Over the weekend I had the distinct pleasure to tour what must be one of the most beautifully restored and little known Frank Lloyd Wright houses.
Located about 75 miles due west of Chicago in the idyllic country town of Plato Center, Illinois is the Robert Muirhead Farmhouse. It has the distinct honor of being the only Wright designed structure for an actual working farm, and as such, it displays some unique qualities that make it stand out from many of the other Usonian houses. The house is incredibly long, thanks in large part to the 30ft corridor between the dining/kitchen/workroom area of the house and the living quarters. This feature helped separate the bustling activities of feeding farmhands and running a farm from the rest of family life. Originally designed by Wright as an open-air corridor, Betty Muirhead quickly had that part of the plan altered so that the Muirhead children wouldn’t catch their death of cold walking between the living quarters and the dining area of the house in the middle of an Illinois prairie winter. At a story and a half, it has possibly the largest kitchen of any Usonian, with plenty of natural sunlight filtering in from above. The cypress-paneled bedrooms are cozy and accommodating, with the master bedroom having a large brick fireplace (one of three found in the house).
Today, the house has just finished an extensive and breathtaking restoration and is now open as a bed and breakfast. The current owners of the house, Sarah Muirhead Petersdorf and her husband, Mike Petersdorf have painstakingly restored every aspect of the house, including building Wright designed furniture that had never been executed. Much of the surrounding farmland was recently sold to the Kane County Forest preserve and will be returned to natural prairie, making the house a truly modern expression of a “home in a prairie town.” As I toured the home with the Petersdorfs pointing out the details of the house and its restoration, I was overwhelmed by how magnificent the final result was and what a moving experience it would be to stay overnight in such a wonderful setting.
I would highly recommend visiting and staying a night or two in this Wright gem. The warm surroundings and equally warm hospitality make it an experience not soon forgotten.
Photo courtesy of Muirhead Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast