ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Highlights of Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House: A Chicago Family Day Trip

Updated on October 27, 2014

Visiting the "Cornerstone of Modern Architecture" in South Chicago

The Robie House, built in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, is considered by many architecture historians to be the "cornerstone of modern architecture." The low-rise home is definitely the quintessential expression of Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style designs, and it was one the last homes that he made in this style.

Completed in 1910 for a bicycle-manufacturing magnate, the home was designated a national historic landmark in 1963 and donated to the University of Chicago. It also was placed on the first National Register of Historic Places list three years later.

Here are some highlights of a recent visit to the house. Please note that photos inside the house were only for private use, so we aren't including here. All photos here are by us unless otherwise stated.

Robie House Chicago
Robie House Chicago

The Sad History of the Famous Building

The tour of Robie House starts with a nine-minute video that explains the history of the building. Built for Frederick C. Robie in 1909 and 1910, the house was never much of a home. Although Robie himself was a successful bicycle manufacturer, he was saddled with debt after his father's death and his marriage collapsed. So the Robies stayed in the house only 18 months!

The man who bought the house from Robie lived there less than a year before he died. The next family did stay there until 1926, when the building was sold to a theological seminary that used it as dormitory and dining hall until 1958 when a benefactor bought the building at the behest of Lloyd Wright. The benefactor then donated it to the university five years later, which used it for office space until 1997. It was almost destroyed in 1941 and 1957, but now after a $5.5 million restoration it is restored and open for guided tours.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House
Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House

Red Bricks, Steel Beams and No Attic!

After the video, the tour guide brings us across the street to get a better view of the building's sweeping, low design. the house is actually made up of a pair of two-story rectangular concrete blocks that sit next to each other with a section sitting on top.

The guide explains that all the roman brick is mostly for show and doesn't support the house. Instead, steel beams were used, and some of those are 60 feet long in the overhanging roofs.

The other thing that stands out is the sheer amount of windows all through the house. At the time many houses were Victorian and rather dark. Robie House allowed a lot of light in, and with the way the ledges were there was still privacy for the people inside.

One other point the guide makes is that there is no attic and no basement, but we expected that after visiting Lloyd Wright's own house in Oak Park. He was an architect that despised attics and basements as wasted space.

Robie House Chicago
Robie House Chicago

Visiting the Main Level of Robie House

The main door of Robie House is hidden down a walk around the back of the building, which isn't a surprise because that kind of entrance was typical of Lloyd Wright's designs.

The entry hall is rather small with a low ceiling, which was planned to create a feeling of intimacy. The house also had a powder room off the entry hall, which the guide told us wasn't common at the time. The stairs leading to the main living level are wider and brighter than the architect wanted them to be, but the Robie family insisted, the guide said.

The main living level, which is the middle one of the house, is split by a fireplace that has space to pass on either side. So it breaks the space into two but still allows a very free-flowing feel. From the fireplace to the end of the room is 44 feet of living space, all well lit by a series of twelve French doors containing art glass panels. Outside the doors is an exterior balcony running the length of the south side. The west end of the living room contains two more glass doors that open onto a porch beneath the cantilevered roof.

The room was long enough that some of the kids that lived in the house used to run laps regularly for exercise!

Such a large room wasn't easy to heat, but Lloyd Wright didn't care, the guide said. he was only interested in its beauty.

On the other side of the fireplace is the dining room, which is a smaller space for more intimate gatherings. The original dining room furniture are in the Smart Museum on the University of Chicago campus.

Robie House Window Chicago
Robie House Window Chicago

The Guest Bedroom, Kitchen and Our Disappointment

Above the entrance hall was a guest bedroom that was nice but nothing memorable. The visit to the kitchen was kind of cool if only because it was one of the larger ones we have ever seen.

The guide explained to us that the house was built with a garage for automobiles, which was unusual at the time because of course most people were still using horses and buggies. But Mrs. Robie was forward-looking and didn't want a stable -- she insisted on the garage.

We were a bit disappointed that the end of the tour arrived without us going to the third level or seeing the rest of the building. The guide explained that the third level can only be seen through a separate guided tour that is restricted to nine people at a time because of Chicago's safety regulations (something about the lack of bannisters.) Other parts of the house are either being taken up by the trust that runs the place or are still being renovated. To be honest, he wasn't really clear.

Even so, we felt that we got a good sense of the house and would recommend it for anyone who is interested in architecture.

The Robie House: A Building That Changed America

Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House was selected by PBS as one of the 10 buildings that most influenced architecture in the United States.

Watch PBS's 10 Buildings That Changed America here.

Have You Visited Robie House?

Have You Visited Robie House?

See results

Top Things to Do in Chicago: Highlights of a Family Vacation
We recently spent a seven- day vacation in Chicago, the third- most populous city in the United States. Chicago had plenty to see and do for our entire four- person family, with each of us getting to choose some attraction. There was great art and architec...

