Hi again, fellow roadies! Yes, we know we gave you the spring-summer Route 66 events calendar for northern Illinois just two days ago, but you also knew there would be additions, yes? Of course there are, and so soon.
First, let me mention a must-read on another website. It’s related to our recent post about the Chicago Board of Trade and the death of open-outcry trading at CBOT. Open outcry, a system of trading using hand signals that the CBOT’s earliest iteration invented, will also die soon at CBOT’s sister market for agricultural commodities, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), aka the Merc. A reminiscence of trading at the Merc ran in this month’s Chicago magazine online. Ted Fishman does an excellent job on “What Chicago loses by closing the CME’s futures pits.” Whereas my very brief memoir of CBOT came from a trading floor runner’s point of view, the Chicago mag piece is written from a trader’s viewpoint. Fascinating and sad. Don’t miss it.
Second: Those of you familiar with the works of the late architect and visionary Frank Lloyd Wright know that some of his houses were built in Chicago’s western suburb of Riverside, the edge of which sits astride the original 1926 path of Route 66/Ogden Avenue between Berwyn and Lyons. Well! Surprise, surprise: for the very first time, the Avery Coonley House (built 1908-1910) will be on the Wright Plus housewalk this year, as will its coach house. Yes! The Coonley house is a National Historic Landmark and the house that most pleased Wright himself (he also liked the Coonleys the most of all his clients because they agreed with all his ideas, gave him a free hand, and never complained about the expense; indeed, they were made for each other). There are about 2,500 National Historic Landmarks in the U.S., by the way, and Wright designed 26 of them; that should give you an idea of just how important he was, if you didn’t already know. In addition, there will be extended tours via luxury coach outside the Chicago area the day before and the day after the housewalk, so be sure to check out those if you can possibly afford the tab.
The tour date is Saturday, May 16, and the tickets will probably sell out quickly, so you have to act fast. If, like me, you’ve been dying to see the interior of the Coonley house (the north end of which has been lovingly restored to its original design), this is the perfect opportunity. A word of warning: the original house was divided in two after the estate was sold by the Coonleys, and it isn’t clear whether visitors will have access to the entire house (meaning both sides). But it’s still worth seeing: it’s a masterpiece and was years ahead of its time. Burnham and his successors were still stuck in the ages-old Beaux Arts/City Beautiful mode while Wright was doing groundbreaking work.
Actually, the event should be called a house tour, not a housewalk, because the cost of the tour – which is steep, we freely admit – will include motor coach transportation between Oak Park, where the main part of the tour will happen, and Riverside. Those ticket prices for the Saturday tour are $95 for Frank Lloyd Wright Trust members and $110 for non-members. The tour will be conducted by docents of the trust, which operates the Wright home and studio in Oak Park; the trust also has an office and gift shop, ironically, in the Rookery Building (which was designed by Burnham & Root when Wright was still a nobody hoping to work for Louis Sullivan and which was later improved upon by both Wright and Drummond, each in his turn).
Included in the Riverside part of the tour will be Thorncroft, a house designed by Wright protege William Drummond for the Coonley estate and the teachers who originally taught at the school on the estate’s grounds. Avery’s wife, Queene Coonley, had some highly progressive ideas about primary and secondary school education; she was friends with education reformer John Dewey (yes, the guy who created the Dewey decimal system for libraries; back then, he taught at the University of Chicago). Queene opened a primary school on the Coonley estate that later grew and moved to what is now Downers Grove (it’s still there, still progressive and well respected, and still called the Avery Coonley School). Drummond designed houses for the teachers and support staff, and Thorncroft was one of them.
And that’s it for this update!
Until next time,