Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gold Coast Love Nest Slated for Demolition

The buyers of the red brick house at 25 East Cedar Street where Frank Lloyd Wright lived during one of the most tumultuous chapters of his life will tear it down and build a new residence on the site, according to the real-estate agent for the home’s sellers…

One of Frank Lloyd Wright's homes, located on 25 East Cedar Street

The buyers of the red brick house at 25 East Cedar Street where Frank Lloyd Wright lived during one of the most tumultuous chapters of his life will tear it down and build a new residence on the site, according to the real-estate agent for the home’s sellers. The sale closed on Tuesday, and the buyers, not yet identified in public records, paid $1.5 million for the property; the sellers, Gordy and Clari Siegel, had been asking $1.7 million. A Chicago Tribute sign in front of the house notes that Wright once lived in the home, but the place does not have landmark status.

The Siegels’ agent, Kimberly Gleeson of Koenig & Strey, confirmed that the buyers bought the property only for the land. “It’s a nice-sized lot [30 feet by 72 feet] with alley access,” she said. (The norm for a city lot is 25 feet by 125 feet, but most of the lots on Cedar are shallower because of the alley.) Although Gleeson’s listing had encouraged buyers to “own and rehab the historic former studio of architect Frank Lloyd Wright,” Gleeson said that the house needed major work inside. “It was too much of a project for most people,” she said. “I would forewarn them, and they would say, ‘Yeah, we’re up to the task’ and come in—and then go running out like, ‘OK, I’m up for some work, but not that much.’”

Built in 1887, possibly as a coach house for another home, the brick Georgian is nestled between a tall mid-20th-century apartment building and a three-story mansion built in 2007 by George Giannoulias. He is the brother of Demetris Giannoulias, who was the president and CEO of Broadway Bank until it was shut down by regulators last April. (Though George has been widely reported as the owner of the new house next door to the Wright house, documents at the Cook County Treasurer list Demetris as the taxpayer on that house; Demetris owned the lot from 1996 to 2008, when he transferred the deed to a limited liability company.) George Giannoulias’s other brother, Alexi, is the former Illinois state treasurer and unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

Structural damage to the home, allegedly caused by construction to the neighboring building

Although not yet divorced from his first wife, Catherine (known as Kitty), Wright lived in the Cedar Street house for some part of the years 1914 and 1915; his companion for some of that time was Maude Miriam Noel, the woman who, in 1923, would become his second wife. (In August 1914, a disgruntled servant had set fire to Taliesin, Wright’s Wisconsin compound, and axed to death Wright’s then-mistress, Mamah Cheney, and six others.)

Last summer, the Chicago Reader’s Deanna Isaacs and the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin reported that preservationists had protested the house’s possible demolition and alleged that the construction of George Giannoulias’s house had caused irreparable damage to 25 East Cedar. Isaacs reported that the Siegels had discovered sloping floors and visible cracks that coincided with construction. Giannoulias responded that his construction team had taken every step required of them by the city to guard against damage to the neighboring structure.

Gleeson, the Siegels’ agent, would not comment on the particulars of the home’s condition, but she explained that a buyer “would have to redo a lot of the façade and the whole foundation. You would basically keep the façade and rebuild everything else. It would probably cost a lot more money to keep the existing structure [than to tear it down and build new].” Large fissures are visible in the brick of the western portion of the building (as shown in the photo, above). No photos of the interior were offered with the listing, and I have not been inside.

The Siegels had owned the house since the mid-1980s; Cook County records do not clearly show what they paid for it. They moved out in June 2009, according to Isaacs’s article, and put the house on the market in August 2010. I was not able to reach them or George Giannoulias for comment, and the buyers’ agent, Mary Southwick, did not respond to a request for comment.

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3 years ago
Posted by Whatsgoingon

Doesn't anyone have any sense of tradition anymore? Please find a way to save/restore this treasure! We have lost so many already. Unfortunately, people with the $$ to preserve such a classic don't have the vision or heart to. I know this from experience. I bought an circa 1892 condemned home for $3,000, restored it with 48,000 then everyone wanted it.

3 years ago
Posted by emoetria

demolition

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3 years ago
Posted by booblies

Ludicrous!

3 years ago
Posted by Belles Architecture

Everything old is not sacred.
This history of this house is amazing. And I learned something about the master Wright. I think the exterior is cute, but not a "one-of-a-kind" masterpiece. I would like to know what Wright might have done to the place while living here. Any remodels of note? Anything that can be learned from the interior space? If so, I would encourage the dis-assembly of the interior space and a gift to a museum. Without knowing the specifics, my professional OPINION as an architect with Belles Firm of Architecture, is the construction of the home next door had to have some impact on this structure. I am sure the construction "...took every step the City required...". I am not convinced that would have been enough to protect a structure as old as this.
Wish someone had interior photos.
Great story.
http://www.bellesarchitecture.com

3 years ago
Posted by r m kraus/ architect

Mr Kamin, I would say that your article about Wright's house would fit better in the National Enquire than in the Trib . . . . you must have spent a heck of a lot of time digging up that stuff . . . . . . . . . especially about the Greeks.

Here is a sidelight on Wright. A long time ago Wright came to Akron to give a lecture . . . . the Akron AIA thought that this was a big deal . . they sponsored it and paid Wright. The lecture took place in the old Central High School auditorium, a miserable place. I did not attend the lecture, but my partner did. Wright was about twenty minutes into his lecture, berating everything about Akron, when he abruptly quit and walked out . . . . the audience was flabbergasted.

This no lie.

rmkarchitect/akron

3 years ago
Posted by Charles/ American

Another piece of America lost...

Selfish, greedy, explotation, come to mind.

Our chidern will have no past to reference for the future.

3 years ago
Posted by hiparchitectmomof3

1. FLW occupied this building for a short period, he did not design it.
2. There is no evidence that he made an architectural imprint on it in any way.
3. It may have minor historical value as a place, but FLW's presence as a resident does not give it architectural significance. There is a difference.
4. It does a disservice to meaningful preservation efforts (related to truly architecturally significant buildings)when the debate extends to something this banal.

3 years ago
Posted by hiparchitectmomof3

1. FLW occupied this building for a short period, he did not design it.
2. There is no evidence that he made an architectural imprint on it in any way.
3. It may have minor historical value as a place, but FLW's presence as a resident does not give it architectural significance. There is a difference.
4. It does a disservice to meaningful preservation efforts (related to truly architecturally significant buildings)when the debate extends to something this banal.

6 months ago
Posted by David J Gill

The comment above about Wright in Akron is hilarious...and seems to ring true. As much as I am crazy about, Wright he was sort of nuts at times.

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