Frank Lloyd Wright’s Frederick C. Robie House is ready to welcome the public following an $11 million project to restore the famous structure back to its original 1910 grandeur.
Built as a private residence near the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus, the Robie House epitomizes Wright’s Prairie School architectural style. The early 20th-century movement drew both its name and inspiration from the Midwest’s flat landscapes and earthy tones. The approach is embodied in the home’s strong horizontal lines, cantilevered roof eaves, and wrap-around leaded art glass windows.
Despite the structure’s architectural significance, the years have not necessarily been kind to the Robie House. Its current steward and operator, the nonprofit Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, enlisted Chicago-based Harboe Architects—the same firm that led the stunning 2017 restoration of Wright’s Unity Temple in Oak Park—to recreate damaged or missing elements and bring it back in line with Wright’s original vision.
After completing repairs to the structure’s exterior brickwork and recreating the front door (the original was destroyed during a student demonstration in the 1960s), the Harboe team turned its attention to the building’s interior.
In the living room, an innovative space at the time for its open floorplan, the team recreated the original c surrounding the fireplace as well as brass sconces and suspended globe lights. The lime-based plaster paint was meticulously returned to its original texture and autumnal color palette of pale yellow, salmon, and ochre.
Several pieces of original Wright-designed furniture, such as the home’s dining table and chairs, were returned to the Robie House—on loan from the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art. Furnishings and ornamentation were equally vital components of Wright’s architectural plans. Their reappearance makes the Robie House once again spiritually whole.
“This restoration has brought back the magic of the house,” said John Rafkin, chairman of the Robie House Restoration Committee and vice-chairman of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust board of directors in a statement. “As proud stewards of the Robie House, we welcome visitors from the neighborhood, city, region, and around the world to share in a unique and profound architectural experience.”
Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin showered praise on the project’s attention to detail and the “architectural symphony” of the finished product. “It’s a masterpiece. The word, often overused, fits. Let’s use it,” he wrote.
In addition to restoring Wright’s vision for future generations to enjoy, the renovation could further the case for the structure’s future status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Robie House—along with seven other notable examples of Wright’s work—is currently being evaluated by a UNESCO committee. That decision is expected in July.
Beginning Friday, the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust will offer 50-minute guided tours of the Robie House as well as a 30-minute self-guided walking tour of the building and the surrounding blocks. Access to the Robie House is also included in the Trust’s upcoming Wright Plus housewalk, scheduled for Saturday, May 18. Additional visitor information is available on the group’s website.