S.174 – Avery Coonley Playhouse,
350 Fairbank Road, Riverside, Illinois
One of Wright’s more famous projects, known for its colorful and playful windows. It is part of a complex of four buildings, which includes the Coonley Residence (S.135), the Coonley Cottage (S.136), and the Coonley Carriage House (S.137).
The Coonley Playhouse is not an expensive toy for the Coonley children. Rather, it was designed as an experimental kindergarten. Here’s how it came about. Queene Ferry married Avery Coonley. Ms. Ferry was part of the Ferry Seed Company family (now the Ferry-Morse Seed Company). The Ferry family was an early supporter of the arts in Detroit.
When Queene went to enroll her daughter in kindergarten in suburban Chicago, the child was rejected because she had not yet reached age 5. Queene – a supporter of early education and a trained teacher who followed the principles of Friedrich Fröbel – decided to create a school for these youngsters to promote early learning and unconventional learning (for example, English would not be taught as a separate course but would be incorporated into other curricula).
Thus, the Cottage School was born. It served out of a small cottage on the Coonley property until the campus was enlarged to include this FLW design. Other buildings on the Coonley property were also used for classrooms and to house teachers. The school continues to this day as the Avery Coonley School at a larger campus in Downers Grove (since 1929).
This building, like the other Coonley structures, now is a private residence.
Photographed on August 6, 2014 and in April 1994.
Project number: T.1201
Frank Lloyd Wright