Frank Lloyd Wright home featured in Doors Open Milwaukee

Home was built 100 years ago

One of Doors Open Milwaukee's most popular sites is an 805 square foot home off of Historic Layton Blvd. on Burnham St. It was designed by Wisconsin's own Frank Lloyd Wright 100 years ago.

Curator Mike Lilek, who grew up just four blocks away from the home, says it's an example of the American System Built Homes.

"We're on what we call the Burnham block, and the Burnham block is a cluster of six homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright," Lilek said.

Deceptively modern looking, model B1 was built in 1916. There are two other examples on the block, model C3 on the corner of Layton Blvd and Burham St. and four two-flat homes on the west end of the block. However, model B1 stands apart.

"It's the only one of its kind known to exist in the entire world," Lilek said.

The homes were meant to be mass produced. You could pick out a home from a catalog, chose from several different features that would make it more unique, and the pieces would be packed up and shipped to a rail station closest to the place that you wanted to call home.

Wright and his business partner, Arthur Richards, envisioned this project going worldwide.

"He had, in his mind, housing every American in a beautiful space," Lilek said.

However, in 1917 the United State entered WWI, effectively putting an end to the project. By the time the war ended, Wright had already left for Japan to work on the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

"What we have here, though, are the prototypes of what Frank Lloyd Wright had in mind for the entire country," Lilek said.

Model B1 is a prime example of Wright's architectural style. He wanted to connect the home with nature and draw the family together.

"Mom and dad working to take care of the family on their own," Lilek said.

American homes were moving away from the Victorian style toward something more efficient. Almost every wall in a Wright home shares space between two rooms, making smaller homes feel bigger than they were.

"One of the things that people always say when they come to visit the house -- I could live here," Lilek said.

So make sure you put this architectural wonder on your list of stops for Doors Open Milwaukee, this weekend.

"It's all right here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin so we're just proud as heck of it," Lilek said.

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