Oak Park Things to Do

  • Gramdfather Hall's Bedroom with turret windows
    Gramdfather Hall's Bedroom with turret...
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  • Robert P. Parker House, 1892
    Robert P. Parker House, 1892
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  • Walter M. Gale House, 1893
    Walter M. Gale House, 1893
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Most Recent Things to Do in Oak Park

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    Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio

    by Dabs Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio

    The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio was Wright's home and where he worked from 1889 to 1909, the 1st 20 years of his career. His studio was added in 1898, it was here that he developed the Prairie style of architecture and designed 125 structures, including the Robie House which can be found in Hyde Park, the Larkin Building which was in New York (demolished in 1950) and the Unity Temple which can be found in Oak Park.

    The house is restored to look like it was in 1909, the last year he lived there. A hour long tour of his home and studio are given every day, you can see the schedule on the attached website. It's a separate tour from the guided walking tours, you can save $4 if you do both on the same day.

    We passed on doing this, maybe next time.

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    Visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Home & Studio

    by shrimp56 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust is responsible for the restoration and maintenance of this series of buildings. They are also the ones that organize the tours of the home & studio, as well as of the other Wright houses in Oak Park.
    .
    It is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year's Day. The tour schedule varies [check the website] and currently costs $9 US.

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    Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio Tour

    by deecat Updated Aug 25, 2008

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    Frank Lloyd Wright Home/Studio Sign
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    Be sure to check out the hidden photographs

    One of the reasons that we visited Oak Park, naturally, was to tour the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. The only disappointment was that NO PHOTOGRAPHS CAN BE TAKEN INSIDE THE HOME AND STUDIO!

    The residence began to be built just after Wright married Catherine Tobin, his first wife. At the time Frank worked for famed architect, Louis Sullivan. It's difficult to take a photo of this elongated home/studio. The roofline is sweepingly steep. Here is where he designed what is called "his Oak Park Homes". This home is not a typical Prairie Home look; instead, it reflects the heavy influence of the Arts & Crafts movement.

    The Prairie-style home had its birth here in his studio. We learned that Frank Lloyd Wright was influenced by architect, Louis Sullivan, nature, music, German wooden toy shapes that he played with as a child, and Japanese art.

    He added on to this home with a two-story polygonal bay in 1895 on the south side of the home [new dining room and expanded bedroom on the second floor. He also built a two-story structure at the home's rear that became a new kitchen and maid quarters. This is where a barrel-vaulted playroom for the children emerged. (I think that it was my favorite in the home).

    In 1898, a separate 2-story structure was done at the north end of the home along Chicago Avenue, which served as Wright's office and studio. It includes an octagonal library & a 2-story drafting room.

    One of the most striking features of the interior is his use of beautiful wood. Our tour guide was excellent and told of stories to accompany the architectural features.

    Weekdays from 11 am-3:30 pm are guided interior tours of home and studio. Weekends every 20 minutes from 11 am -3:30 pm.
    ADMISSION: $12 adult/$10 youth [11-18]
    $10 Senior [65+]
    $5.00 Children [4-10]

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    "Walking" Photo Tour: Wright's Architecture

    by deecat Updated Aug 24, 2008

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    Arthur Heurtley House, 1902
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    What a beautiful city Oak Park, Illinois is, and, I must say, Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture played a huge role in that beauty.

    This independent walking tour with audio was a fun experience. We not only learned about the architecture, but we met others who had traveled long distances to view his work. Oak Park is truly a "draw" for people from all over the world. While on the home/studio tour, Mickey and I were the only Americans there!

    I'm not doing this in order of location. I want to begin with our FAVORITE home on this entire tour.

    #1The Arthur Heurtley House, 1902. [318 Forest Avenue] This beautiful Prairie-style house seems to leap out to display its lovely and fresh visual appearance. It's the dramatic brick work that is so amazing along with the long, low-hung hipped roof that brings a sleek look. And, at the CENTER of the roof is a massively broad, low chimney.

    Wright used narrow, pressed, Roman brick of rose hues that creates a horizontal line and span over the entire surface of the house. The entranceway is set within a great brick arch inside a low privacy wall.

    #2.Edward R. Hills House 19061977 [313 Forest Avenue] This home is also called the "Hill-Decaro House". It was designed by Wright in 1906, and the reconstruction in 1977 was also Wright's Design.

    When he fashioned this house in 1906, it was to redesign a 20-year-old home. This was a wedding present from Nathan Moore to his daughter. He used flared, double-sloped roofs that creat a sweeping effect. It seems to have an Asian motif. He used his preferred exterior stucco-cladding. He also used banding below sill lines along the first and second floors. The windows are fashioned in a rectangular Prairie pattern.

