Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Finally Saw It: The Susan Lawrence Dana House

Every time I have traveled to Illinois, which is more than I can even remember, I have said that I should go to Springfield to see the Dana - Thomas House.  Finally, I did just that on this trip.  My only mistake was not allowing more time to visit the city.

When I set out from home I had one plan in mind: drive to Springfield, see the home, and drive Route 66 back to Chicago.  But once I arrived, I discovered that there was much more to see than I had planned.  I already mentioned visiting Lincoln's home.  I also visited the Presidential Museum.  But I missed touring the Capitol, Lincoln's law offices, the old Capitol and the cemetery where Lincoln is buried.  Plus it was ninety degrees there and I was melting while walking around the City.

Now to my visit to the home.  Susan Lawrence Dana was the only daughter of a wealthy family.  Her father was Mayor of Springfield, but had been quite the investor.  When he died in 1901, he left her $3,000,000.  She decided to take about $60,000 of that money and have Frank Lloyd Wright build a new home around the family's home in Springfield.  Yes, I wrote that right.  The old Italianate home was standing when Wright began construction around it and the new home maintains the walls and fireplace of the old library.  (photo from Dana-Thomas House Foundation)

Wright created one of his Prairie homes totaling 12,000 square feet plus a stable/carriage house, which as now used as the Visitor's Center.  I was fortunate enough to arrive around lunch time and ended up having a 'private tour'.  And a good thing that was.  When I got down to the lower level with the bowling alley, I was thoroughly turned around, but I was thoroughly impressed.  There are 16 different levels in the house!

A video points to Wright's four greatest creations:  Dana-Thomas, the Guggenheim in New York, Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, and Robie House in Hyde Park, Illinois.  I can now say that I have visited all four.  Here are some photos:

The front door.  Notice that there in no 'path of discovery', it is just front and center.

The view from across the street:  I couldn't get far enough away to get the full picture (other than standing on someone's roof), so see it here.

The back side:

The side view with the Master Suite upstairs:  (oops, I just learned that 'master suite' in politically incorrect.  It is now called the 'owner's suite'.  So, what is it called if I am a renter?  GMAB)

The Carriage House:  The round portion was the exercise area for the horses, now used as the gift shop.

The home is very impressive by today's standards.  Imagine what it was like in 1902.  If you are interested in visiting, visit the site online for information.

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