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A new owner seeks to do Wright by a 120-year-old West Pullman house

The purchase furthers the goal of preserving and restoring the work of one of the world’s most celebrated architects, Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Foster House and Stable designedtFrank Lloyd Wright at 12147 S Harvard Ave in West Pullman, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times
The Foster House and Stable, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, on Harvard Avenue in West Pullman.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

A Frank Lloyd Wright home in West Pullman that had languished on the market for more than three years has now been bought, which is encouraging news for the Far South Side and overall efforts to preserve the famed architect’s Chicago area work.

The 120-year-old Stephen A. Foster House and Stable, 12147 S. Harvard Ave., had been up for sale since April 2017. Chicagoan James Glover, who plans to live in the home with his mother, snapped up the Chicago landmark earlier this month after it dropped down to the near fire-sale price of $145,000.

“It’s hard to touch a Frank Wright for less than about a million,” Glover told Sun-Times reporter Madeline Kenney. “So I feel like we got lucky on this one.”

Our hope is that the purchase will write a new chapter for the Foster House, a largely intact residence that — owing to its age, rather than outright neglect — is in need of repair. Glover said he plans to be a “conservator” of the home as he makes the necessary fixes.

Built in 1900 as a summer home for Foster, who was an attorney, the residence remains visually striking, even in its current state. Japanese design influences give the home a deeply pitched roof, quite different from the well-known horizontal, Prairie School style homes and buildings Wright created during the time.

The house, which sits on nearly a quarter acre of land — unique for Chicago — is one of only two designated city landmarks in the century-old West Pullman neighborhood. The other is the former West Pullman Elementary School, 11917 S. Parnell Ave, built in 1894 with additions in 1900 and 1923. The imposing red brick building is now senior citizens’ housing.

Glover’s purchase is also the latest good step in the preservation of Wright-designed houses. Arguably the most famous architect of the 20th century, Wright is as celebrated as the designs he created, such as Hyde Park’s Robie House, the cylindrical Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Fallingwater home in Mill Run, Pennsylvania.

But while Wright buildings are celebrated for their unique designs, their notoriously high repair and restoration costs have been known to scare away potential buyers. This has left some of the architect’s homes vulnerable to loss.

For instance, the Wright-designed Millard House in Highland Park was actually slated for demolition in 2015 until a couple from the North Shore suburb bought and restored the 1906 Prairie School-designed home. The residence was resold last month for its asking price of $950,000.

And the Glencoe Historical Society last July saved Wright’s 1913 Booth cottage, a modest 1,700-square-foot residence, from demolition by buying it and moving it to a public park within the village.

Given the importance of Wright’s visionary designs both locally and internationally, we’re happy to cheer on every worthy effort to save his work.

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