Frank Lloyd Wright Moves Practice to Steinway Hall

Wright moved out of the Schiller Building and into the nearby and newly completed Steinway Hall Building.

The loft space was shared with Robert C. Spencer, Jr., Myron Hunt, and Dwight H. Perkins. These young architects, inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement and the philosophies of Louis Sullivan, formed what would become known as the Prairie School. They were joined by Perkins apprentice, Marion Mahony, who in 1895 transferred to Wright’s team of drafters and took over production of his presentation drawings and watercolor renderings. Mahony, the first licensed female architect in the United States, also designed furniture, leaded glass windows, and light fixtures, among other features, for Wright’s houses. Between 1894 and the early 1910s, several other leading Prairie School architects and many of Wright’s future employees launched their careers in the offices of Steinway Hall.

Wright’s projects during this period followed two basic models. On one hand, there was his first independent commission, the Winslow House, which combined Sullivanesque ornamentation with the emphasis on simple geometry and horizontal lines that is typical in Wright houses. The Fancis Apartments (1895, demolished 1971) Heller House (1896), Rollin Furbeck House (1897), and Husser House (1899, demolished 1926) were designed in the same mode. For more conservative clients, Wright conceded to design more traditional dwellings. These included the Dutch Colonial Revival style Bagley House (1894), Tudor Revival style Moore House I (1895), and Queen Anne style Charles Roberts House (1896). As an emerging architect, Wright could not afford to turn down clients over disagreements in taste, but even his most conservative designs retained simplified massing and occasional Sullivan inspired details.

History would see Steinway Hall become more famous for the occupants of its top two floors. Frank Lloyd Wright joined a group of inventive architects, including the builder of Steinway Hall, Dwight Perkins. There they created the center of Chicago progressive architecture and formed the beginnings of Wright’s Prairie School movement.