Dana-Thomas Residence (1902)

Springfield, Illinois
HW #163

The house was commissioned by Miss Dana, a socialite who inherited a large sum of money from her father. With the financial flexibility and encouragements from the client, Wright was able to design one of his most elaborate prairie-style houses in his early career. She used the house mostly for entertainment, inviting prominent guests throughout her life. The copper-looking eaves is green plaster (although it looks like copper), made with square repetitive formwork. The plaster, not resistant against the elements, had deteriorated but was restored with a newer varnish that is more resilient. The top “art room” where Miss Dana used to display her Japanese art, is an open, barrel vaulted space. The only other instance where Wright used a barrel vaulted ceiling is in his own home in Oak Park. The basement wine cellar contains a narrow hallway in Cherokee red plaster, forming the bowling alley. The hallway has an arched ceiling, with deep window cuts on each side to bring indirect light into the dark space. Previous to Wright’s design, an Italian house sat in its place, where Miss Dana grew up. One room from the original house was maintained. The recurring butterfly motif may have originated from the lining in the original fireplace of their old house. Circulation encircles the open double story space, leading up to small resting points, and a large art room. In certain instances, the flow of space is induced by the space between the wall and the ceiling. The darkness of the house is compensated by tall spaces, open floor plan and art-glass windows so to not appear too small or like a dungeon. The house holds one of the original pair of lamps that is now worth $1.8 million. The awe inspiring dark, double story reception space, butterfly-motif light fixtures, continuous circulation overlooking the open spaces and its overall elegance made this one of my favorite prairie-style homes.

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