Explore and Sleep Over in Frank Lloyd Wright's Restored Emil Bach House

The landmark Rogers Park late Prairie-style home had a pretty face lift and is officially open for overnight crashes, special events bookings and tours of the master’s work.

Photo courtesy of the Emil Bach House Emil Bach House dining room & lounge area. The summery white against a knotty wood background is an unusual and unexpected decor ensemble for a Wright home. A sharp contrast from the more muted and earthy tones of the traditional Prairie style. This updated look works because of the simple, defined shapes and color blocks. 

For decades, the Emil Bach, a 1915, 2,700-square-foot, late Prairie two-story, teetered on the edge of demolition threats, zoning beefs with the city and a market re-thinking the value of Wright’s houses as places to actually live in. In 2005 it was one of the flamboyant architect’s first homes set for a public auction. Earlier, in 2003, the property was listed for $2.5 million before a humiliating price tumble and opening auction bid of $750,000.  James Prizker slammed the book shut with a $1.7 million buy in 2009. 

But it’s a Wright, and his eminence, who seems more and more an adept escape artist to both public whim and scandal, has the final word – again. 

Completing a restoration that began in 2012, the Sheridan Road, Rogers Park house is now open to the public for tours (every Wednesday) or a mini-vacation spot (why not?) or event space ($1,495 per night during peak season). You can rent this Wright and he’s probably smirking with satisfaction at the very thought. It’s his last standing creation in Chicago from a series of cubic-themed houses with that overhanging flat slab roof, a brassy brush stroke and key architecture detail. Other designs in this particular set of Prairie ideas include the Laura Gale and Oscar Balch homes in Oak Park and the Bogh House, all built before Wright felt the tug and thrill of a pruned Japanese aesthetic. The Emil Bach is a transitional Wright.

The choice of Harboe Architects to helm restoration of Wright’s final Prairie song is significant and inspired, completing the mission with integrity. Harboe has triumphed on other Chicago landmark and preservation-bound buildings, winning applause and esteem for work on Adler and Sullivan’s Chicago Board of Trade and Reliance buildings and Burnham and Root’s Rookery building. Plus Mies van der Rohe fanboys will shed an idolized tear knowing Harboe handled restoration of the façade for the glass maestro’s Crown Hall masterpiece. 

“It is hard to realize how strange his work must have seemed in the early 1900s, how unlike anything else and how totally out of step with prevailing taste, how offensive even to conventional neighbors… who considered his houses so peculiar they called them “harems,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable in A Life, her unflinching biography of Wright.

Still all good and true.

The Emil Bach House, located at 7415 N. Sheridan Rd. 

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