Statement | August 27, 2019

National Trust Strongly Opposes Demolition Proposal by Frank Lloyd Wright Trust

Calls for a solution that enables Chicago’s Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio to improve visitor facilities while preserving the integrity of the historic district

The following statement was issued by Jennifer Sandy, Associate Field Director at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in response to a proposal by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust to demolish or partially demolish two contributing properties in the Frank Lloyd Wright-Prairie School of Architecture Historic District in Oak Park, Illinois.

“The National Trust for Historic Preservation strongly opposes the recent proposal by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust because we believe it would adversely affect the Frank Lloyd Wright-Prairie School of Architecture Historic District. In addition to directly impacting two historic buildings in the District, we believe this proposal would permanently and negatively alter the character of this historic area, which is visited annually by thousands of people from around the world who come to experience this singular place where Frank Lloyd Wright refined Prairie School architecture.

“While the two historic buildings directly affected by this proposal are significant in their own right, we are also concerned about the potential loss of architectural context within the broader historic neighborhood where Wright lived and worked during one of the most formative periods of his illustrious career. We also fear this could set a dangerous precedent for historic districts in Oak Park.

“There is a reason that the area surrounding the Home and Studio was designated a historic district. As the National Register nomination makes clear, properties within the historic district that pre-date Wright’s time there ‘contribute strongly to the rich architectural legacy of the historic district and provide an important context in which to place the Prairie School and its influence.’ Buildings like 925 Chicago Avenue, in other words, are the environment in which Wright formed his architectural vision, and to lose that context would impair our ability to understand the context in which Wright worked.

“Additionally, the property at 931 Chicago Avenue is significant both as one of the oldest homes in Oak Park and also as a place directly associated with Wright’s family. Not only was it home to Wright’s mother for several years, but Wright also may have been involved in the construction of additions to the house—the very additions targeted by demolition by the current proposal.

“The National Trust’s interest and role in the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio is especially longstanding and relevant. In 1974, when the Home and Studio was threatened by demolition, the National Trust partnered with the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust (then called the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Foundation) to purchase the Home and Studio, helping to save it and set it on the path to becoming the vibrant cultural destination it is today.

“In addition to our role as the nation’s leading historic preservation organization, the National Trust also stewards 27 historic sites across the country that are open to the public. We fully appreciate the challenges of accommodating visitors to historic sites—particularly when those places are located in densely populated urban areas. However, we believe that a solution can be found that would provide the Home and Studio with enhanced visitor facilities while, at the same time, protecting the integrity of the cultural landscape of the historic district. We stand ready to work with Frank Lloyd Wright Trust and others to ensure that this vital piece of America’s cultural history is not irreparably harmed.”

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For 70 years, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has worked to protect significant places that represent the rich and diverse history of our nation. As the nation’s leading historic preservation organization, we advocate for historic places in communities throughout the country.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.
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