Janene attended Valparaiso several years ago, so I was happy to see the area just outside Chicago. Such a counterpoint to the newness of places like Orlando, which puts up a building in the morning and knocks it down a week later before the sun sets.
I have spent a lifetime seeing streets like Forest Avenue in neighborhoods like Oak Park, whether on Staten Island, in San Francisco or dozens of Southern and mid-Western cities. This period from the late 1890s to just somewhere before the Depression, was a building boom like no other. We still hold these homes as standards, and remain in awe of them. Just think, you could buy the workings of a bungalow or a house from places like Sears and hire locals to assemble it for you. You still can, but you have to have a lot of oomph!
Houses in this part of Oak Park have large yards, nicely treed, with plenty of grass. This is a model neighborhood to live in. Whether a Wright house, or not, these houses had a lot of love of detail, something you pay for and maybe don’t really get today unless you do it yourself.
This kind of love is for the comfortable, and perhaps always was Oak Park around 10 years ago was the first place I saw Hispanic immigrant lawn maintenance people. Downtown Chicago had taken on a large Mexican population in an old Czech neighborhood which looked like something out of East Harlem.
Not all the houses are Wright, but of that turn of the last century period. Large, with plenty of towers, porches and double hung sash windows (the antithesis of Wright’s thinking). It is also obvious that they sit up over a large basement, over the ground. Note that even the Hills-DeCaro House which is noticeably set off the ground, is not up on a pedestal, like this one above. You can also devote your life to repainting woodwork, with the use of several different kinds of wood siding. We won’t even talk about chalking!
In 1939, Wright would put up the Pope-Leighey House in Virginia after the young banker got in touch with him to construct an inexpensive, well constructed house. The detail in design is no less than anything else Wright did, and the interior layout quite interesting for a reasonable house. Perhaps the Wright of monumental structures, has dwarfed the more intimate, and exciting designs he created for regular people to live in. I understand there are two in Gary.
Oak Park remains a planet of its own, a very livable one. Check the other two blogs, 1. (which explores some of the Wright homes on Forest Avenue) and 2. (which explores the exterior of the Wright House/Studio complex).