This is one of two “twin” homes developed by John Gauler, a meat cutter who engaged architect Walter Burley Griffin to design the buildings. They were built on an urban lot (67 feet) in 1908 and are the expression of the ideals and tenets of the Prairie School of architecture. Research on these homes was done by a student of Paul Sprague of the University of Chicago in 1968. These homes were designated as Chicago Landmarks in 2000.
Burley Griffin was a native of Maywood, Illinois. After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1899, he worked as a draftsman for a group of architects called “the Eighteen.” Among those in the group were Dwight Perkins, Myron Hunt, Robert Spenser and Webster Tomlinson. Through Tomlinson he was offered a position in Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio in Oak Park. Burley Griffin had passed the certification exam for architecture in Illinois in 1900 and was a welcome addition to Wright’s firm. In 1906 he formed his own firm.
These homes were one of the earliest commissions for Burley Griffin in his new firm. When completed, Gauler sold the homes to Henry Jones (5921) and Rev. George Elliott (5917). The actual construction of the buildings was done by A.W. Dickenson. The homes are mirror images of each other except for some details. They share an entrance walk. Both are constructed of wood with stucco finish. Dark Brown wood trims the structures which emphasize the horizontal and make them outstanding on this neighborhood street of two- and three-flats.
As you approach the front walk, note the wide overhang of the roof and the spacing of the support piers so that the corners are open for wrap around windows. The pitch of the roof is low so that the view from the front shows the porches to be miniatures of the façade of the whole house. The front porches feature ribbon windows along the sides with wooden mullions in a distinctive prairie school geometric design. This design is distinct from the Frank Lloyd Wright designs of stained glass with leaded mullions. These porches project forward from the main body of the house. The windows are casement windows trimmed in dark brown.
The entrance to this home is in the original configuration so there is a sheltered area at the front door. There is an air lock provided to keep the cold out in wintertime. The brief hallway opens into the large living room. The room features built-in book shelves and a built-in cabinet under the row of front windows. On the opposite wall is a fireplace built of Roman brick with an additional opening in the dining room around the corner. Above the fireplace is a hand lettered poem by Gerald Massey.
The space is in what is called an open plan with no wall dividing the living room and dining room. This is a very early use of this type of free circulating space that Griffin originated, though Wright took the credit. It has been used widely in more modern construction. The ceiling of the living room is defined by wooden strips that create sections to the large space.
Off the living room is the doorway to the large front porch which can be used as a relaxing room in the mild weather. The original flooring was wood but this has been covered by linoleum. The room is not rectangular because of the design of the corners.
In the dining room two wall sconces appear to be original. Windows face the rear yard. Glass block was also used in the dining room in a vertical space that was originally a built-in china cabinet. From the dining room to the kitchen there is an original door. The compact kitchen has new cabinets and new replacement windows looking out to the central walkway. A previous owner had replaced the original windows with glass block to make the room more private. The current owner returned the windows to their original design. They purchased the home in 1959. A doorway returns you to the front hallway and then to the second floor.
The staircase is unique with many landings and turns. The space is open to the living room but is separated by a kind of wooden screen in the Prairie design. The second floor is not open to the tour this year, but this description was in the 2004 Home Tour booklet:
The home originally had four bedrooms. Two of them were quite compact and in this home these back rooms were enlarged by the removal of a tiny corner porch. The flooring is maple. In the hallway to the front there is a built-in linen cabinet. There is one full bath with basket weave tile floor.
The front bedroom is the combination of two bedrooms into one. The wife of one prior owner was an invalid and he had this room rearranged. One doorway was removed.
Return out the front door. Take note of the interior doorknob on the front door as you leave.