In 2016, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Sherman Booth House in Glencoe, Illinois, celebrated its centennial, and Sonia Bloch had lived in the house for half that time.
When she and her husband, Ted, viewed the home in 1967, they saw past its state of disrepair to its inherent beauty. They snapped up the house and restored and maintained it for half a century, keeping Wright’s original details in good shape and enjoying the landscape he sited it upon. The home has an interesting history and maintains an influence on the town to this day, 150 years after Wright’s birth.
Houzz at a Glance
Who lived here: Sherman and Elizabeth Booth were the original owners. Sonia and Ted Bloch restored and maintained the house from 1967 until recently. Ted passed away, and the house is on the market for $1.7 million.
Location: Glencoe, Illinois
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
Year completed: Stable and caretakers cottage, 1912; house as it stands today, 1916
That’s interesting: Eventually, Wright designed an entire neighborhood on the property, including his first completed bridge. The only other Wright-designed bridge ever built is part of the driveway at Fallingwater.
The height and massing of the home and its roof deck are uncommon for a Wright Prairie-style home, which usually emphasizes the horizontal over the vertical.
Early in his career, Wright designed a number of Prairie-style houses in Glencoe, which has the third-largest collection of Wright-designed structures in the world. Much of the credit for this is due to his lawyer, Sherman Booth, and his wife, Elizabeth.
In 1911, Sherman, who was also a conservationist and founding commissioner of the Glencoe Park District, and Elizabeth, a prominent suffragette instrumental in Illinois granting women the right to vote for president of the United States, tasked the architect with designing the estate. The idea was that the 15 acres surrounding the structures could serve as a nature preserve.
Wright created plans for a large estate house and other structures in 1911, while his friend, iconic landscape architect Jens Jensen, worked on the landscape plans. The stable-garage and a caretakers cottage were completed in 1912. A summer cottage that would serve as housing for the family during construction of the large house was completed in 1913. It has since been moved to another site in town.
A Change in Plans
That large house is another story in itself. Alas, it was never built. In Wright’s office’s renderings, you can see that the site planning is almost as dramatic as Fallingwater’s and that there are architectural moves echoing Taliesin.
Financial setbacks for the Booths caused them to scale back on their dreams for the property. In 1915, they had the land subdivided into a neighborhood, Ravine Bluffs. Wright designed additional houses for the neighborhood that were much more modest than the Booths’ home, as well as sculptural street markers, a train station and a bridge that crosses the neighborhood’s namesake ravine. Five of these homes were built. Meanwhile, Jensen designed the landscape for the subdivision.
The Booths’ belt-tightening resulted in new plans for the house as well. They scrapped the design for the large home that emphasized long horizontal lines perched right up next to and over the ravine. Instead, Wright created a home that related to the ravine via the vertical. He connected the existing caretakers cottage and the stable-garage with a tall central core in the middle to serve as their home. The main core is three stories, and the porch that leads out to the roof deck is the fourth story. The roof deck’s purpose: to look out over the trees to the ravine.