S.179a - The River Forest Project
(Clinton Place and William Street)
River Forest, Illinois
It is no surprise that houses are newly attributed to Wright even after all these years. Recordkeeping was not always precise, and the measure of his involvement in the works of others from his office cannot always be calculated. He may have approved initial designs, but others may have made changes he would not approve. Work carried on when he was out of the country, and sometimes apprentices’ contributions overtook the Master’s.
Some of these “recent finds” are uncontroversial, such as discoveries of modified prefab designs. Others, like these houses in River Forest, generate a hive of controversy in which absolute proof is impossible and theories (speculation?) might have a difficult time in a court of law. Of course, the origin of a design ordinarily does not become a legal issue, so the controversy is limited to college classrooms and Wright chatrooms.
Thus we find the homes on Clinton Place and William Street, identified to an unconvinced jury of peers as being designed by Wright himself. Many in the architectural community credit Harry Robinson as the designer, and regard these homes as “bootleg” designs while Robinson was employed by Wright. Prof. Storrer, however, has identified these as Wright designs with common elements, many being mirror images of each other, based on interior details that suggest FLW, Lloyd Wright, and John Wright. This causes additional concern: if we have to rely on interior details to define a Wright design, how often will we have the privilege of entering and measuring private residences?
Prof. Storrer rejects the theory of Robinson design, arguing that Robinson never took credit for this output when applying for government work. Others point out that Wright never claimed them, either. Storrer counters that Wright must have agreed to keep his name off the paperwork, due to his reputation during this time. I will point out that his blatant womanizing never kept him humble or sympathetic to clients’ feelings (heck, he even took a client’s wife).
Other sites have mentioned these properties, but without a lot of details. They have largely avoided a comprehensive list of addresses (some don’t even mention the city). Without concluding which side is correct, I offer the neighborhood here.
Prof. Storrer’s 4th edition of his catalog groups these homes under the catalog number S.179a and identifies original owners. Their catalog numbers are grouped based on the basic design (there are ten basic designs). Those designs were reversed, flipped around, or otherwise modified to make each house look unique. I have organized them by address, though.
Photographed on May 5, 2014.
Clinton Place – all claimed to be Wright
S.179.43a – Harry Hogan model house, 609 Clinton Place
S.179.24a – Clark H. Sherman Residence, 625 Clinton Place
William Street – all claimed to be Wright
Only one house on this block of 26 structures has not been claimed to be Wright’s – the corner house at 706 William. Our tour begins on the even side of the street.
S.179.11a – N.N. Souther Residence, 710 William Street
S.179.21a – R.N. Fellows Residence, 714 William Street
S.179.31a – F.W. Collins Residence, 718 William Street
S.179.12a – M.F. Russell Residence, 722 William Street
S.179.41a – W.C. Gaddis Residence, 726 William Street
S.179.22a – A.E. Olson Residence, 730 William Street
S.179.51a – L.E. Murphy Residence, 734 William Street
S.179.32a – Dr. I.A. Toren Residence, 738 William Street
S.179.13a – Samuel Wilson Residence, 742 William Street
S.179.52a – S.R. Flett Residence, 746 William Street
S.179.61a – S.D. Roberts Residence, 750 William Street
S.179.42a – E.G. Wheeler Residence, 754 William Street
754 William Street (details)
S.179.72a – J.J. Willis Residence, 755 William Street
S.179.73a – D.H. Davis Residence, 751 William Street
S.179.X0a – C.J. Burras Residence, 747 William Street
In May 2018 a permit was issued by the village to allow demolition of this home and the house
S.179.93a – F.J. Hinckley Residence, 743 William Street
S.179.63a – C.J. LaMena Residence, 739 William Street
S.179.71a – Frank Winters Residence, 735 William Street
S.179.82a – W.H. Gordon Residence, 731 William Street
S.179.91a – P.W. Hazelton Residence, 727 William Street
S.179.92a – W.C. Rohray Residence, 723 William Street
S.179.81a – Roy Iverson Residence, 719 William Street
S.179.62a – G.G. Towers Residence, 715 William Street
S.179.23a – F.R. Donahue Residence, 711 William Street
S.179.14a – McClintock Residence, 707 William Street
In 2015 one of Prof. Storrer’s associates announced that another house had been identified by his staff as a Wright design. Although they did not disclose the precise address, I was able to determine that they are referring to the James Heald house at 715 Clinton Place in River Forest – a block from the previously identified houses on Clinton. Despite the confidence with which this discovery was announced, this particular property was not included in Prof. Storrer’s 4th edition and Prairie School Traveler reports that Prof. Storrer now regards this as a Lloyd Wright design.
It should be pointed out that this area is loaded with prairie style architecture from many architects (including Wright apprentices). In 2013 the Village of River Forest Historic Preservation Commission issued a report cataloging all historic properties in the community. That report continued to credit these “newly discovered” Wright homes to Harry Robinson – including this new find at 715 Clinton Place (photographed on March 29, 2016).
James Heald House, 715 Clinton Place
Attributed to Lloyd Wright by Prairie School Traveler website
Just to show how confusing all of this can be, here is a neighboring house that is not claimed to be a Wright design. The prevalence of prairie designs by various architects (including former Wright apprentices) can boggle the mind:
719 Clinton Place – not claimed to be by Wright – attributed to John S. Van Bergen
The white house to the right is 715 Clinton Place