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1893-1920: Prairie Style

A Revolutionary New House Style by Frank Lloyd Wright

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Frank Lloyd Wright transformed the American home when he began to design "Prairie" style houses with low horizontal lines and open interior spaces.
The Frederic C. Robie House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1909.

The Frederic C. Robie House in Chicago is widely considered Frank Lloyd Wright's finest example of the Prairie style. It was built in 1909.

Photo © Luiz Gadelha Jr., Imgadelha at flickr.com, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Prairie style houses usually have these features:

  • Low-pitched roof
  • Overhanging eaves
  • Horizontal lines
  • Central chimney
  • Open floor plan
  • Clerestory windows

About the Prairie Style:

Frank Lloyd Wright believed that rooms in Victorian era homes were boxed-in and confining. He began to design houses with low horizontal lines and open interior spaces. Rooms were often divided by leaded glass panels. Furniture was either built-in or specially designed. These homes were called prairie style after Wright's 1901 Ladies Home Journal plan titled, "A Home in a Prairie Town." Prairie houses were designed to blend in with the flat, prairie landscape.

The first Prairie houses were usually plaster with wood trim or sided with horizontal board and batten. Later Prairie homes used concrete block. Prairie homes can have many shapes: Square, L-shaped, T-shaped, Y-shaped, and even pinwheel-shaped.

Many other architects designed Prairie homes and the style was popularized by pattern books. The popular American Foursquare style, sometimes called the Prairie Box, shared many features with the Prairie style.

In 1936, during the USA depression, Frank Lloyd Wright developed a simplified version of Prairie architecture called Usonian. Wright believed these stripped-down houses represented the democratic ideals of the United States.

Famous Prairie Houses by Frank Lloyd Wright

  • 1893: William Winslow Residence
    River Forest, Illinois. Although this house uses ornamentation in the fashion of Louis Sullivan, it also shows elements of the new Prairie style. The house is a symmetrical rectangle.
  • 1901: Frank W. Thomas House
    Oak Park, Illinois. Widely considered Wright's first Prairie Style house in Oak Park, and one of his earliest uses of stucco.
  • 1902: Arthur Heurtley House
    Oak Park, Illinois. This low, compact house has variegated brickwork with vibrant color and rough texture.
  • 1909: Robie Residence (shown above)
    This Frank Lloyd house in Chicago is widely considered Wright's finest example of the Prairie style.

More About the Prairie Style

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