S.334 – Robert & Elizabeth Muirhead Residence,

42W814 Rohrsen Road, Hampshire (Plato Center), Illinois






The Muirhead residence is known as the only working farmhouse built by Wright. 


The Muirhead family owned vast tracts of farming land in Plato Center in the 1800s.  Robert Muirhead wanted to replace his 1800s farmhouse with something more modern, a house large enough to feed and house five children (and feed farmhands while serving as the headquarters for a working farm).  With a $25,000 construction budget (a fortune in 1950), Robert and Elizabeth Muirhead hired Frank Lloyd Wright.


When Wright’s construction projection hit $70,000, it became apparent the family would need to engage in some hands-on construction to make this promise a reality.  Among the features of the family’s involvement: Robert Muirhead’s hand-cut joints where the cypress meets the brick, individually shaped with a coping saw.  Construction took place from 1951 to 1953.


The Usonian was run by the family as a bed and breakfast in 2003-2005.  In recent years, it has reverted to a full-time family home (with occasional tours) for a granddaughter of the original owner. 


Among the features of this home are an extra-large kitchen (about the twice the size of Wright’s typically small kitchens) to accommodate all the food prep needed for farmhands and family; kitchen cabinets that are nearly floor-to-ceiling; an office/workshop area with a garage door to move farm equipment in and out for repairs; four fireplaces; and window screens that roll up out of sight.  Typical Wright features include piano hinges, heated floors (now supplemented with forced air), and cypress wood trim throughout.  The brick is typical Illinois brick (not specially made), but when renovations were underway they had trouble duplicating the color – until Bob Jr. recalled where the bricks had been unloaded and stored during construction, leading the family to dig in the original location and find 500 to a thousand bricks that had sunk into the soil.  Replacement cypress was a tougher find, though – they eventually found a source in Florida and ordered extra wood for future use. 


The house is barely visible from the road.  It has two access points on either side of the railroad (the former Illinois Central line).  One entrance includes a tunnel under the rails. 


Photographed on May 4, 2014, during tours benefiting the local high school’s band boosters.  Tours are also available by appointment.






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New 06/26/2014