Wednesday, August 4, 2010
A New Era in Home Design - The Dana-Thomas House
Susan lived with her mother in the family Italianate style Victorian home at Fourth St. and Lawrence Av. Her mother agreed to have the family home remodeled. Susan approached Frank Lloyd Wright to undertake the project. It was completed in 1904. Susan’s mother died in 1905 and in 1913 she remarried—a young Danish baritone concert artist who died unexpectedly a year later. A third marriage ended in divorce.
Wright designed all of the furniture in the home, also the sculptures, and the art class in the windows and doors. He controlled every detail. Both Mrs. Dana and Mr. Wright loved Japanese art. This influence is evident both inside and outside the home. The majority of the furniture didn’t appear comfortable to me and the rooms were dark. I can’t imagine having to navigate the many levels at night with only gas lights or the small electric bulbs of the day.
The costume to the left is something like what women of the day would have worn. Their hats were large and elaborate.
When the cousins who’d lived with Susan for years died in 1928, she moved to more modest quarters. She became a recluse. In 1942 she was declared incompetent by the courts and admitted to a local hospital. Her significant fortune gone, her home and effects were auctioned in 1943 and her home sold in 1944. Charles C. Thomas, a medical publisher, purchased the house and owned it from 1944-1981. They maintained the homes original furnishings and design. In 1981 it sold for one million dollars and became a historic site under the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
I love the "Prairie" style of the Dana-Thomas House. It would be a wonderful place to visit and stay a week, possibly even a month, but I don't think I would want to live there. The craftsman style similar to the "Prairie" home would be a better fit for me. Or, one of Mr. Wright's tract homes. Regardless, the Dana-Thomas Home is a tribute to both the architect and the woman with the insight to build something different. If you're ever in Springfield, don't miss taking a tour.