    A fire damaged the house in the mid-1970's, destroying the entire second floor. It was rebuilt using the original plans.

    #3Frank Thomas House 1901 [210 Forest Avenue]The arch was a trademark for Louis Sullivan, and Wright adopted it here in this home. Broad horizontal lines are evident, and one would not know that this is a three-story home, but he played the broad foundation walls against the smaller, jutting wing of the dining room; thus, a low effect is achieved. Beyond the arch is an outdoor stair that leads up to the front door.

    I learned that Oak Parkers call this home, "the Harem" because it is exotic and architecturally mysterious. It has this hidden entry and art-glass bejeweled interior entrance. It is an L-shaped home and represents a new age in domestic architecture because it was his first fully mature Prairie house. It has no basement and no attic. Theexterior wall were fashioned entirely of stucco [or composite plaster] which later became a feature of his Prairie style. His use of the beautiful glass-art windows is also a trademark.

    #4 Peter A. Beachy House, 1906 [238 Forest Avenue] I only took a photo of the side hidden entrance. This is really a remodeling and redesign of a small Gothic Victorian! It's a huge piece of property; thus, Wright positioned it lengthwise on the lot. There are really four repeating peaks that extend out over a series of cantilevered windows on the second floor. The windowpanes are framed in an intricate Prairie style, but does not use art glass.

    There is a private laboratory located in a portion of the garage as well as living quarter for the owner's driver.

    #5Nathan G. Moore, 1895 [333 Forest Avenue] Moor wanted a Tudor style home and Wright agreed because he needed the money. Of course, he added many of his trademarks to this home. In 1922 the home was damaged by fire, and Wright build the house for a second time. This time, he made the roofs far higher than the original. He embellished the home wood banding and used ground-level ecclesiastical windows.

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    Frank Lloyd Wright's "Bootleg" Homes

    by deecat Updated Aug 24, 2008

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    Thomas H. Gale House, 1892
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    We purchased our tickets and reserved a time for our independent walking tour with audio at the Ginkgo Tree Book Store

    The so-called Bootleg houses were those built between 1892 and 1893 [8 in total] that were similar in style. Wright was under contract with Louis Sullivan who forbid him to "moonlight" independent designs. He disobey this contract and was fired. Our guide told us this, and I later read it in several books. However, Thomas Heinz's 2006 book contradicts that. {"The Vision of Frank Lloyd Wright"] This author says that Wright was not forbidden to do independent work because Wright owed Sullivan money; thus, Sullivan encouraged him to work on his own. Heinz also says that Wright left Adler & Sullivan own his own terms.

    Regardless, here are the so-called "bootleg" homes that Mickey and I saw and that I photographed except for the last one without a photograph:

    #1The Thomas H. Gale House [1027 Chicago Avenue] 1892 is a good-looking Queen Anne-style home that looks like its nearby neighbor, the Robert P. Parker House. Thomas Gale was a real estate investor who built on speculation. It has high-pitched shingled roof with polygonal dormers. Wright seemed to be influenced by his first teacher, Joseph Silsbee. "Wright thought of this home as a small dwelling with inexpensive details". He uses multiple sets of windows that are framed in the Prairie style so the house would be filled with light.

    #2Robert P. Parker House [1019 Chicago Avenue] 1892. It was obvious to us that these Bootleg Houses do not look like the typical Wright home. This is Wright at an early stage as an architect. They seem to be more like the designs from Robert Emmond.
    Thomas Gale sold this home [two doors west of his home] to Robert Parker, a lawyer. This is a two-story turreted by with an entranceway that reflects a restoration that was carried out in the 1900's. Its deep, muted red with dark chocolate brown trim. It, too, has Prairie-style windows. The windows on the 2nd floor are graceful and long. It has horizontal cladding that emphasizes its exterior lines. Like the first home, it is a Queen Anne.

    #3Walter M. Gale House [1031 Chicago Avenue] 1893. This home is a much larger Queen Anne-style. This Gale was a pharmacist and the brother of Thomas Gale [who lived next door]. It had 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms [4,000 square feet and four floors]. This home was one of the last historical style design that Wright did. It uses stripped exterior cladding, a highly pitched shingled roof, a tall, narrow brick chimney, and large, leaded, diamond-shaped windows on the 2nd floor. It has particularly high two-story dormer windows. The porch has spindle railings and no roof, very unusual for Wright.

