Crain’s Chicago Business: Historian finds two early Frank Lloyd Wright houses have a sibling connection – Foster House

“Two houses from early in Frank Lloyd Wright’s career, built six years and 27 miles apart, have a sisterly connection that was hidden for more than a century, until a Chicago historian unearthed it recently.

A house in Hinsdale that Wright designed in 1894, when he was 27 years old and just starting a solo practice, and a West Pullman house he designed in 1900 were built for sisters. That newly found fact, long obscured by their married names, adds a smidgen to the general understanding of how the future starchitect supported his business in the early years, and to Chicago women’s history.

“I was surprised and I was very excited when I figured this out,’ said Julia Bachrach, a Chicago historian and preservationist. ‘These are some of Wright’s earliest clients, and now we know this family was helping him launch his business when he was young and had a family to support.’

“It turns out that Grace Bagley, who with her husband, Frederick, commissioned Wright in Hinsdale, is the older sister of Almeda Foster, who with her husband, Stephen, were Wright’s West Pullman clients six years later. Both women were the daughters of Leonard and Carrie Hodges, but that connection was hidden by their use of their married names, as was conventional at the time. By the time, decades later, that Wright was big enough for scholars to start researching his work, the connection was likely forgotten.

Barbara Gordon, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, applauded Bachrach’s discovery. ‘Like many architects, Wright often used word of mouth to get many of his commissions,’ Gordon wrote in an email to Crain’s. ‘Julia’s research that uncovered the family connection among (the Hinsdale and West Pullman houses) strengthens their historic significance.’

“Bachrach made the discovery, as historians often do, by pulling on threads. She and historic preservation consultant Jean Follett were researching the history of the Hinsdale house for the couple who bought it in 2021. Follett’s part was to dig into the history of the house, which is not among the canonical Wright works, while Bachrach researched the owners.

“The two houses have little resemblance to one another, and because they’re from the architect’s early years, they also aren’t in the styles he would become famous for, the emphatically horizontal Prairie style or the modern houses filled with textile blocks and pre-Colombian influences.

“Nevertheless, we now know they’re sisters.” (Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 11/28/23)

Read the full story at Crain’s Chicago Business


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