Highlights of Chicago's Art Institute: A Family Day Trip
The Art Institute is one of the truly must- see attractions for any visitor to Chicago. World- renowned for its Impressionist, Post- Impressionist, and American paintings, the institute says it contains about 300,000 artifacts and pieces of art spanning mo...

Highlights of the Museum of Science & Industry: A Chicago Family Day Trip
The Museum of Science & Industry on the south side of Chicago is a wonderful place to spend a day for the entire family. The largest science museum in the western hemisphere, it has more than 2,000 things to see or do spread out over 75 halls. Original...

The Best Tour Book We Used When We Were in Chicago

Book Your Room Today

We have used to book our recent vacations, and haven't had a problem yet. You do have to spend a bit of time reading the reviews to make sure the hotel you select is exactly what you want, of course. Sometimes a good price just means that the hotel has had a lot of poor reviews and has dropped what it charges to attract customers!

One other bit of good news is that you get a free night's stay after booking 10 nights. The freebie has to be on a subsequent trip, but it has helped us save money. Check out today:

The Planters and Trimwork Are Made of Bedford Limestone

Gettysburg Battlefield Museum: A Pennsylvania Family Day Trip
The Gettysburg Visitor Center and Museum, located in the Gettysburg National Military Park, is the best place to start any visit to the Civil War battlefield...

Thomas Edison House Glenmont: A New Jersey Family Day Trip!
Thomas Edison, one of America's greatest inventors, lived for more than four decades in a 29-room mansion called Glenmont in the exclusive Llewellyn Park nei...

Thomas Edison's Laboratory: A New Jersey Family Day Trip!
The Thomas Edison laboratory in New Jersey is a great family day trip. Edison was the inventor of the first practical electric bulb, the motion picture camer...

Highlights of the Frick Collection in New York City
The Frick Collection is an art museum in Manhattan's Upper East Side, and is world-famous for its collection of Old Master paintings. Included in the collect...

Highlights of The National Zoo: A Washington D.C. Family Day Trip
The Smithsonian National Zoological Park, commonly known as the National Zoo, is a great place to take the kids when they need a break from all the monuments...

Highlights of the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery are located in the same building, and are officially called the Donald W. Reynolds Cent...

Highlights of the Library of Congress: Thomas Jefferson, Bob Hope and the Gutenberg Bible!
The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, photographs, maps and other items in its collection. The Thomas Jefferso...

Renoir and Highlights of the Phillips Collection: A Washington D.C. Family Day Trip
The Phillips Collection opened in 1921 as America's first museum of modern art, and it is still considered one of the premiere places to see such masterpiece...

Highlights of the National Museum of American History: A Washington D.C. Family Day Trip
The National Museum of American History in the heart of Washington D.C. is one of those places that can really capture the attention of every member of the f...

Ford's Theatre, Where Lincoln Was Assassinated: A Washington D.C. Family Day Trip
Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C. was the scene of America's greatest tragedy. On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln, having successfully guided the c...

Highlights of the National Gallery of Art: A Washington Family Day Trip
The National Gallery of Art is located on the National Mall in Washington D.C., and is a great change of pace from the many museums that are nearby. The pain...

Geppi's Entertainment Museum in Baltimore: A Tourist's Guide to Comic Book Heaven!
Geppi's Entertainment Museum is located in Baltimore and is dedicated to all sorts of American pop culture: comic books, television, radio, movies, magazines...

Highlights of Fort McHenry, Birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is a great place to visit, full of inspiring history, lovely grounds and cool views. It's also a place to ...

Moon Baltimore Book Review: A Great Little Tourist Guide!
We used this guidebook for a long weekend in Baltimore, and never felt the need to consult any other tour books or seek out more information from the Baltimo...

Things to Do in Nova Scotia: Highlights of Our Family Vacation
Nova Scotia offered our family a good mix of what we seek when we go away on vacation. There's beautiful scenery to hike through, historical and cultural sit...

Top Five Travel Tips For Tourists Going to Nova Scotia
Our family recently visited Nova Scotia, which a wonderful place that has a wide variety of things to do for everyone. We wrote an online diary of the trip, ...

Of Family Vacations and Comic Books

Who Are Goldenrulecomics?

For more about who we are and what we write about please see here:

Of Comic Books and Family Vacations: Who is GoldenRuleComics?
Who is GoldenRuleComics? Actually, the better question is who ARE GoldenRuleComics! I am the father of a teenage daughter, and we live in New Jersey. I hand...

I hope you enjoyed reading this review as much as we enjoyed our travels and writing it. Now it's your turn!

Thanks for visiting!

Now It's Your Turn!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Johanna Eisler profile image

      Johanna Eisler 

      6 years ago

      My mom spent many of her growing up years in Chicago, and I've always thought it would be a fun place to visit. Thank you for sharing a little bit of it with us.

    • Kim Milai profile image

      Kim Milai 

      6 years ago

      I must go next time I am in Chicago. I have been to Falling Waters in Pa


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)