    #4Francis J. Wooley House [1030 Superior Street] 1893. This was orginally built for a lawyer, Francis J. Wooley. It has a high-pitched, hipped roof that is framed by multiple dormers. It is three stories high. There are rough stone foundation walls. It sits back-to-back with its neighbor on Chicago Avenue, the Robert Parker House.

    It is strongly influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement. I especially like the massive bays on this home.

    So, whether you believe the "bootleg" theory or not, these are certainly great homes that reflect Wright's earliest work.

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    Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple

    by deecat Updated Aug 24, 2008

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    Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple
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    "Unity Temple makes an entirely new architecture...and is the first expression of it. That is my contribution to modern architecture. And that, to me, is modern architecture." Frank Lloyd Wright

    Although I did not personally like the look or "feel" of Unity Temple, I certainly admire the whole movement of change in architecture that this building brought. Ironically, the Unity Temple was one of Wright's personal favorites.

    In 1905, lightning struck the steeple of Oak Park's Unity Church, burning the church to the ground.

    The congregation commissioned young Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new building on a different site on a limited budget [$60,000]. This new location was a noisy corner lot on busy Lake Street. He solved his problem by using cast-in-place reinforced concrete as the structural and decorative material. His design was cubic, which was a bold new direction in architecture, especially for a church. The congregation also requested "no advert religious symbolism." Unity Temple was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971.

    Wright used transparent art glass in doors, windows, skylights, and light fixtures. He also used wood millwork in doors and window frames as well as band of wood on concrete surfaces, in the organ screen, and other appropriate places. The wood is natural Oak.

    For $8.00 adult admission or $6.00 Seniors 65 & over or Students 22 and under, you are able to take a self-walking tour accompanied by a small brochure. That is what we decided to do.

    The only "religious" reference that I remember is found in the carved quote that says, "FOR THE WORSHIP OF GOD AND THE SERVICE OF MAN".

    We started our tour at the architectural model in the entryway. There we learned that the structure is divided into three parts: Unity Temple for worship and performance; Unity House for social activities; and the Foyer Entrance Hall that connects the other two.

    Wright always described the hearth in the Unity House as "the heart of the home" in this social and secular room. It is prominent in the two-story center. Here there are kitchens, balcony classrooms, the minister's study, and cantilevered light fixtures.

    Note that this church is called a "temple" and not a church. The primary space in the church complex is called Unity Temple. It is a generic room. There is wrap-around seating for 400 [in multiple levels]. Behind the lectern, the natural oak grille conceals organ pipes. The Oak Banding seems to bind this area together. The pulpit is the cornerstone of this space.

    PHOTOGRAPHS:
    #1 Outside view from street and through the tree.

    #2 Transparent Art Glass Skylights designed by Wright

    #3 View from the upper level down toward the pulpit and organ

    #4 Unity House Hearth

    #5 Up-close detail of architecture on outside wal. There decorative series of columns just beneath the deep overhangs, he applied one of his earliest uses of MAYAN DECORATIVE MOTIFS.l

    I would have a difficult time going to "church" in Unity Temple. It appears to drab and too sterile for my taste.

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    Ernest Hemingway Museum

    by deecat Updated Aug 24, 2008

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    Ernest Hemingway Museum
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    ...when you have read something by me you actually experience the things. You can't do this without putting in the bad and the ugly as well as what is beautiful. Because if it is all beautiful you can't believe in it. Things aren't that way." Ernest Hemingway 1925

    The Hemingway Museum is run by very enthusiastic people who are more than eager to visitors their beautiful museum. This Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park emphasises Hemingway's origins and the influences Oak Park had on his world literature. "They point out the importance of the written word and the value of thoughtful reading and writing."

    The museum is located less than two blocks from the Hemingway Birthplace. It's important, we felt, to see the home BEFORE seeing the museum. The museum covers his entire life and includes both temporary and permanent exhibits. There are rare photographs, memorabilia from the family, sample writings, letters, and videos. The large movie posters with explanations were quite attractive. However, my favorite part of the museum was in the center of the room in a display that the Smithsonian helped to create. It is just marvelous.

    The museum covers the Oak Park Years [1899-1919: influences of family, school, and the community and how they all impacted his life and his writing.

    Hemingway and the Natural World: How nature and the outdoors showed up in his personal activities and in his writings.

    Hemingway--Eye of the Writer: this area examines the development of his writing style.

    Hemingway's Last War: Here the museum's emphasis is on his experiences as a journalist in World War II as well as the fiction he wrote about those experiences.

    Hemingway and Hollywood: This area, of course, examines the movies that were made of his famous books such as The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls

    Hemingway and the Arts: here one learns about the painters and the musicians that influenced his writing

    As a cat lover, I was also interested in the influence that animals, especially cats played in his life. There is a very small Museum Store with books, collectible gift items, posters, and videos about Hemingway.

