Hometown Legends of Architecture
Oak Park and River Forest often have been described as “living museums” of American architecture.
The two villages boast a broad cross section of the major architectural types of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and together host the world’s largest concentration of architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and other progressive architects who we now call the Prairie School of Architecture.
Soon after the end of the Civil War, settlers to the area were choosing to build homes and other buildings in vernacular styles and all of the popular styles of the time, including Italianate and Gothic Revival.
By the 1880s, River Foresters and Oak Parkers were hiring architects to execute high-style Victorian designs in the popular Queen Anne and Stick styles.
Public buildings and some commercial buildings were designed in the Richardson Romanesque style. Classical Revival, Tudor Revival, and all the various revival styles began to be employed in local structures as some looked to Europe for architectural inspiration.
But in the first two decades of the twentieth century, local architects created a new type of American architecture on the streets of these villages.
The River Forest Historic District encompasses much of the central portion of the village and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Oak Park boasts three separate areas listed on the National Register of Historic Places and protected by local ordinance: the Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie School of Architecture Historic District; the Ridgeland-Oak Park Historic District; and the Gunderson District.