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Frank L. Smith Bank: Dwight, Illinois Part 2 January 16, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, Prairie style.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed his many buildings mostly in the United States, and they were mostly residential in nature. However, he left his mark on other types of buildings as well, arguably his most famous work is the Guggenheim Museum in New York, a decidedly non-residential building.

In the Livingston County, Illinois village of Dwight, is a little known example of Wright’s mastery, tucked into a storefront setting in the tiny village’s downtown business district, the 1905 Frank L. Smith (aka First National) Bank.

1905 Frank L. Smith Bank

The bank tellers were welcoming, provided I didn’t photograph anything in the area where the tellers worked, yep, it’s still a bank. The interior is amazing in only a way Frank Lloyd Wright could manage to pull off. A stunning skylight, a Roman brick fireplace and reproduction Wright-designed lighting are only some of the features in the early Prairie influenced structure. See for yourself:

Roman brick fireplace in the board room – an uncommon feature in a bank

The interior exhibits obvious Wright style

The skylight gives a feeling similar to other Wright designed skylights

The reproduction interior lighting I spoke of was based off a Wright design from the bank. Though the original lighting was lost through successive renovations, photographs were discovered which allowed for verbatim reproductions of the ceiling light seen hanging over the board room table in the photo below.

The 1905 bank is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but thanks to me it is listed in Wikipedia, see entry here. Though the Register is mostly an honorary designation it does have some benefits, this property would very clearly qualify in my opinion, its failure to be included could be for a variety of factors including property owner objection or extensive renovations.

The building has seen changes both inside and out, the interior was originally divided into two offices and a drive up banking area added. When the Illinois Historic Sites Survey was completed during the early 1970s the front facade was topped by a clock. A photo of the building before its drive up was added and with the clock can be seen here.

Online Resources
*First National Bank of Dwight: Official site
*Illinois Historic Sites Survey Inventory Form: includes lengthy 1906 newspaper article about the bank

Tomorrow we take a look at a strange treatment for alcoholism that originated in Dwight.



1. dr. gonzo - January 16, 2008

I can’t say enough about this building. When I entered it felt like I was descending into something.

2. Sue - February 3, 2008

See how cool you are… another wikimasterpiece and essay here. Frank L Smith was law partner with one of my clan, though I’m not entirely sure that’s a good brag… but he was colorful for sure. Pretty cool to get FLW out there.

3. dr. gonzo - February 3, 2008

That’s interesting, I have read he was quite colorful indeed. Dwight is a pretty special place, I just hope the folks that live there realize it, so often too few people realize that there are amazing things surrounding them. The bank is masterful, even with the extensive renovations it has undergone.

If you’re interested in Wright, I have an 8 part series about Oak Park, Illinois starting Feb. 10. The majority of the posts are about Wright buildings.

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