Frank Lloyd Wright Home Looking for Owner

March 26, 2010

There is a Frank Lloyd Wright house with a colorful past is for sale, and a group of local activists are hoping to turn it into a museum. The price tag: A cool $1,982,982.

This Frank Lloyd Wright home in Kankakee is an architectural beauty that could be converted into a museum.

The B. Harley Bradley House, 701 S. Harrison, Kankakee, is located on the banks of the Kankakee River and considered by some experts to be Wright’s first Prairie-style home. It is one of the city’s most expensive properties.

Located next door to another Wright-designed home, the Bradley house is situated on one acre of land along with about 250 feet of river bank, and has a concrete dock platform and a fully restored carriage house.

The 6000-square-foot architectural masterpiece showcases Wright’s revolutionary style of flow between spaces. Ceilings vary in height, the floor plan is open and rooms merge into each other. There is a riverfront sitting area, a massive stone fireplace, seven bedrooms, two laundry rooms, a horse stall off the carriage house and more than 100 art glass windows.

These Wright-designed windows were sold by auction on Tuesday for $15,000.

Two of those iconic Wright windows from the dining room were sold decades ago and, on Tuesday, the leaded-glass pair sold again at Christie’s art auction house in New York City for $15,000.

Designed by Wright in 1900 for B. Harley and Anna Bradley, the estate has had many owners throughout the century. In 1915, it was Joseph Dodson, president of the National Audubon Society, who converted the stable into a bird-house factory.

In 1953, it was Marvin Hammack and Ray Schimel, two former U.S. Military cooks who converted the home into a successful restaurant called Yesteryear.

In 1983, it was purchased by Richard Murray and Bradley Hockholder, and within three years raccoons started eating away at the roof, the restaurant failed and several art glass pieces and Wright-designed fixtures had to be sold, including a desk that was bought for $176,000 by Barbra Streisand.

In 1986, the estate was bought by Stephen Small, a well-known local business man and heir to a news media fortune. He saved the roof and began restoration on the home but, in 1987, was kidnapped for ransom and placed in a box in a wooded area outside of Kankakee. The box had inadequate ventilation, however, and Small died before the ransom was delivered.

Ceilings throughout the Wright home vary in height and form.

Small’s widow sold the property and, in 1990, a group of lawyers and an architect converted the Bradley House into an office complex.

In 2005, Sharon and Gaines Hall, an architectural professor at the University of Illinois, bought the home with hopes of saving it. By the end of the year, the dilapidated stable house was restored to its original design.

The couple has paid more than $1 million for the restoration of the B. Harley Bradley House, which was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

The Halls put the home on the market last year with no success. In move-in condition, the Bradley House is in the residential Riverview Historic District but is zoned commercial.

Now, a non-for-profit organization called Wright in Kankakee wants to turn the house into a museum and education center.

The activists, who say a portion of the house could be rented out as office space, have raised around $70,000 and need another $100,000 by June for a down payment. They believe a museum could bring in more than $600,000 a year. Their goal is to acquire, restore and preserve the B. Harley Bradley House and Stable, as well as the Warren Hickox House, the Wright-designed home located next door.

Maybe they’ll even raise enough to bring those two windows back to their rightful home.

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