Day 21, Sunday, August 5, 2018
In addition to being the land of Lincoln, Illinois has another famous man who made a name for himself in these parts 50 years after Lincoln died – Frank Lloyd Wright. He lived in a suburb of Chicago, but his designs were far reaching, with homes in Pennsylvania, Arizona and probably every state in the nation. Springfield has a Frank Lloyd Wright home that has been incredibly preserved; the Dana-Thomas House.
Mrs. Susan Lawrence Dana lived in an Italianate mansion that had been her parents’ home; she hired Frank Lloyd Wright to remodel the home between 1902 and 1904. It is truly stunning, and a home that stays very true to Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style. Mrs. Dana married, but her husband was a bit of a dud and she ended up divorcing him; she never had children, but she was quite a philanthropist and set up a school of sorts to teach black neighborhood children at a time when education for the poor residents nearby was not a priority. These children had fond memories of Mrs. Dana and spending time in her home library, where they could read, check out books, or play with toys.
In her later years, Mrs. Dana’s finances suffered, and she became ill with dementia. As a result, her home and belongings had to be sold to pay for her debts and her care. At that point, the Mr. and Mrs. Charles Thomas bought the home as a complete lot and lived there until Mrs. Thomas’ death in 1975. Their estate sold the home to the state of Illinois in 1981 for $1 million, which was considerably less than they could have gotten had they parceled out all the furnishings and sold the home separately.
The state of Illinois offers home tours for a $10 suggested donation for adults, only allowing small groups on the tours to prevent damage to the home and furnishings. It is incredible. No detail was missed, and the home has been remarkably preserved over the years. When Mrs. Dana had the home remodeled, one room was left in the Italianate style as a tribute to her parents; it is a contrast to the prairie style of the rest of the home, and interesting to see this dark, heavily decorated room in the center of the home.
Interestingly, Mrs. Dana was allowed to choose her own knickknacks and artwork to decorate the home; often a requirement of working with Frank Lloyd Wright was that he was in charge of all of your home décor, and you didn’t get much. That vase on the sideboard had to be selected by him, if you were permitted a vase at all. It goes without saying that I would have not been allowed to commission his work, being the collector that I am.
I really enjoyed this tour, although the tour guide wasn’t the warmest or friendliest person in the world. I often wonder why people like that take jobs guiding tourists around, if they are sure to be unhappy in the role. I snuck in right before the tour started, so I watched the movie about the history of Mrs. Dana and the home afterwards; be sure to check that out.
No photos are permitted inside (this seems to be true for all the Frank Lloyd Wright homes that are open to the public), so I did buy a guidebook that has photographs of the interior.
After my tour, I headed down to try out a Springfield microbrewery, called Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery. Obed &Isaac’s is located in a historic home that is located on the property of Obed Lewis, a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln – Lewis’ three children played with Lincoln’s children. Unfortunately, the Lewis home had lost its historic charm over the years with numerous remodels, and the owners made the difficult decision to raze the home.
They then purchased the Isaac Lindsey home, another Lincoln era home in Springfield, and moved it to the site. While they were drawing up plans, they realized that it was too small, so the Isaac Lindsey home was converted to a coffee house, and the Booth-Grunendike home was finally the one that was converted into the Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery. They really, really wanted to save a historic home!
At Obed & Isaac’s, I had the Strawberry Blonde seasonal ale, and their chicken and waffles. They were excellent and it gave me the energy for more touristing!