Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture: The Stephen Foster House; 1900

In 1867 in Richland Center, Wisconsin; a little baby boy named Frank Lincoln Wright was born. Eventually, he would grow, change his middle name to Lloyd and become one of the most influential architects in America to date. By the time the Stephen A. Foster home was built, Wright would have begun experimenting with various shapes and designs as well as new influences. The Stephen A. Foster house does not feature many of the qualities associated with Wright’s developing Prairie style, however it does feature many different Japanese influences; which is surprising to many, as it was designed before Wright had ever visited Japan.

Early Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture: The Stephen A. Foster Home in Chicago, Illinois

The Stephen A. Foster home, also referred to simply as the S. A. Foster house, is located in what is now known as the West Pullman neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. When the home was first built in the area in 1900, it was nestled in an open prairie area with woods. This was intentional, as the house’s owner, Stephen Foster, a local Chicago area attorney, wished to be able to ride his horses through the open prairie area.

In 1893, Wright became interested in and began studying Japanese architecture at a local exposition. During this time, he also began collecting Japanese prints. His interest in Japanese culture and architecture started appearing in his designs, especially in those that were built during the year 1900. Homes that showed a slight Japanese influence include not only the Foster home, but also the B. Harley Bradley house and the Warren Hickox house, both located in Kankakee, Illinois.

Aside from Frank Lloyd Wright’s modern Prairie style influences, which can be seen in both the low, broad chimney and the eaves, there are several Japanese influences throughout the home. The most prominent of which can be identified even by those who are unfamiliar with Japanese architecture and include the corners of the dormer windows jutting from the roof as well as the posts for the gate and fence surrounding the home. These influences, though relatively small in the home overall, are extremely important to the evolving style that Frank Lloyd Wright would eventually become famous for.

The Stephen A. Foster Home Today

Today, the Stephen A. Foster home is among one of the few Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built houses within Chicago city limits. As of 1996, it is also a Chicago Landmark. Though it is a Chicago Landmark, it is still a private home and therefore visitors should respect the privacy of current and future owners.