Letter Opposing the Demolition of Buildings on the Site of the Proposed Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Visitors Center

by SAH News | Aug 29, 2019
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Exterior of Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois. Via Flickr Creative Commons.

On August 26, 2019, the SAH Heritage Conservation Committee, chaired by Bryan Clark Green, sent the following letter to the Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission and Oak Park Village Board opposing the demolition of all or portions of buildings on the site of the proposed Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Visitors Center.

The letter is available below and as a PDF.


26 August 2019 

Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission Village of Oak Park 
Village Hall 
123 Madison St. 
Oak Park, IL 60302 
historicpreservation@oak-park.us 

Oak Park Village Board Village of Oak Park Village Hall 
123 Madison St. 
Oak Park, IL 60302 board@oak-park.us

Re: Opposition of the demolition of all or portions of buildings on the site of the proposed Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Visitors Center  

Dear Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission and Oak Park Village Board: 

The Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) opposes the demolition of all or portions of buildings on the site of the proposed Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Visitors Center. 

The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, stewards of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, IL, proposes to construct a new visitor’s center to welcome and educate the interested public. While the SAH supports this necessary initiative, it cannot and will not support the Trust’s plan to demolish part or all of other buildings on the site as part of the construction project. The buildings, located at 931 and 935 Chicago Avenue, were present at the time Wright designed his home on Forest Avenue, and are a necessary part of the landscape of Wright’s early designs. 931 Chicago Avenue was owned by Wright’s mother, while Wright lived and worked next door. It is not certain that the additions currently proposed for demolition were designed by Wright, but their removal would also destroy any opportunity to determine a connection. The SAH notes that the Trust has already applied for a certificate of appropriateness, making your decision that much more urgent. 

Both buildings are considered contributing resources to the larger Frank Lloyd Wright-Prairie School of Architecture Historic District, nationally recognized as representative of Wright’s long and transformative career. At this time, the existence of the historic district provides the only legal framework for protection of this iconic assemblage of buildings. Allowing the demolition of contributing structures weakens this framework, endangering many more Wright-designed buildings in the process. It also threatens the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Unity Temple, which is buffered in part by the District. Oak Park’s historic preservation ordinance is truly the barricade that stands between these irreplaceable resources and decisions that threaten their integrity.  

The buildings at 931 and 935 Chicago Avenue are subordinate to the Home and Studio and to other Wright-designed buildings within the historic district, but their presence provides necessary context to both Wright’s designs and his life and career. Their demolition, even in part, diminishes a district of international importance. The SAH joins other local and national preservation organizations in opposing the move or demolition of these buildings and encourages the Trust to identify alternatives that allow the preservation of Wright’s landscape in its entirety. 

The Society of Architectural Historians joins with the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Landmarks Illinois, and a coalition of Oak Park preservationists to oppose the proposed move or demolition of these two historic buildings, and urges the Frank Lloyd Trust to revise its plans for a new visitors center to retain the historic portions of both of these buildings that give context to Wright’s Home and Studio.   

Bryan Clark Green, Ph.D., LEED AP BD+C 
Chair, Society of Architectural Historians Heritage Conservation Committee 

cc: Mr. Kenneth Breisch, Ph.D.; Mr. Jeffrey Cody, Ph.D.; Mr. Anthony Cohn, AIA; Ms. Phyllis Ellin; Mr. David Fixler, FAIA; Mr. Sandy Isenstadt, Ph.D.; Mr. Theodore Prudon, Ph.D., FAIA; Ms. Pauline Saliga; Ms. Deborah Slaton; Members SAH Heritage Conservation Committee. 
Learn more about SAH's Preservation Advocacy work.





Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.
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