(c) Mark Hertzberg (2016)
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Winslow House in River Forest (1893-94) was the architect’s first independent commission after he left or was fired by Adler and Sullivan. Wright was only 26 years old when he designed the house, but it is one of his masterpieces.
There are elements of Louis Sullivan-inspired ornamentation combined with the beginnings of what became Wright’s Prairie-style work. William Winslow is said to have taken so much ridicule about its unusual design from acquaintances that he changed the route of his normal commute to work. I had the great pleasure and privilege of being allowed to photograph the house yesterday. The house is empty, pending finalization of its sale by the Walker family who have been its steward for 60 years. I will concentrate on my photographic impressions of the house, below, and challenge you to your own adventure of discovery as you research different critical analyses of the house and the genius of its design, rather than present my own architectural critique here.
Unlike many of Wright’s later homes, although there is a door at the porte-cochere, there is also a prominent front door facing the street:
The inglenook, which one encounters immediately across from the front door is one of the signature features of the house. Wright stresses the importance of the hearth by slightly elevating the inglenook to a separate level from the entry way:
The arches, which are echoed in many of the doorways on the first floor, show Sullivan’s influence at the top of the arch, and Wright’s nascent vocabulary at their bottom:
Although Wright sometimes used commercial designs in the next few years, he designed windows at the Winslow House, including the dining room windows, top, and living room, below:
The passageway between the dining room and living room is arched dramatically:
Another famous feature of the house is the octagonal stair tower on the rear of the house. It is a geometric counterpoint to the flat plane of the front of the house and the curved dining room bay windows:
The real visual delight, though, is in looking at the design from above and below on the stairs themselves:
The stable was added at the rear of the property in 1897:
Unfortunately, the original gate across the front of the stable – later a garage with a turntable because many early cars did not have a reverse gear – is gone. Wright did not build even a simple base for the columns that flank the middle of the stable:
I leave you with Wright’s designs flanking the front door: