Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Prairie Style House Gets Renamed

This past month North Central College alums celebrated their Homecoming in Naperville, held later in the fall than usual in order to coincide with the college’s 150th Anniversary commemoration. Naperville citizens were invited to join in the party by watching the Homecoming parade or attending musical and theater performances.

Also in honor of the anniversary, new signage was erected recently to identify campus buildings. The Office of International Programs and the Leadership, Ethics and Values Program, which is right across the street from Quigley’s on Jefferson Avenue, not only got a new sign, but also a new name. The college decided to rename the building in honor of NCC alumni and long-time Naperville residents William and Mary Abe.

Before North Central purchased the building, it served as the Law Offices of Knuckles & Jagel. Jeffry and Barbara Knuckles purchased the building in 1985 from Audrey Truitt McCabe whose father had the home built in 1916. McCabe’s father, Dr. Ruliff Lawrence Truitt, commissioned architect Harry Robinson to design the home in the Prairie School style which was popular in the early 1900’s.

Dr. Truitt originally moved to Naperville to assist his half-brother William in his medical practice and Robinson designed the home to include two rooms where the doctor would examine and treat his patients. Robinson was called back into service when the Truitt family needed to enlarge the house, but alterations were also made in later years. The house was granted Historic Landmark status in June of 1990.

The Wright Stuff in the Suburbs

Harry Robinson designed several other houses in Naperville in addition to the Truitt House. After a childhood spent in Mattoon, Illinois, Robinson studied at University of Illinois and worked for prairie-style architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Burley Griffin at different times.

Prairie Style was very popular for homes in the early part of the twentieth century and many of our suburbs still boast some of these houses. Wright’s home and studio in Oak Park offers tours and events throughout the year and you can drive by other houses he designed in Oak Park as well.

Taliesin, Wright’s home in Wisconsin, is actually Taliesin III after the first two homes Wright built on the site burned to the ground.

Wright left his Oak Park home, as well as his wife, to build Taliesin with his new love Mamah Borthwick Cheney. Cheney and her husband had been clients. In the summer of 1914, Wright was working on a project in Chicago. A servant back at the Wisconsin home started a fire at Taliesin and then went after everyone in the house with an axe. Seven people were killed including Borthwick and her two children.

Wright rebuilt Taliesin, but in 1925 a second fire started, possibly due to a lightening storm causing a short in a bedroom telephone.

Visiting Taliesin is a popular vacation event and docents there or at the Oak Park home are happy to tell you more about Wright’s tumultuous life.

Where History Is Happening

Norwood Park Holiday House Tour

Saturday, December 3
11:00am to 4:00pm

The Holiday House Tour features five homes that present a cross-section of the different architecture of the Norwood Park neighborhood. Houses range from the late 1800s to the 1900s, and showcase the many ways homeowners have blended the past and present in their homes. Admission to 5 homes is $20 in advance, or $25 the day of the event. The tour begins at the Norwood Park Senior Center, 5801 N. Natoma Ave., Chicago. Tickets may also be purchased online or in person at Victoria’s Craft Boutique on December 1 or 2.

Legend of St. Nicholas and Holiday Mansion Tour

Sunday, December 11
2:30pm to 5:00pm

Dressed as the English interpretation of St. Nicholas (Father Christmas), Terry Lynch will tell the festive tales and explain the influence this 4th century Bishop has had on the many traditions of the holiday season throughout the world, both religious and secular. (No important secrets revealed!) Enjoy a walk-through tour of the Mansion, decorated for the holidays, hot cider and cookies, and a children’s activity table in the Chapel Lower Level prior to the presentation. $10 per adult, $8 per youth, $5 per Naperville Heritage Society sustaining member and Season Pass holder.