A History Of Chicago's Robie House In 1 Minute

Robie House | © Dan Smith/WikiCommons
Robie House | © Dan Smith/WikiCommons
Photo of Elizabeth Newhart
21 October 2016

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the most famous people who ever called Chicago home. His influence can be seen across the city and around the world thanks to his innovative design styles at the beginning of the 20th century. The Robie House still stands today in Hyde Park as a reminder of his legacy.

Robie House was designed in the American Prairie style by Frank Lloyd Wright during 1908 and 1909 while he lived and worked at his home and studio in suburban Oak Park. It was built for Frederick C. Robie, a manager at a family supply company on the South Side, and his wife Lora Hieronymus Robie, a recent graduate of the University of Chicago. The couple’s work and social lives made the building site decision an easy one, as they wanted to remain close to the university. The house actually sits within the boundaries of the modern-day campus and remains a major tourist attraction for the area.

Adjusting for inflation, the total cost to build the home and its furnishings would be equivalent to $2 million today. The couple, along with their two children, moved into the house in 1910 and lived there for just over one year – financial struggles forced Robie to sell it after only 14 months. David Lee Taylor, who owned an advertising agency, bought the home and lived there until his death, less than one year later. His widow then sold the home to Marshall D. Wilber and his family who resided at Robie House for 14 years.

Exterior and interior of Robie House, courtesy of

The Wilber family was the last family to live in the home, as it was then sold to the Chicago Theological Seminary. They converted it into dormitories and a dining hall for the students and owned it for more than 30 years. There were several attempts made by the seminary to demolish it and build new dormitories, but the public and Wright himself pushed back against these plans. The city of Chicago formed a new Commission on Chicago Landmarks because of the controversy and declared Robie House a Chicago Landmark on September 15, 1971.

But before this, the home was acquired by Wright’s friend William Zeckendorf, who donated the building to the University of Chicago. Under the university, it was used as the Alumni Association headquarters until 1997. It was then wholly given over to the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, who turned it into the tourist attraction it is today.

Guests can now take guided tours through the home to appreciate the one-of-a-kind architecture. Robie House is currently undergoing cosmetic restorations and structural repairs to return the gem to its original appearance, but tours are still ongoing. Visit Thursday through Monday for scheduled tours that last about one hour in length.

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