Monday, August 19, 2013

"A Home in a Prairie Town"

1036 S. Third St., St. Charles, IL, painting

The story begins...c 1910 in St. Charles, IL.  This home, located at 1036 S. Third Street, was built in the Prairie style evidenced by the low-pitched roof and large overhanging eaves.  In fact, the eaves measure 40" wide according to the most recent owner of the home who purchased it in 1956.  Underneath the aluminum sheathing of the eaves can be found the original tongue and groove oak panels. Other elements of the Prairie style are seen in the square masonry that support the porch roof; the window placements and double hung original windows of which some still remain; the one-story wing; and the facade detailing of  banding which emphasizes horizontal lines.

1036 S. Third St., St. Charles, IL, picture from MLS 7/2/13

The Prairie style is one of America's few indigenous architectural styles.  Developed in sympathy with the Arts and Crafts Movement out of England, the Prairie style was a deliberate attempt to develop an American architectural style.  Interestingly, the Prairie style originated in Chicago and was mostly built between 1905 and 1915 and quickly went out of fashion after World War I.  It was actually very short-lived in popularity as far as architectural styles go.  Many of its landmark examples exist in the surrounding Chicago suburbs, in particular Oak Park and River Forest.  Locally there is a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie style c 1906 home in Batavia at 637 North Batavia Avenue which can be seen in the picture below.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed Prairie Style home
637 North Batavia Avenue, Batavia
c 1906--National Landmark Home

The Prairie style earned its name after Frank Lloyd Wright's home design for the 1901 Ladies Home Journal magazine was dubbed:  "A Home in a Prairie Town".  The development of the style was ushered in by a feeling that Victorian homes were boxed in and confining and that the new industrial age with its assembly lines and mass production had lost touch with fine quality craftsmanship as well as resulting in dehumanizing workers.  Frank Lloyd Wright, along with a group of architects who called themselves "The Chicago Group" (now commonly known as the Prairie School) designed this style in relation to the prairie landscape. Low horizontal lines mimicking the prairie were evident in the low-pitched roofs and large overhanging eaves. Built-ins and custom furniture were also part of the style.  Everything about the Prairie style exuded practicality in direct opposition to the ornate Victorian home.  

The good building is not one that hurts the landscape, 
but one that makes the landscape more beautiful than before.  
--Frank Lloyd Wright.

Please stay tuned as I will be updating this blog post with more particular information about the Third Street home as it relates to the history of St. Charles.  One thing that I do know off-hand is that the builder and original owner of the home worked at the St. Charles Cable Piano Factory.  The Cable Piano Company building in St. Charles was built in 1901 and at the height of its productivity employed as many as 500 employees.

Cable Piano Company
St. Charles, IL
Photo from St. Charles Library

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(An Old Irish blessing)

Marian McCoy Boveri
Historic Homes Specialist
Keller Williams Fox Valley Realty


Sources:  McAlester--A Field Guide to American Houses; Wikipedia;; MRED MLS

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