The Frank Thomas Residence is the first Prairie house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed in Oak Park. Though the title of first fully mature Prairie house goes to the Ward Willits House in Highland Park, this was Wright’s first Prairie house in his own neighborhood and was alive shortly after the Willits House. The house maintains most of the qualities seen in Wright’s other Prairie homes. It has a very low hipped roof, broad overhanging roof eaves, and bands of art glass windows. Most of Wright’s Prairie houses have either a square or cruciform floor plan. The Frank Thomas Residence is unique in that is has an L-shaped floor plan. The shorter part of the L extends from the front of the house and was designed as a breakfast nook. The house does have a basement, a feature Wright would eventually eliminate, but it is only partially submerged underground. Most of the basement/ground level is above ground and was designed as servant’s quarters. The first level of living space is elevated one and half floors, with bedrooms on the top floor. The arched entryway at the ground level is somewhat deceiving as it makes one believe that is where the entrance is. However, one must enter the arch, and turn left to walk up a flight of stairs. The front door is actually disguised as one of the art glass windows that wraps around the inner corner of the L-shaped house. The windows on the top floor are a variation of the Chicago style window.
There are posts that support the outer portion of the roof on both ends of the house. This is a good indication that this was one of Wright’s earliest Prairie houses. If the house had been built a few years later, the roofs would be cantilevered off of the house without vertical support. Wright was always trying to eliminate the vertical. The Frank Thomas Residence is also a good reference for estimating the age of other houses in the neighborhood, as it was the first house in Oak Park to be covered in stucco.
Photo captured August 30, 2014.
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