Illinois' Tourism Trail For Famed Architect Frank Lloyd Wright The trail links more than a dozen Frank Lloyd Wright-designed properties. It takes visitors from the hustle and bustle of downtown Chicago to quiet spaces in the more rural reaches of the state.
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Illinois' Tourism Trail For Famed Architect Frank Lloyd Wright

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Illinois' Tourism Trail For Famed Architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Illinois' Tourism Trail For Famed Architect Frank Lloyd Wright

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Visit a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and it'll get you thinking. You'll think about how the architect envisioned people living at home. It could even get you thinking about what matters in a home. Some of Wright's works are in Illinois, which designed a tour of 13 of them. Here's reporter Sarah Jesmer.

SARAH JESMER, BYLINE: I'm standing in the middle of Chicago, right off of Lake Michigan. The city is a hub of famous architecture, and people come from all over the world to see it.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We also have replica chairs in many of the rooms.

JESMER: This is the Robie House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Thomas Hoeddinghaus came from Germany with his family to tour the South Side property. He first learned about the American architect after hearing a Simon and Garfunkel song.

THOMAS HOEDDINGHAUS: I asked myself, who is this Frank Lloyd Wright? I have never heard this name before.

JESMER: The Robie House is a two-story brick house-turned-museum. The stained-glass windows and oversized roof make it stand out amongst the businesses and university buildings that surround it. The property and 12 other sites are part of a new self-led tourism trail through the state.

HOEDDINGHAUS: I know many things about this house, many details. But it's amazing to see it with my own eyes.

JESMER: The trail links Frank Lloyd Wright properties from Chicago down to Springfield. It takes visitors down back roads lined by classic red farmhouses and rolling prairies. It stops at the Pettit Chapel in Belvidere Cemetery. Sam Larson is the sexton.

SAM LARSON: We've had a couple weddings there. One of our first ones since I've been here was a couple that met on a Frank Lloyd Wright website.

JESMER: The chapel has large, thick windows and a porch that's almost as big as the room itself. It sits among elaborate tombstones and marks the cemetery entrance.

LARSON: There's a lot of upkeep to it, you know? He did not design his buildings to last.

JESMER: Larson says most people that come to the Pettit Chapel for private tours also visit Wright's Laurent House down the road in Rockford.

(SOUNDBITE OF CARS PASSING)

JESMER: Stacey Macchi and her family are standing outside the home waiting for a tour. Macchi says they were drawn here after seeing Wright's studio out west.

STACEY MACCHI: The way that we just loved being at Taliesin West and just the sheer genius of the way that his architecture comes to life - so I'm excited to see that but with the accessibility factor.

JESMER: Everything in the house, from the furniture to the countertops, is built to be low to the ground. The home was designed specifically for Ken Laurent, a paraplegic veteran. There's no attic or basement. The entrance is sheltered by Wright's signature overhanging roof.

MACCHI: I'm not seeing a garage here, though. I mean, for being in northern Illinois, I'm not seeing a garage. And that this is an accessible house, I would've thought that there would have been a garage.

JESMER: The backside of the building is made of windows stretching from the shallow ceilings down to the red tiled floor. The design blurs the lines between nature and architecture. Jerry Heinzeroth and his wife own the home.

JERRY HEINZEROTH: When you see how this house is sited on the grounds, it's as if it's always been here - as Wright said, out of the ground and into the air.

JESMER: Illinois officials say the self-guided tours coincide with Wright's 150th birthday, which passed in 2017. For architecture fans who still haven't had enough, they'll find another Frank Lloyd Wright trail through Wisconsin.

For NPR News, I'm Sarah Jesmer.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: We incorrectly identify Jerry Heinzeroth and his wife as the owners of the Laurent House. The property is owned by the Laurent House Foundation. Jerry Heinzeroth is a founder of the foundation and currently serves as president.]

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