What Came Before Prairie Style

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Oak Park lately, and one of the things I’ve found to be the most interesting is comparing houses of different styles but similar time periods. This is, after all, the neighborhood of Frank Lloyd Wright where the Prairie style was born. Not everyone was interested in the modern direction Frank Lloyd Wright was taking architecture. However, many other architects were pushing boundaries in their own way. Oak Park beautifully illustrates that architectural styles don’t just appear out of nowhere. They are the part of an evolving process of trends.

So today I’m bringing you a few houses that predate Prairie style but have notable similarities that hint at the Prairie style to come. First, a look at Prairie style in all its glory:


The always-stunning Heurtley House (1902), designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Prairie style at its finest!

Note the large hipped roof, the ribbon of windows, and the horizontal quality. Around the same block, three pre-1900 houses give hints of the Prairie style to come. Take a look:


The Simpson Dunlop House (1896), designed by E.E. Roberts.


The Joseph Dunlop House (c. 1897), designed by E.E. Roberts. Joseph Dunlop was Simpson Dunlop’s brother… and neighbor. Are you seeing some interesting trends by now? Because I am! Strong horizontal lines, broad sheltering eaves, and the horizontal window arrangement (well on their way to ribbon windows). E.E. Roberts was prolific Oak Park architect who incorporated rectilinear characteristics in his design, speaking to the Prairie School that was developing in Chicago at the time. These particular houses sit just around the block from, you guessed it, Frank Lloyd Wright, himself.



The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio (1889) may be in the Shingle style technically speaking, but the low and wide gable roof, band of windows, and natural colors all point a new direction from the Stick style and Queen Anne style houses that were popular at this time.

Sources and Further Reading:

If you’re ever near Oak Park, you must visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. I will admit I’m now a proud volunteer at the Home & Studio. I still can’t recommend it enough!

If you’re interested, read more about Prairie style here. In the Chicago area? If you haven’t been to the Robie House, it’s beautiful example of Prairie style.

The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest has a page about E.E. Roberts.




10 thoughts on “What Came Before Prairie Style

  1. Those earlier houses are so beautiful, too, and as you say, with certain features in common. So much of the appeal of Oak Park is the way the houses of whatever style sit in their leafy green surrounds.


    1. Great observations, I agree completely! These houses are stunning but the beautiful greenery of Oak Park adds a quality that you can’t replicate just anywhere. I can see why Frank Lloyd Wright was so inspired to integrate his buildings with their surroundings.

      Liked by 1 person

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