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Thursday, June 25, 2015 12:13 am

Visit Oak Park, home of Wright and Hemingway

Wright was just 21 when he designed the house he would use as a living laboratory for 20 years.


Oak Park attracts thousands of visitors every year to view the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed houses in the world and to tour the birthplace of writer Ernest Hemingway. A summer weekend is the perfect time to explore this charming suburb, about 10 miles west of Chicago’s Loop.

Start your visit at Wright’s Home and Studio, at 951 W. Chicago Ave., with a guided interior tour. You’ll see the first house Wright designed and lived in from 1889 to 1909, the drafting room where he and his associates created his Prairie-style masterpieces and memorable spaces like his children’s playroom that’s filled with eye-dazzling art glass, a grilled skylight and Japanese prints. Tours are offered every day from 10 a.m. to 3:40 p.m., when the last tour begins. Admission is $17 for adults, and $14 for students, seniors 65 and older, and members of the military. Children age three and under are free.

The historic neighborhood walking tour is a good match for families with children. Available every day from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., the self-guided audio tour begins at the Home and Studio and takes about 40 to 50 minutes. You’ll see the exteriors of several Wright-designed houses in his neighborhood. The audio tour costs $15 for adults and $12 for students, seniors 65 and older, and members of the military. Children age three and under are free. 

The roofs of the Hills-DeCaro house reveal the Japanese influence on Wright’s architecture.


“A great tour for kids who are a little older is the Pedal Oak Park tour,” said Laura Dodd, director of operations and guest experiences for the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, which is responsible for preserving the Home and Studio. “You get physical exercise, you keep moving and you hear the content of each house.” The guided bicycle tour includes the exteriors of 21 Wright-designed buildings in Oak Park and is recommended for adults and children age 12 and up.

Offered on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through September, the Pedal Oak Park tour starts at 9:30 a.m. and takes about two hours. The ride begins in downtown Oak Park at Greenline Wheels at 105 S. Marion St. The tour costs $30 for members of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust and $35 for nonmembers. The price includes the use of one of Greenline’s bikes but you’re welcome to bring your own. The tour runs rain or shine and is limited to 10 people. Reservations for this and other tours are highly recommended.

There’s no proof that Wright ever met Ernest Hemingway, who was a young child when the Wright and Hemingway families lived in Oak Park. However, they may have crossed paths. You can learn about Hemingway by visiting his birthplace and museum in Oak Park, both run by the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park.

The kitchen in the Hemingway birthplace features the original stove and other Victorian fixtures.


Hemingway’s birthplace, at 339 N. Oak Park Ave., is the Victorian family home where he was born in 1899. The knowledgeable docents describe the rooms in detail, as well as the history of his mother’s and father’s families. You’ll learn how his Grandfather Abba encouraged Hemingway’s interest in telling stories and how young Ernest would act out the characters.

Hemingway left Oak Park in 1919 and returned just once, when his father died. The Hemingway Museum at 200 N. Oak Park Ave. contains a wealth of historic photos and artifacts linked to his life and career. The information is organized by periods of his life, such as his love of the outdoors, his interest in journalism in high school, his service in World War I and the Spanish Civil War, and his literary life. The collections are fascinating but be prepared to guide your own way through the exhibits.

Both the museum and Hemingway’s birthplace are open from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Admission includes both locations. The cost is $15 for adults, and $13 for seniors 65 and older, college students and young people 18 and younger. Children age five and under are free.  

The parlor and other rooms of the 1890 Hemingway birthplace have been restored to their Victorian glory.


If you’re staying in downtown Chicago, Oak Park can be reached by the CTA’s Green Line and Metra’s Union Pacific West Line. And if you’re concerned about accessibility, Wright’s Studio, except for the balcony, is accessible to wheelchairs, but the Home is not. Both the Hemingway Museum and his birthplace are wheelchair accessible.  See their websites for more information about accessibility and tours.

For the Home and Studio tours:

For information about the Hemingway sites:

Mary C. Galligan is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago and a volunteer at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. A former editorial writer for the Chicago Sun-Times and former Midwest correspondent for U.S. News & World Report magazine, she alternates writing the monthly IT travel column with Mary Bohlen of Springfield.


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