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The Restoration of This Frank Lloyd Wright Home In Chicago Is A Triumph

Experience the Emil Bach Home intimately by booking it for your future Chicago getaway

The preservation of homes is a cultural endeavor worth embarking on.  Faithfully restored places tell the history of a place and a culture: their values, their customs, and the material culture that was bred from these.  Architect Louis Sullivan and spiritual founder of American Modern Architecture expressed this well when he said, “Architecture reflects us as truly as a mirror.”  As much as we celebrate new efforts in architecture, we also look to the past to commemorate successful examples of architectural preservation.  In honor of this architecture visionary’s birthday, we look at the Emil Bach Home by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Emil Bach home was built in 1915 in 7415 North Sheridan Ave., Chicago, IL.  Now known as the area between Loyola and Northwestern Universities in the Rogers Park neighborhood, it has pretty much kept its residential nature, with schools in its vicinity. Up the street is the St. Scholastica Monastery on Ridge Boulevard, which used to share a campus with the progressive all-girls’ Catholic school, St. Scholastica Academy, and just a little south of this address is the Sacred Heart School belonging to the exclusive network of Catholic girls’ schools and Hardy Preparatory School for Boys.  The home is barely a block away from Jarvis Beach, a quiet beach that counts a slice of Lake Michigan in its frontage.  The drive up Sheridan Road is a long and scenic drive, peppered by beautiful homes that will take one all the way up to the affluent suburbs of Evanston and Wilmette and Kenilworth.

At the turn of the 20th Century, affluent Chicago homes were still marked by Victorian sensibilities where each room had its own purpose.  Frank Lloyd Wright, who practiced in Chicago for the first twenty years of his career, truly had eloquent ideas that broke this mold.  His Prairie Style architecture for residences was characterized by its horizontal lines, an open plan, a blurring of boundaries between the exterior and interior, a flat roof, elements of the landscape flowing from the exterior and the interior and a sense of compression and release that was expressed in the intentional right angles in the home’s plans.

It is worth noting that when Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Emil Bach House, the many adventures in his career would still be in his future.  Some of these are the homes in LA that were made of concrete and the Imperial Garden Hotel in Japan.  This time was a transition period for the architect, and many consider the Emil Bach Home as his last Prairie style home.  At this time, too, the city of Chicago had just grappled with its recovery from “The Great Fire,” and hence, the architect explored ideas of “The Fire Proof Home” with the Ladies’ Home Journal where he released plans and specifications for a fire-proof home that anyone can build in the neighborhood of USD 5,000.00.

The original owners of the Emil Bach Home were heirs of the Bach Brick company in Chicago.  They commissioned the architect to design and build a home for them with a budget of USD 10,000.00.  Documentation from the Bach heirs and the preservation trust reveal that letters were exchanged between the architect and his clients, explaining why the home will exceed the budget, owing to the quality of the contractors’ work and the built-in furniture that was included in the house

In 2005-2009, Jane Feerer owned the Emil Bach Home which she found with 70’s looking bathrooms and lighting.  Some of the details have been lost through time.  With the help of Taliesin West, she got a hold of the original plans, and through the Bachs’ grandson, Owen Bach, the original specifications of the home were given to her.  The original paint specification, “Sunshine,” was discovered in the original contractors’ notes, but nobody had a clue what that meant, given the array of yellow paint colors now available.  It took a chip from the original walls found through City Historian Tim Samuelson, a long-time resident of Rogers Park, to confirm its hue and the kind of plaster that was used before. 

When it was time for Feerer to leave Chicago, the home was taken over by Colonel Jennifer Pritzker, CEO of Tawani Enterprises.  Its restoration continued in her hands, with Gunny Harboe, FAIA as the restoration architect. The Emil Bach House is now an events venue and a hotel where you can stay.  One of the best parts about having restored it to its original conditions is that people can now experience it as it was meant to have been used.  The home’s inglenook has been reconstructed, and the second floor’s porch which became a bedroom in one of the home’s earlier versions, is now back to its original condition where one can truly experience the connection of the outdoors to the indoors.   A detailed listing of all the restoration efforts can be found here.

Some of the features that have been added in order to take the home to the present times are a geo-thermal system and some contemporary furniture whose materials and colors are suitable to Frank Lloyd Wright’s “organic architecture.”

Wayde Cartwright conducts a walk-through of the home here:


A Frank Lloyd Wright Masterpiece Is Up For Sale—Here’s How You Can Make It Your Home!

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