Digital Storytelling and Visitor Analytics for City and Cultural Institutions
Frank Lloyd Wright designed incredible and innovative homes across the Midwest in the early 1900s, but your only chance at living in one was to be incredibly rich. That is, except for six families on the 2700 block of Burnham Street in Milwaukee, who bought homes built as a short-lived experiment to "elevate" the aesthetic standards for low-income homeowners. Wright was looking to address the problem of affordable housing with this experiment. The results were the application of Wright's affordable, spacious homes in a block of homes, a unique example not seen in Wright's work across the Midwest.
Starting in 1915, Wright worked with Milwaukee real estate developer Arthur L. Richards to develop the "American System-Built Home," which sold for the equivalent of $60,000 in 2019's money. But since Richards never actually paid Wright in full for his work, the partnership fell apart and Wright's small-house architectural movement never took off. Watch a video by the Chicago Tribune that showcases the homes and their unique history:
Even after more than a century of wear and tear, these homes still retain Wright's iconic style, in large part due to the efforts of the nonprofit organization Frank Lloyd Wright's Burnham Block, which has bought and is working to restore four of the homes to their original designs.
The Burnham houses offer a chance to see Wright's idiosyncratic style of design on a smaller scale, one that's easier to relate to. Curious about Wright's shot at fixing small-home living? Burnham Block offers tours of two of the homes.
Header photo by Wikipedia user Freekee.