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Frank W. Thomas House: Oak Park, Illinois Part 6 February 16, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, Houses, National Register of Historic Places, Prairie style.
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There are two houses in Oak Park which have, at different times, been called the “first fully mature” example of a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie style house. The first of those homes is the Frank W. Thomas House at 210 Forest Avenue; most sources agree that the Thomas House was the first example.

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1901 – Frank W. Thomas House

In the Thomas House we see the first use of many elements that were to become trademark of the Prairie style house. The exterior cladding, stucco, was used here, as well as the “hidden” entryway discussed in yesterday’s post about the Prairie School of Architecture. The front entrance is reached by first passing along an arched pathway and then through a maze-like area until finally reaching the second-floor veranda and its front entrance. The entryway was so extreme that, when the house was built, locals referred to it as “the Harem”.


The offstreet entryway isn’t exactly simple to reach.

The Thomas House has an L-shaped plan and could be classified as a high-style example of an asymmetrical Prairie house. The ell stands two stories while the perpendicular wing of the house is one, common in a typical asymmetrical Prairie house (not that a Prairie house is “typical” or anything). The house fits nicely on its small lot, with walls coming all the way to the sidewalk; a feature that was meant to be inviting but in actuality is a little bit overwhelming.

The Frank W. Thomas House was built in 1901 for the daughter and son-in-law (Frank W. Thomas) of Wright pal James C. Rogers. The building was added to the National Register in 1972. It is in this house that we begin to see Frank Lloyd Wright discover his own architectural voice.

Online Resources
*Frank W. Thomas House: Illinois Historic Sites Survey Inventory Form (PDF)

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