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January 2014
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Frank Wright (Before He Added Lloyd)

Window at Unity Temple

Window at Unity Temple


This week WFMT’s extended arts coverage focuses on one of Chicago’s all-time biggest celebrities—not in the Kanye sense—more in terms of one who transcends a particular field to become an icon of his age: architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Producer Matt DeStefano reports on an exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center focusing on Wright’s early career “Wright Before the Lloyd.”

Matt’s collaborator in the story is Tim Samuelson whose job title is City of Chicago’s Cultural Historian. Matt answers some questions about the feature.

What does the City of Chicago’s Cultural Historian do?
This is from the City’s website: “Samuelson has been the city’s cultural historian for the past ten years, functioning as a one-man office of the Department of Cultural Affairs. His job is that of a spokesperson, consultant, historian and storyteller, a wide-ranging position that requires him “to tell the spirit and the history of Chicago” through exhibits, public programs, and collaboration with other cultural institutions, museums, and governmental agencies. He answers questions, and he does his best to tell the story: what Chicago “is,” and why it is the way that it is.”

What will you see at the exhibit?
Pictures of Wright and his family, and photos/narratives of the first 15 or so years of his career. Also, a fireplace and some intricate woodwork from some of his Chicago row houses.

When FLW took the bootleg house jobs, were the houses particularly distinctive-looking or did that come later?
When Sullivan (of Adler and Sullivan) saw one of them, there was no doubt in his mind about its designer. It’s distinction us what got Wright fired from the firm.

Is it possible to drive around and see many of these buildings?
These still stand today:

Willits House (1901)–first of the great Prairie houses–located in Highland Park

Roloson Houses (1894)–can be toured on Chicago’s South Side.

Heller house on S. Woodlawn

Pilgrim Baptist Church (formerly K.A.M. Temple) walls still stand at 33rd and Indiana Ave.

Charnley House–is now the headquarters of the Society of Cultural Historians.

Wright also worked quite a bit on the Auditorium building.

Check out other WFMT arts features.

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