A unique piece of Frank Lloyd Wright history is still seeking a buyer after two years on the market in Riverside, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The 1912 Avery Coonley Playhouse—originally a private schoolhouse on the estate of industrialist Avery Coonley and his wife, Queen—was among Wright's first important commissions following his return from Europe in 1911. Yet, just a few years after its completion, the Coonley's hired architect William Drummond to convert the structure into a single-family residence, as it remains today.
Wright designed the structure to contrast many vertical elements with dominant horizontal forms, merging it all together with finishes such as tinted plaster on the walls and rough sawn cedar wood trim. Yet, it's the building's colorful stained glass windows that steal the show. Known as Wright's "kinder-symphony" windows, the modernistic composition of circular and square shapes conveys elements of a children's parade—balloons, confetti, and flags—and are considered to be the architect's most important window design.
The current owners, Ted Smith and Susan Shipper-Smith, significantly restored the home since purchasing it in 1980. ''We bought it out of love and blindness,'' said Susan in a 1987 interview with the Chicago Tribune shortly after completing initial renovation projects. Massive structural issues burdened the house, including the removal of five inches of roofing material to fix leaks. False walls and other inauthentic features were removed from the interior, along with yards of grass cloth and mirrors from the walls. The couple also re-plastered the walls to match the original tinted finish.
After nearly 40 years owning the property, Smith and Shipper-Smith are ready to move on. The couple first listed the two-bedroom, two-bath home in 2018 for $800,000, recently reducing the price to $650,000. While some areas of the home are modernized, further renovations may be needed.
Yet, what the home may lack to some it makes up for in space and location—offering a 3,500-square-foot floor plan and and a prime lot in Riverside, the masterplanned neighborhood designed by iconic landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Keep scrolling to see more.
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