Having not actually disembarked in Chicago last year, we had unfinished business.
So in May this year we took a few days out from a visit to the family in Virginia to see all the things we had meant to see the first time around.
I had read Nancy Horan’s book Loving Frank, the story of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ill-fated affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, and I wanted to see Oak Park where they both lived and where FLW designed and built many houses. The Unity Temple, the commission which established his reputation, is also in Oak Park.
So we stayed in Tom and Grace’s B&B in Oak Park itself and immersed ourselves in all things Frank Lloyd Wright.
The Unity Temple was commissioned in 1905 after the Unity Church burned down. The Minister, Rodney Johonnot, wanted a building which would reflect the values of unity, truth, beauty, simplicity, freedom and reason. Frank Lloyd Wright had spent some time in Japan, and his work shows the influence of Japanese architecture and style.
The following day we took the ‘L’ from Oak Park into Chicago downtown.
And got off at Quincy St
The next day we went out in the cold and rain to see as many of the FLW houses in Oak Park as we could.
By lunch time I was colder and wetter than I had been at any time since my youth hostelling days, and had to be revived with blueberry pancakes with a side of bacon at George’s Family Restaurant on S Oak Park Drive.
The following day we took the L and then a bus to get to Hyde Park, home to the Obamas, and the University of Chicago. It’s also the location of the Robie House, considered the epitome of FLW’s Prairie style. Unfortunately it was raining heavily by this time, so rather difficult to capture an image.
FLW adopted a rather dictatorial attitude towards his clients. Furnishings had to comply with his prairie palette of colours, and his clients had to have furniture not only designed by him, but placed in specific locations in the rooms. Unfortunately for them, he was more interested in style than comfort.
The cold, damp and misty weather meant that several things that we wanted to do, such as having a drink in the Skydeck on the Willis Tower, and hiring bikes to ride up the Lakeshore Trail, had to be abandoned, and indoor pursuits sought instead.
We took the L back towards Oak Park and stopped off at the Garfield Park Conservatory. The Garfield Park neighbourhood is apparently notorious, but the Conservatory is stunning.