Frank Lloyd Wright tour in Oak Park, Illinois

If you enjoy the works of master architect Frank Lloyd Wright, you should visit Oak Park, Illinois, the suburb of Chicago where he spent the first twenty years of what would become a glorious career.

My wife and I took a walking tour of this neighbourhood and were astounded by how well Wright's early home designs are standing up, more than 100 years after they were built.

There must be something about Oak Park that stirs the creative imagination. Just a few streets down from Wright's home and studio, sits the home where the great American writer Ernest Hemingway grew up.

Wright, who many consider one of the best architects of the 20th Century, the designer of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and many other grand public buildings, got his start designing homes in this area.

We took a good look at some of the homes in a walking tour organized by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Guided by the gracious Dorothy V. Foote (left), we learned how Wright evolved his ideas into the famous "Prairie style," (low, broad roof lines and lots of interior space, long "ribbon" style windows) that is still admired today.

Wright and his team designed about 125 buildings in the Oak Park studio between 1889 and 1909. They each have a unique character; none more evocative, in my opinion, than the Arthur B. Heurtley House at 318 Forest Avenue (below), which was completed in 1902. His designs were unquestionably years ahead of their time.

If you're in the Chicago area, be sure to look up the Architecture Foundation. The Foundation offers dozens of memorable tours, each conducted by a qualified docent, or instructor. We became members and we don't even live there!

We'll be back.

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