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Prairie style architecture: DeKalb, Illinois Part 2 February 8, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Prairie style.
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I have already discussed DeKalb, Illinois’ most obvious example of Prairie style architecture, the oft-mistaken for a Frank Lloyd Wright work A.O. Anderson House. While prominent it isn’t the only example of the style in the city. In fact, there are other examples of the style by architects much more well-known than John S. Van Bergen. Augusta Avenue is a good place to start, within a block of the Anderson House are two examples of architecture by a key Prairie architect.


1908 – Dr. F.N. Rowan House

At 250 Augusta Avenue is the Dr. F.N. Rowan House, a Tudor Revival influenced structure designed by Oak Park, Illinois architect E.E. Roberts, though it is clearly not full-blown Tudor Revival. The curvilinear dormer seen here was a trademark of his Prairie style work. In fact, if you look, you can see other Prairie influences on the house, the broad, flat roof of the large porch, the porch itself, the overhanging eaves, all elements of Prairie style. Hipped roof are not a requirement. The half timbering, though, screams Tudor Revival. Roberts was an important architect who designed hundreds of homes in Oak Park alone. While Roberts is considered a Prairie architect, he never had any working association with his nearby rival Frank Lloyd Wright and always kept to his own vision of Prairie style architecture. The Rowan House was built in 1908.


1904 – Etna J. Wiswall House

Across the street from the Rowan House, but still facing Augusta, is the E.J. Wiswall House. The Wiswall House is another example of Roberts’ work in DeKalb, this one showing more of a Prairie tilt. While Roberts’ credit for the home isn’t a 100 percent certainty it very closely resembles a Roberts designed home in Oak Park and he is generally credited with having won the Wiswall commission. The house is clad entirely in stucco, features a large, pillar-supported porch, and hipped roofs with broad overhanging eaves; all hallmarks of Prairie style architecture. The house is believed to have been constructed in 1904.


Seemelessly blended with nature, the front door just isn’t where you’d think it should be. C. 1895 Rankin House.

Of the early Prairie style works in DeKalb the Rankin House at 200 W. Locust Street was, perhaps, done by the most pre-eminent architect of the group. The stucco clad, two-story Rankin House may well indeed be the work of architect George W. Maher. Maher was a noted Chicago Prairie style architect whose John C. Farson House (better known as Pleasant Home) in Oak Park has been declared a National Historic Landmark. The Rankin House has a front door that just isn’t where you would expect it. The home was built c. 1895.


The door is along the east side, along with a large chimney.

It’s unknown whether the house was designed by Maher for sure, there are other candidates for its design, it is very similar, along with another DeKalb house at 594 W. Lincoln Hwy, to other Maher commissions.


The layout of the chimney and portico is reminiscent of John S. Van Bergen’s work. 1924 – 115 N. First St..

Another DeKalb Prairie style house is found at 115 N. First Street. This is another example of a home without a known architect, more research is needed. The tall rectangular chimney located on the front of the north facade, near the portico (wiki), is found in the same layout in a 1910 John S. Van Bergen designed apartment complex in Oak Park. Possible evidence of his hand? Hard to say.


The main entrance is located along the north facade, not the front (east facade).

The house is a nice Prairie example, broad, overhanging hip roofs, a large, pillar supported front porch, and a main entrance moved to side in lieu of a lot of glass, allowing the natural light to pour into the structure. The building also appears to hug the ground, an appearance that is enhanced by the building being set into a hillside.


Both sides feature porticos and the home has a Prairie-style horizontal emphasis.

Both the north and south facades feature porticos, and the north facade’s (seen two images above) layout reinforces the horizontal emphasis of the home. The Prairie style house on First Street, with the green tile roof, dates from about 1924.

You can get more detail about all of these houses in the articles linked below. The Wikipedia entries that are linked (mostly by me, for you) will give you more information about the architects and other information mentioned in this post. Enjoy.

Online Resources
*F.N. Rowan House: 2004 Daily Chronicle article
*F.N. Rowan House: Old Photo – 1970s photograph
*E.J. Wiswall House: 2005 Daily Chronicle article
*E.J. Wiswall House: Old Photo – 1970s photo
*Rankin House: 2005 Daily Chronicle article, another 2005 article
*Rankin House: Old Photos – Oldest known photo; 1970s – 1, 2
*115 N. First Street: 2005 Daily Chronicle article
*Wikipedia: John S. Van Bergen, E.E. Roberts, John C. Farson House (all by me), George W. Maher (not by me)

A keen eye will spot other examples of Prairie architecture in DeKalb, something we will explore at a later date. Tomorrow, follow me to the tiny village of Esmond, Illinois.

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Comments»

1. Paul Ringstrom - February 8, 2008

I was told that the owner of DeKalb-based MicroSolutions has a NEW prairie style home somewhere in the NW area of DeKalb. Do you know of it? Maybe you can post photos of any new prairie styles homes too.

2. dr. gonzo - February 8, 2008

There seems to be a movement in architecture that is bringing back some neo-Prairie (as well as other styles classified under the Arts and Crafts Movement), I see it around town and have seen several articles in Architectural Digest and other publications recently. Haven’t heard about that house, wonder where it’s at? There is the Kishwaukee Hopsital, which looks more like Unity Temple than a full blown Prairie style building. There is a large brick building on Bethany Road, near 23, that exhibits some Prairie influences (hip roof, windows in horizontal bands, a general horizontal emphasis to the structure). There are other neo-Prairie buildings to be sure, as well as several other examples of from the Prairie style era.


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