The Killer Style of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Classic Henderson House
How cool is this? It’s the Prairie house that started the Chicago trend, the only one built in Elmhurst by America’s most famous architect, and now on the market for $1.3 million.
The Henderson House is classic Wright and the predecessor of the Prairie home that would become his signature and dot Chicago’s suburban landscape. Between 1900 and 1909 Wright's firm built 135 Prairie homes, not exactly a Ford assembly line, but a brisk pace for a small company. Made of brick and stucco with a neutral cream-colored facade, the telltale signs of this style feature a low-pitched roof and overhanging eaves (see the Japanese element Wright incorporated?). And they're still the prettiest girl in the room.
Surprisingly, the Henderson counts only 10 owners in 112 years. The listing agent, Ron Ehlers of Sotheby’s International Realty, tells us that the current owners of the corner home at 301 S. Kenilworth Avenue have updated the turn-of-the-century residence, completing mechanical renovations — a new boiler system, gas wall sconces are now electric, custom grill work for the radiators — and expanded the living spaces to include a guest suite, rec room and office space, all while maintaining its distinct integrity.
Soak in this space for a moment and keep this idea close: At the time Wright designed the Henderson, the prevailing architecture of a single-family home was the ornate Victorian or Elizabethan, with boxy rooms, parlors and living spaces divided into quarters. This open, seamless floor plan with heavy exposed beams was a radical departure. It's beautifully rendered here with quarter-sawn maple flooring and panels of leaded-glass windows spanning 80 feet. You can enter the terrace and garden from the French doors and there’s a wine cellar on the fully finished lower level. Trivia: This property is one of Wright’s first family houses to utilize skylights in the design.
Wright didn’t design the furniture in this house, which made us do a double take because Wright was well-known (some would say cursed) to have his hand in everything, down to the serving platters and napkin rings. But these chairs — in fact, all the furnishings — capture the essence of a Wright piece. Bravo. The massive 12-foot-wide brick fireplace in the living room is one of three in the home (the others are in the master and second bedrooms). Not shown is the octagonal dining room with a built-in buffet.
This is the way to build a library. Built-in bookcases below the windows allow plenty of natural light. (This could easily convert to a sunroom.) The 6-bedroom, 4-bath house has been the subject of numerous studies and cloned across the country and abroad. We love revisiting houses like this, a true breakthrough in Wright’s art and American architecture.
Repped by Ron Ehlers, Sotheby’s International Realty. Ask $1.3 million.