Isadore H. Heller House Constructed
The Isidore H. Heller House is a house located at 5132 South Woodlawn Avenue in the Hyde Park community area of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, USA. The house was designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The design is credited as one of the turning points in Wright's shift to geometric, Prairie School architecture, which is defined by horizontal lines, flat or hipped roofs with broad overhanging eaves, windows grouped in horizontal bands, and an integration with the landscape, which is meant to evoke native Prairie surroundings.
The work demonstrates Wright's shift away from emulating the style of his mentor, Louis Sullivan. Richard Bock, a Wright collaborator and sculptor, provided some of the ornamentation, including a plaster frieze. The ownership history of this building demonstrates the property's evolution and development in the framework of surrounding Hyde Park buildings, and the building's location in the current community—near other Prairie School architecture—includes this building into the overall body of Lloyd Wright's work. The Heller House was designated a Chicago Landmark on September 15, 1971, and added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 16, 1972. On 18 August 2004, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated the house a National Historic Landmark.
When Lloyd Wright designed the Heller House in 1896, it marked his move away from styles that were popular into an era of geometric and highly modern designs. Wright's design exhibits the influence of Wright's mentor, Louis Sullivan, and demonstrates Wright's move towards Prairie School homes which would epitomize much of his early work. Sullivan's influence can also be seen in the floral pattern of the Richard Bock plaster frieze on the home's third floor, although during the 1970s, restoration work—which utilized sandblasting—destroyed much of the detail on the frieze.
The 26 feet by 98 feet (7.9 meters by 29.9 meters) rectangular house stands 41 feet (12 meters) high and was built with Indiana Limestone, and yellow Roman brick, which emphasizes the geometric and horizontal nature of the home's exterior. The house was constructed on a narrow lot, so the main entryway is located on the side of the building, similar to Wright's Warren McArthur House of 1892. The south side entrance was adorned with Classical detailing and the cantilevered entry lintel, which sits on two ornately detailed stone columns, was decorated with quatrefoils (French: Four leaves) which were set on a stone panel. The front room is not split by a corridor or side hall, making it more spacious.
The Heller House was Lloyd Wright's first work in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, an area that was influenced by the Gothic Revival work of Henry Ives Cobb. The house blends together key elements of Wright's Prairie style and is located within a half mile of other early works. Wright's Robie House is six blocks from the Heller House, and the Blossom House and McArthur House are nearby, in Kenwood.
Many of the Hyde Park houses of Chicago are surrounded by elaborate gardens, and have been the subject of an ongoing neighborhood revitalization since the late 1950s. Hyde Park experienced an explosion of growth after the Township's incorporation into the city of Chicago in 1889, the establishment of the University of Chicago in 1892, and the Columbian Exposition in 1893. The design of the Heller House was unlike any other home in Chicago at the time it was built and was called Wright's most "outrageous" design.
The primary axis of the Heller house is east-west, with its entry on the south side rather than on the street facade. The living room occupies the front quarter of the house. The main hallway runs from the center of the living room past the entry and reception room, with stairs on the opposite side, to the fireplace end of the dining room. To the rear are a kitchen and a servants' dining room. Yellow roman brick is complemented by white stone outside, waxed white oak inside, with plaster "saturated with pure color" in a rough sand finish.
This is among the earliest of Wright's explorations of three-story residence designs. Though there are occasional "finished attics" in some earlier houses, here Wright provides servants' quarters and a large play room. The third story is decorated in sculpted figures by Richard Bock.
Wright also designed alterations at the second level that would have provided for a new bedroom for Mrs. Heller with more windows to both south and north, over the kitchen and servants' dining area. An elevator, rising from ground to attic floor, was installed. No coherent plans of a single date seem to exist, and the available attic plan does not show the house as it was constructed.