A Rare Wright-Designed Row House Hits the Market

For $685,000: Four bedrooms and 4,500 square feet in Frank Lloyd Wright’s only attached townhouse development.

The Robert W. Roloson Row Houses, 3200 block of South Calumet in The Gap.   Photo: Ian Spula

A four-bedroom slice of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robert W. Roloson Row Houses is newly for sale on the 3200 block of South Calumet, just days after completion of the Emil Bach guesthouse. April is shaping up to be a banner month for inner city Wright happenings.

The Roloson Row was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s earliest independent commissions, just one year removed from a litter of “bootleg” works that earned him the ire of boss Louis Sullivan. Roloson was a wealthy grain merchant who set out to develop four city lots in Bronzeville as a typical investment. Thanks to Wright’s involvement, the Roloson Row is anything but typical and stands as Wright’s only attached townhouse collection in a 70-year career.

It makes sense that the pre-modern, urban row house is not a theme the father of American modernism would return to; but he did a damn good job with this typology when called upon in 1894. The intense Sullivanesque ornamentation of each façade’s spandrel panels, exaggerated steeple-like roofline, and the yellow brick on a street of reds and browns add up to serious curb appeal. It looks like a Sullivan work from the street but has Wright’s hand throughout the interiors.

In the for-sale property, these interiors are missing the façade’s uniformity in style and execution. It’s no fault of sellers Vicki and Timothy Crockett: The home was at one point a dentist office, and most original materials were stripped away decades ago. It’s easy to assume the three-level skylit atrium at the center of the home was a reckless move of a previous owner, but the broad central opening with winding main stairs and living area stop-offs on split-levels was an original feature of each row home.

“The home begins with a receiving room, in case you didn’t make it all the way in,” says @properties listing agent Landon Harper. It’s the first of four small living areas, not counting the lower level rec room. There’s a lot of order in the common area layout, but also excess. “The floor plan is the one thing that has never been changed.”

The sellers did a commendable job of replacing the missing trim, lighting, and wooden built-ins to at least conjure an authentic look. The three-and-half bathrooms and kitchen have been tastefully modernized, and the master suite duplexed. It now has a bathroom with cathedral ceilings lofted above the bedroom, accessed by spiral staircase.

This row anchors The Gap community in Bronzeville, a square half-mile of late-1800s gems that stretches from 31st to 35th Streets and Indiana Avenue to King Boulevard. The area just barely dodged the Urban Renewal wrecking ball in the mid-1960s. It’s not hard to imagine the replacement housing that would’ve come in its place—another disastrous iteration of the Robert Taylor Homes, with a 40-year lifespan at best.

The Crocketts are vacating after 17 years in the home. They raised two children here and, according Harper, have reached the natural downsizing stage. Compared with the other three homes in the row, this is a rapid turnover: “Each of the other townhouses has had the same owner for at least 25 years,” says Harper.

Price Points: The property listed for sale April 25 at $685,000.  There are two on-site parking spaces. It’s configured for four bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths (two en-suite), and has roughly 4,500 square feet of living space. So we can add size to the list of selling points. “There’s obviously a lot of buzz with Wright homes and people have been calling with questions, doing their due diligence,” adds Harper. “Sunday’s Blackhawks playoff game probably slowed things down a bit.”

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