N 41° 53.723 W 087° 47.381
16T E 434493 N 4638461
Quick Description: This was the Commission that led to the beginning of the end of the Prairie phase of Wright's career and life in Oak Park.
Location: Illinois, United States
Date Posted: 7/15/2007 10:40:59 PM
Waymark Code: WM1VTG
This house is more famous for its people than its design. It was this commission that precipitated the celebrated love affair between Mr. Wright and Mrs. Cheney that climaxed in 1909 when they abandoned their respective families for "exile" in Europe. This life-is-stanger-than-fiction chapter of Wright's life culminated with the ax murder-suicide of Mrs. Cheney and her two children by a crazed servant at Taliesin in Wisconsin.
The Cheney house is a superb brick house with an intimate quality. This is partly because the main living area is elevated and obscured behind a walled terrace on the street side. The partially sunken lower level was originally designed as a garage, but the city council vetoed it over concerns of gasoline fumes catching the house on fire. The lower level was re-designed as a separate apartment for Mrs. Cheney's sister. Most recently the lower level was divided into two B&B suites. Special features include art glass window and lamps. In addition to a few original pieces, the current owner has turned the house into a personal FLW museum with a broad array of FLW-designs such as a Midway Gardens table and chairs on the terrace, FLW books and FLW videos galore.
Everyone should have the opportunity for an authentic Frank Lloyd Wright experience and ours was here in July 2001. I have heard many stories of how many Frank Lloyd Wright buildings have leaky roofs and just as many cavalier quotes from the master himself on why that is so. But it wasn't until our stay at the Cheney house B&B that we had experienced it first hand.
We were awakened by an early morning thunderstorm and the sound of running water. I ran out of the bedroom to find water streaming across the rafters and cascading onto the Wright-designed dining room table. We used all of the towels in the house to mop up the water and threw them in the bathtub. Upon closer inspection it was clear from water damage to the ceiling that this was not the first time that this has happened. We also noticed that the gutters around the perimeter of the house were down. In discussing the situation with the current owner he described that he wanted heavy duty bracing installed on the gutters when he was having them repaired but was overruled because that wasn't how Mr. Wright designed them.
The Cheney house is no longer operated as a B&B, apparently because the neighbors were not very happy about it. As Ernest Hemingway once characterized his hometown Oak Park, "Broad lawns and narrow minds."
Year Completed: Designed 1903
Commissioned By: Edwin Cheney and Mamah Borthwick Cheney
Nearest City or Town: Oak Park, IL
Tours Available?: Not Listed
Website: Not listed
There are no specific visit requirements, however telling about your visit is strongly encouraged. Additional photos of the building or house to add to the gallery are also nice, but not required. Pictures with a GPS or you in them is highly discouraged.