    Check out the four photographs from the outside/inside of the museum.

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    Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Indoor Tour

    by deecat Updated Aug 24, 2008

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    Hemingway:  Entrance & Stairs
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    Adults $8.00; Seniors over 65 $6.00; Child 18 & under $6.00; Child 5 & under FREE

    I think, for me, this indoor tour of Ernest Hemingway's Birthplace was the most memorable. First of all, it is quite rare to be able to take photographs as I was able to do here. Secondly, I really enjoyed the tour guide, an efficient, enthusiastic young woman who is from Italy and speaks excellent English. Last of all, I was amazed at all the psychological implications that I discovered about Hemingway's family influences.

    Ernest lived in this home on Oak Park Avenue from birth until he was six years old. When The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park acquired the home in 1992, the home was in disrepair. It had been a rental property with apartments and rooms to rent; most of the original contents were gone. The Foundation raised more than a million dollars which went toward restoration, furniture, draperies, rugs, and artifacts. The restoration has been ongoing ever since its opening in 1993.

    Because the Hemingway family was gone from the community, the Foundation relied on "local historians, the memoir called "At the Hemingways" [his sister Marcelline's memoir], and photographs which Ernest's father had taken when they lived here.

    We were able to tour the entry hall, palor, dining area, library, kitchen on the first floor; we toured the bedrooms and bath on the 2nd floor. The third floor is not renovated yet. This visit made me aware of the day-to-day activities, interests, and influences in Ernest Hemingway's life.

    I was most shocked when I saw a photograph of TWO-YEAR-OLD Ernest holding a shortgun! Since Hemingway killed himself with a shotgun, it had an eerie quality of foreboding about it.

    Photographs:

    1. The entryway and yet renovated steps.

    2. The palor: Note the original fireplace and a photograph on the wall of Ernest's mother, Grace.

    3. The kitchen: The tour guide is in this photograph. What a wonderful job she did!

    4. The bedroom that Grandfather Hall [who owned the house] slept. Note the beautiful windows that point out that this is the turret side of the home.

    5. The nursery where Ernest and his sister Marcelline slept.

    As former high school English teachers, both Mickey and I were fascinated with this "literary giant's" family influences as seen here in his birthplace home.

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    Ernest Hemingway Birthplace & Childhood Homes

    by deecat Updated Aug 22, 2008

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    Ernest Hemingway's Birthplace
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    339 North Oak Park Avenue [439 at the time of his birth on July 21, 1899.]

    Both Mickey and I are retired High School English teachers; thus, we were thrilled to take a tour of Ernest Hemingway's Birthplace and to see the outside of his Boyhood Home. We purchased our dual tickets [Hemingway Birthplace and Museum] for:
    $8.00 for both
    $6.00 for students and senior for both
    Children [age 5 and under] are FREE.

    Thank goodness we took the tour of his Birthplace first, and I would highly recommend doing that because it gives you a real "feel" for Hemingway's background and motivation.

    In this tip, as you can glean from the photographs of the OUTSIDE of the two Oak Park homes that Ernest Hemingway lived in, I plan to discuss his family influences. My second tip about this house shows and describes the INSIDE of his Birthplace.

    The restored 1890 Queen-Anne-style home on Oak Park Avenue was built by his maternal grandfather ["Abba" Hall], and Ernest's mother and father lived here with their children until Abba's death.

    It was Ernest's father, Dr. Clarence "Ed" Hemingway, who introduced him to Bible stories as well as to outdoor life, hunting, and fishing. His mother, Grace Hall Hemingway, introduced him to music, art, and culture. Grandfather "Abba" told Ernest and his siblings many stories from the Bible and stories about animals.. His mother's uncle, Tyley Hancock, lived with them on the second floor and told the children bold tales from his sea adventures.

    So, you can see that his family influences show up in his writings...nature, hunting, fishing, and travel.

    We learned from our wonderful docent that Ernest's mother Grace always wanted TWINS, and so she would dress Ernest and his older sister [Marcelline] identically. On some days, they were dressed as girls and some days as boys. I found this bit of information quite strange.

    He and Marcelline stayed close friends always. Much of the restoration of the home came from the memories of Marcelline and from her memoir, "At the Hemingways, An Age of Innocence" Marcelline and her children donated personal memorabilia to the home such as a huge hall mirror, an Oriental vase, and a small rocking chair.

    Both parents worked out of the home: His father's doctor office was here, and here in the house is where his mother gave piano lessons to 40 students.

