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… and even more “almost Frank” kind of houses

The Flori Blondeel Houses in Oak Park

The Flori Blondeel Houses in Oak Park

As follow up to a previous post about William Street in River Forest, the street with an entire block of houses that might – or might not – be designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; the three Flori Blondeel Houses in Oak Park look very Frank Lloyd Wright – especially in the way they relate to each other – but aren’t.  They were designed by another architect who worked under FLW for a time in the Oak Park studio, John van Bergen.

Van Bergen was a prolific designer of prairie school houses, in neighbourhoods all across Chicagoland, including Oak Park.

The Blondeel houses are all virtually the same, the middle house being built without the same front “sunroom” of the other two, to give an overall spatial focus.

Recent Garage and Coach House for one of the Flori Blondeel Houses
Recent Garage and Coach House for one of the Flori Blondeel Houses

As witness to how easy it is to still generate prairie school massing and detailing, that same middle house recently sprouted a large addition in back – difficult to photograph from the street, but sporting many of the same stucco and wood trim details found in the original house.  One fault that only a purist would find with the new addition is that it is much larger than any small prairie school house, and takes up much more of the lot.  This house also has a well detailed coach-house in back (again, remember my previous posts about coach houses), though the double garage door and wooden fence are dead giveaways as to its real age.

The Emma Martin Coach House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
Emma Martin Coach House, by Frank Lloyd Wright

My favourite prairie school coach house?  It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Emma Martin, adjacent to the Peter Fricke House facing Iowa Street in Oak Park.  Emma Martin acquired the main house – also designed by FLW –   and proceeded to commission FLW to design several additions, including the garage and coach house, and a pavilion.  The garage and coach house is visually connected to the main house by a garden wall, the coach house comfortably resting atop to complete the visual composition.

FLW's Coach House on the Continental Divide
FLW’s Coach House on the Continental Divide

I always muse that the Fricke / Martin house – at least according to signs posted throughout Oak Park – sits atop the “Great Continental Divide” – on the middle of the prairie!  It looks nothing like the Kicking Horse Pass (Canadian Rockies) or the Rogers Pass (Selkirk Range) that I can recall.

Posted in Architecture, History.