Ohio History Journal

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Frank Lloyd Wright's

Westcott House in Springfield


To investigate the career of Frank Lloyd Wright from 1893 to 1910 is

to examine a period of architectural thought so rich that later historians

would term this era: Wright's "First Golden Age."1 The automobile

and the airplane were two inventions that became synonymous with the

advent of the twentieth century, but no less innovative were the at-

tempts of Frank Lloyd Wright to develop an architecture indigenous to

American life, an architecture that exemplified concepts so radical

that they were to challenge the core of all architectural convention

throughout the remainder of his seven-decade career. Central to an

understanding of Wright's early work is the "Prairie House," his unique

contribution to domestic architecture befitting midwestern America.

The Prairie house is somewhat elusive to define, but there is little

serious opposition to the view that Wright is the originator of the

genre. Isolated examples of Prairie houses can be found as far east

as Rochester, and one even made its way to Montreal, but the flatter ter-

rain and variable climate of the American Middle West held the great-

est fascination for the young architect at this time, and by far the great-

est concentration of these homes is in the immediate Chicago area.

Wright was especially intrigued by the problems of residential building

throughout his career, and many features now taken for granted in

American homes can not only be traced to him, but may in fact be the

results of a concerted attempt to "invent" an architecture that shunned

artifical inspiration, and which owed no allegiance to pre-existing forms

or styles.

Today, many of Wright's early homes have a gripping, almost shock-

ing impact on the observer who attempts to place them in their original

historical context: the streamlined embraces of concrete, stone, or Ro-

man brick; the rhythmic, fluid repose of casement windows that wrap


Stephen Siek is an Instructor in the Music School at Wittenberg University. The author

acknowledges the continued assistance of Mr. George Berkhofer, Executive Director of

the Clark County Historical Society, for aid with research pertaining to the Westcotts and

the social and political history of Springfield.


1. Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Grant Carpenter Manson were two such historians.

Cf. Manson, Frank Lloyd Wright to 1910: The First Golden Age (New York, 1958).