    The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park bought the birthplace home in 1992 [and they raised more than a million dollars to restore it.] It was opened to the public in 1993. The foundation has plans to complete renovation of the stairs and the third floor (where Dr. Hemingway kept his collection of wildlife specimens). Right now, however, that area is closed to the public.

    The foundation also owns the home on North Kenilworth Avenue where the family moved after they left his birthplace home. (See Photo #3) It is being rented now to help raise money for its restoration. Ernest lived here from 1906 until 1920 [He left after graduating from Oak Park River Forest High School.]

    This tour was certainly an "eye-opener" for Mickey and I who taught Hemingway's books while teaching high school English classes.

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    Experience a Community Center

    by LauraWest Updated Oct 7, 2007

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    MY BROTHER'S PHOTO

    We knew it as Barrie Playground, when we were only about a block away, as children. I have so many, many memories of the place.

    My brother reports that it hardly is recognizable now. But it still looks like a fun place to visit if you are a child, or have children. It is named after the Barrie who wrote Peter Pan.

    You could relax here and enjoy your picnic lunch, even without a child! Or play a game of baseball. Or go sledding on the reconstructed hill, in Winter.

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    Frank Lloyd Wright Studio

    by LauraWest Updated Apr 30, 2007

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    Wright built his own unique home there with attached architect business, where he & his staff worked. Much original furnishings & insight into his life & family and the architecture studio. The thorough Guided tour is fascinating, with stories you might not hear anywhere else. Nearby you can walk by other homes he designed. There's a tour by them, but you can't go in, or at least you couldn't last Summer, when we went to the Studio.

    An excellent gift shop is attached. The books for sale include some published in other countries, as well as the USA. You can buy Wright-designed home accesories and all kinds of other items. Hard to leave without buying something! Be warned!!

    There's a lovely shady patio, with comfortable seats, right outside the gift shop, which is where you buy tickets for tours, too.

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    Designs by other architects

    by Dabs Written Jun 4, 2006

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    Edward McCready by Robert Spencer, 231 N. Euclid
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    In addition to all the Frank Lloyd Wright homes, there are many other homes in Oak Park that are sure to impress you. The map we bought at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio also had 183 notable works by 25 other architects, 45 of which were marked on the map in addition to the 35 designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The remainder are listed by architect and address.

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    Ernest Hemingway

    by Dabs Updated Jun 4, 2006

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    Ernest Hemingway Museum
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    American author, Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park in 1899 in the house that stands at 339 N. Oak Park Avenue, a modest (by Oak Park standards) Queen Anne style home. You can visit the Hemingway Birthplace Home and the Ernest Hemingway Museum at 200 N. Oak Park Avenue, a combination ticket is $7 to visit both.

    Hemingway lived in Oak Park from 1899-1917, the first 6 years or so at 339 N. Oak Park, then moved to 600 Kenilworth in Oak Park. His childhood home on Kenilworth is owned by the Ernest Hemingway Foundation but is not currently open to the public. You won't find this on the official Oak Park Hemingway website he once said that Oak Park was a town of "broad lawns and narrow minds." He returned to Oak Park briefly after WWI, lived in Chicago briefly during 1920 and 1921 and then left never to return to this area again. He committed suicide in 1961 at the age of 61.

    Some of Hemingway's most famous works include The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises, Farewell to Arms and one of my favorite books For Whom the Bell Tolls.

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    Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture

    by Dabs Updated Jun 4, 2006

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    Peter A. Beachy, 1906, 238 N. Forest
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    The reason why most people visit Oak Park is quite simply to see the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.

    There are several ways to do a tour of the structures that he designed.

    1) Buy a map at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio gift store (cost about $4) and do a self guided walking tour of the area, some of which is in neighboring River Forest. The map points out 35 of his designs and 183 designs by 25 other architects (only 45 of which have pictures and are marked on the map). The map does not give any in depth information on any of the structures.

    2) On the weekends there are 1 hour guided tours given by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust

    3) The Chicago Architecture Foundation has guided tours on foot or by bus. Some of these tours leave from downtown, others require you to get to Oak Park on your own.

    4) The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust has self guided audio tours for rent during the week

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    Frank Lloyd Wright house.

    by Tom_Fields Updated Oct 9, 2005

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    The Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio

    Frank Lloyd Wright was the first to develop a truly American style of architecture. It was a huge departure from the traditional European styles, such as Victorian. Wright's most famous buildings include Falling Water in Pennsylvania and the Gugenheim Museum in New York City.

    A large number of his houses are in Oak Park, more than in any other city. The Frank Lloyd Wright Historic Trust conducts tours of his home and others that he designed.

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