Frank Lloyd Wright, Midcentury Modern, Stylish Properties Outside of St. Louis

One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Earliest Commissions Hits Market for $779,000

Article originally posted by Architectural Digest

A Kankakee, Illinois, home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is available for sale for $779,000, reports Crain’s Chicago Business. Built in 1900, the home was among the designer’s earliest commissions and represents the burgeoning genesis of his soon-to-come architectural revolution.

The living room features a central hearth, common in Wright designs, and is flanked by two alcove units. Photo: Realvision

Known as the Warren Hickox house, the home sits next to another Wright design, the Bradley House, which a brother and sister—and their respective spouses—commissioned at the turn of the century. The Bradley House, the larger of the two, was built for B. Harley Bradley and his wife, Anna Hickox Bradley, while the Warren Hickox House was designed for Anna’s brother, Warren, and his wife, Laura. The Bradley house, the larger home, is perhaps the more famous of the pair—and often credited as Wright’s first Prairie home—though the Warren Hickox property shares many similar qualities and is just as monumental.

Looking into the living room from the dining room. Photo: Realvision

Not yet established as a pioneering architect, many early Wright homes show less of a distinguished style and look similar to other Victorian and Colonial homes that were popular during the era. This all changed with the two Kankakee homes. Though they lack flat roofs and the earthy red and yellow accents that would come to define his later work, the overhanging eaves, windows with geometric designs, and a noticeable emphasis on horizontal lines are all classic Wright. The Warren Hickox house “fits into a turning point for Wright,” John Waters, preservation programs manager the Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings Conservancy, told Crain’s.

The kitchen is fully functional, though new owners may choose to update the appliances. Photo: Realvision

Though the pitched roofs are still evocative of Victorian sensibility, the homes shows what Waters described as Wright “working towards the simplicity and clarity” of the homes he’d design later in his career. The flared roof ridges also demonstrate a noticeable Japanese influence, an aesthetic Wright would continue to reference throughout his life.

“The home was designed during a turning point for Wright as he started moving toward the Prairie style,” Victoria Krause Schutte of @properties Christie’s International Realty, the home’s listing agent, tells AD. “He would often bring Chicago-area clients down to the home and seat them in the reading nook’s built-in benches to help them visualize the new direction his work was taking.

One of the four bedrooms in the home. Photo: Realvision

According to Schutte, the home was based on two articles Wright published in the Ladies’ Home Journal. “The interior is adapted from ‘A Home in a Prairie Town,’ and the exterior is based on ‘A Small House with Lots of Room in It.’”

Inside, the living room flows into a terrace and two bayed alcoves, originally designed as the dining room and a library. Large hallways between the spaces create a sense of openness in the 3,277 square foot home, which is further enhanced by “thin bands of leaded glass that span the bays,” the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust explains. “The windows perceptually extend the interior of the house into the surrounding natural landscape, blurring the boundaries between Wright’s architecture and the world of nature outside.”

The bathroom is decorated in floral tiles. Photo: Realvision

The home has been owned for nearly 50 years by a local family, who moved in in 1976. Though it hasn’t changed much, some renovations were done before their purchase. For example, an art glass door that once opened to a terrace and offered views to the Bradley House was taken down at some point and replaced with an enclosed porch. “All of the original built-ins and much of the hardware and lighting fixtures remain intact,” Schutte says. Most other changes are minimal, though the sellers concede that for this reason, new owners may want to update appliances or make other restorative changes. However, this would be up to the discretion of the buyers, as the house is livable as is.

The flared roofs are evocative of Japanese design. Photo: Realvision

Unlike the Bradley home, which currently operates as a museum and has been used as a restaurant as well, the Warren Hickox house has remained largely unseen. “This was truly a family home, and the homeowners were very private people, so few guests have been in the house in the last 50 years,” Schutte says. Since the previous owners did not allow tours, its listing is not only an opportunity for potential buyers but a rare chance to see images of the interior of the home.

Schutte also represents two other Wright designs that are on the market. “Naturally, when one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes is listed for sale, there is a huge buzz in the Frank Lloyd Wright community,” she says. “These buyers are typically very passionate about protecting these uniquely American structures.” The homes are unique and can be taste-specific, so the buyer pool isn’t often as big as others, she adds. “These homes require care and oftentimes restoration, so buyers take their roles seriously and with a lot of enthusiasm—which is amazing to witness. It’s truly a love of this art form.”

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