Glencoe, Illinois (population 8,723) is home to the world’s third largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures: seven houses, a concrete bridge and three sculptural markers are located in the Ravine Bluffs subdivision with two larger, individually built homes, nearby. Wright also created numerous unbuilt designs for the community. His first Glencoe home was built in 1905; his last in 1916. Together these structures illustrate important features of Wright’s prairie-style architecture. They represent an oft-forgotten – and frequently misinterpreted – body of Wright’s work.
Inspired by the centennial of Ravine Bluffs, the Glencoe Historical Society (GHS) set out to discover the truth and set the record straight about Wright’s work in Glencoe. GHS volunteers created a project budget (which doubled the annual GHS operating budget) and then stretched the talent of its membership even further by performing all fund-raising, graphic design, web-design, exhibition installation, and programming in-house.
Programming for “Wright in Glencoe” included a ground-breaking exhibit featuring original research into the heretofore unknown collaboration between Wright and Jensen; a public art project, “Wright Around Town,” creating 15 half-scale fiberglass replicas of the Wright-designed Ravine Bluffs markers; a family educational event, “Play Wright,” commissioning a custom LEGO kit of the demolished Wright-designed train station; a “Wright in Glencoe” Housewalk presenting a curated tour of Ravine Bluffs and docent guided tours of four Wright-designed homes, including one never-before-open to the public ; a series of programs by architects, historians and dedicated homeowners highlighting the work of Wright, Jensen and Booth; a centennial gala celebration auctioning the public art markers; and a continual yearlong presence in the community through public displays.
“Wright in Glencoe” not only achieved the GHS mission; it transformed it. Since its founding in 1937, GHS focused largely on “identifying and preserving” materials that came through our doors. Volunteers had little time for original research and many had doubts about its efficacy. How could anyone find something new about things that happened so long ago in such a small community? GHS learned from “Wright in Glencoe” that in order to find your history, you have to go look for it, and when you do, amazing things can happen.