaw-dropping innovation of housing and landscape design that today's Wright students are developing.

So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright. Simon and Garfunkel.

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      C-Lee, thank you for your observations and feedback! A Hub can be a sort of art presentation, I think.

    • C-Lee profile image

      C-Lee 

      10 years ago

      There's something about the way these structures harmonize with nature that just looking at them creates a sense of inner peace. And then Simon & Garfunkel complimented it all musically. I enjoyed this a lot. Thank you, Patty.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for all of this infomation! To live in the Wright House must be a dream! I hope steph's assocaite has sent many picutres to her.

      That hotel in Japan is a treasure, to be sure.

    • Live N Learn profile image

      Live N Learn 

      10 years ago from Las Vegas

      As a former Architecture student, Frank Lloyd Wright was one of my idols. I like most his Imperial Hotel in Japan because it survived many earthquakes.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Patty, you surely are one of my favorite hubbers! An excellent history and lots of information. One of my former colleagues in Issaquah, Washington, lives in a Frank Lloyd Wright home. It is a treasure to behold. Incredible work, as always! Steph

    • profile image

      Marye Audet 

      10 years ago

      He is surely one of my favorites.

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