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Bootleg Houses: Oak Park, Illinois Part 4 February 13, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, Houses, National Register of Historic Places.

Between 1892 and 1893 Frank Lloyd Wright designed a series of eight houses, many of them similar in style, in and around Oak Park, Illinois. The popular tale says that Wright, then under contract with Louis Sullivan, was forbidden, by his contract, to “moonlight” and do independent designs. That tale is contradicted in Thomas Heinz’s 2006 book, “The Vision of Frank Lloyd Wright”. Heinz says that Wright was not forbidden to do independent work, and that Sullivan would have encouraged it because Wright owed him money. Heinz says Wright left Adler and Sullivan on his own terms, amidst an economic downturn.

1892 – Thomas H. Gale House (1027 Chicago Ave.)

Robert P. Parker and Thomas H. Gale Houses
The most obvious trait about the Bootleg Houses is that unless you know about them you probably wouldn’t associate them with the early modern mastery of Frank Lloyd Wright. They show Wright at an early stage in his career, while he was still developing his own design philosophy. The Thomas Gale House and the Robert P. Parker House are very similar architecturally, and located close to each other; along with the Walter Gale House (which we will see tomorrow), they are both located on Chicago Avenue in Oak Park. These two houses demonstrate a geometric purity not common to traditional residential styles. Both Gale houses and the Parker House derive, to a certain extent, their designs from the Robert Emmond House in La Grange, Illinois. The Parker, Thomas Gale, and Emmond Houses were constructed in 1892.

1892 – Robert P. Parker House (1019 Chicago Ave.)

1892 – Francis J. Woolley House (1030 Superior Street)

Woolley House
Back to back with the Parker House and the Gale houses is the non-descript Francis J. Woolley House. The home’s massive bay windows and roof massing contribute to its place as a “Queen Anne splendor”, in the words of Thomas O’ Gorman. Similar to commons styles of the day, the Woolley House is a good early example of low-cost housing designs by Wright. The Woolley House was built in 1893.

All three houses are recognized as integral contributing parts to the whole of the Frank Lloyd Wright-Prairie School of Architecture Historic District in Oak Park. The historic district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and includes 80 structures that were designed by Wright and other Prairie School architects.

Online Resources
*Wikipedia: Thomas H. Gale House, Robert P. Parker House, Francis Woolley House, Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District (all by me, for you)
*Thomas H. Gale House: Oak Park Landmark Nomination Form


1. Dee Johnson - August 21, 2008

Having just returned from visiting Oak Park for two days and taking the walking tour, I was delighted to see your excellent information about the “Bootleg” houses. Thanks.

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