The beautiful city of Chicago is known for many things, but many probably do not think of architecture when they think of the windy city. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust is protecting the city’s architectural gems and the legacy of community found within the city.
The trust was established in 1974, as a non-profit organization. Its goal was to protect the legacy of the pioneer of American architecture and to acquire his property in Oak Park. In its early years, it was known as the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Foundation. In 1975, the foundation, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, became stewards of the Wright Home and Studio. They began to restore the property and turned it into a historic house museum.
The following year, the Wright Home and Studio was declared a National Historic Landmark. Eleven years, and $3 million later, the restoration of the property was completed. At the time of its completion, it received the National Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects.
In 1997, the Foundation entered an agreement with the University of Chicago, to take over the responsibility of managing, restoring, and operating Wright’s Robie House, which is located on the university’s campus. In order to reflect the new nature of the foundation and its stewardship over multiple properties, the organization changed its name to the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, in 2000.
At the end of 2010, the Trust was able to move its central office to The Rookery, a building located in downtown Chicago. The landmark is home to one of Wright’s most spectacular interior designs, the Light Court.
The Trust became the sole owner of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in May 2012. That same year, the Trust also began to operate tours at the Emil Bach House, located in the Rogers Park neighborhood. The Trust then became responsible for programs and tours at Unity Temple, in 2013. The organization changed its name to the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust in December that year.
Many activities and programs are offered to the community including tours of Wright’s buildings, family activities, workshops, and a restoration resource center. It also provides a valuable educational alternative for the community by offering teacher training, school outreach, student internships, a library, and archive. Along with membership and travel, the Trust also offers multi-media programs.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust has a Board of Directors to which the president and CEO reports. They employ 65 people and have a staff of about 600 volunteers. Tours and other programs are provided to about 150,000 people yearly, along with one million virtual visitors. The funds to operate the Trust are received through grants, and donations from individuals locally, nationally, and around the world, including corporations and other foundations.
The Trust has remained true to their mission of protecting Wright’s properties for the enjoyment of future generations. They continue to educate the public, and like their namesake, have inspired the creative spirit and innovation of those they serve.
Chicago is blessed with a rich culture. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust showcases an architectural history that is a part of what makes the city shine. Natives and visitors alike can benefit from what the Trust has to offer.
Tours of the sites offer a look inside of one of the pioneers of American architecture’s beautiful designs. Visitors are given a chance to familiarize themselves with, not only, Wright’s family history but how his philosophy developed. Guides educate visitors about the Prairie design that Wright is famous for producing.
To visit Wright’s Home and Studio, Robie House, Bach House, and The Rookery tours can be scheduled with the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. These are about an hour long, and tickets can be purchased on their website or by phone.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust also offers a more in-depth tour, called the “Wright Around Oak Park.” An expert guide will take 10 visitors through the Wright Home and Studio, and other private Prairie homes in the Oak Park neighborhood.
A bike tour called “Pedal Oak Park” is available to the public on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from June to September. Guests will be guided around Oak Park, which is home to the largest collection of buildings designed by the architectural icon. They will be able to view all 21 buildings designed by him and learn some history.
“Wright Around Chicago” is a bus tour. Visitors will start their journey gazing at the beautiful Light Court located at The Rookery, and then move on to Oak Park, and take a tour of the Wright Home and Studio. The trip includes lunch at Winberie and finishes off with the Robie House, as they make their way back to The Rookery.
For those interested in a list of tours, including the one mentioned here, other programs the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust offers, or membership, information can be found at flwright.org.
By Jessica Hamel
Edited by Cathy Milne
Frank Lloyd Trust Website: International Gateway to Wright’s Chicago
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