Wisconsin, once home to renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is still home to an incredible 43 of his buildings. Many of these Frank Lloyd Wright houses and buildings are privately owned, and therefore not open to the public. However, some offer regular tours and the chance to see these historic buildings up close.
Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin, and spent much of his life in the towns of Spring Green and Madison. Throughout his lifetime, Frank Lloyd Wright designed nearly 150 buildings for the state of Wisconsin, though only 60 of them were ever built, and only 43 are still in existence today. To see some of the finest examples of Frank Lloyd Wright houses ever built, come stay at one of our Wisconsin Bed and Breakfasts, and take a trip down the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail. Book your adventure through southern Wisconsin today!
Understanding Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Frank Lloyd Wright, easily considered to be America's greatest architect, was responsible for creating some of the most innovative spaces in the country, thus changing the way we both build and live in the world. Throughout the span of his career, Frank Lloyd Wright designed over 1100 architectural works using his unique aesthetic, and an astonishing 532 of these projects reached completion.
Despite plenty of variation and unique features in each of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses and buildings, they share a common thread: belonging to the American Prairie. Much of southern Wisconsin, and in particular the areas where Wright lived and worked, is situated in the Driftless Region. This area is known for its dramatic bluffs, rolling hills, and beautiful coulees (valleys). This stunning geography is, at least in part, what inspired Wright's organic architectural style.
In what became known as Prairie Style, Wright emphasized a design that reflected the prairies he grew up around. These designs featured low-pitched roofs with deep overhangs, no attics or basements, and long rows of casement windows, all of which emphasized the surrounding low and horizontal prairies of southern Wisconsin and the midwest.
Over the years, Wright's work grew and changed to meet the needs of American Society. In the years following the financial crisis of 1929 and the resulting Great Depression, his architecture took a turn towards more affordable and utilitarian designs. These designs, referred to as Usonian houses, focused on living in simplistic but beautiful surroundings.
Examples of Frank Lloyd Wright Houses in Wisconsin
Since Wisconsin was Frank Lloyd Wright's home, it makes sense that the state dedicated a trail to exploring and appreciating his stunning architecture. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trail was established in 2017 and takes travelers on a unique and interesting self-guided tour around the state. The trail travels through southern Wisconsin, highlighting 9 of the best pieces of Wright's architecture.
- Taliesin is, without a doubt, Frank Lloyd Wright's crowning achievement and most famous building. This stunning 800-acre estate overlooking the Wisconsin River is a must-see for any fan of Frank Lloyd Wright houses. It was originally completed in 1911, but has been reconstructed and heavily renovated, thanks largely to 2 devastating fires. Today, there are 6 tour options at the estate, along with arts and cultural programs, as well as special events.
- The Wyoming Valley School Cultural Arts Center in Spring Green is only 3 miles from Taliesin. It was built in 1957 and was designed and donated by Wright to provide space for workshops, performances, and education for the community.
- Model B1 (aka the Burnham Home) is one of Wright's American System-Built Homes in Milwaukee. These homes emphasized affordability for the typical American family. There were 16 of these model homes built in the area at the time, and there are only 6 still standing on West Burnham Street and Layton Boulevard. This model is open to the public for tours.
- The First Unitarian Society Meeting House in Madison, completed in 1951, is one of Wright's most famous commissions. The building features a pitched copper roof, a deep-red concrete floor, and a prow of interlacing wood and glass. Being a member of the church's congregation, this project was also deeply personal to Frank Lloyd Wright.
- Monona Terrace, a posthumously built design, beautifully frames Monona Lake in Madison. Wright's goal with this design was to create a civic center that connected the shores of Lake Monona with the Wisconsin State Capital. The project wasn't realized until 1997, but it does serve as a popular place for public meetings, community programs, and more.
- The Seth Peterson Cottage is Frank Lloyd Wright's final project, actually reached completion after his death in 1959. This tiny cottage occupies just 880 square feet of space and sits on a wooded hill overlooking Mirror Lake. The cottage was purchased by the State of Wisconsin in 1966 and incorporated into Mirror Lake State Park. It's now offered as a rental cottage.
- S.C. Johnson Administration Building in Racine. The building was completed in 1939 and has been called one of the top 25 buildings of the 20th century. Wright designed every aspect of this building, including the furniture. The Administration Building itself features 43 incredible miles of glass windows. Tours of the campus are free and open to the public and include access to the Great Workroom, Fortaleza Hall, and the Research Tower. The Research Tower is one of the world's tallest cantilevered buildings and houses a replicated 1950's laboratory.
- Located nearby to the S.C. Johnson Administration Building is Wingspread, a Prairie-style home built for the company's third-generation leader. Wingspread serves as a conference center, but it is also open for public tours. Highlights include the home's disappearing dining table, it's teepee-inspired clerestory ceiling, and the cantilevered "Romeo and Juliet" balcony bedroom. The home was built in 1937.
- The AD German Warehouse in Richland Center was completed in 1921 and represents one of his few major public buildings built at the time. It also provides a wonderful example of his work in sculptural ornamentation. This 4-story warehouse once served as storage for sugar, flour, coffee, and other commodities. Today, it houses a small theater and exhibits murals illustrating Wright's architectural works.
Unique Lodging at Wisconsin Bed and Breakfasts
Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Wisconsin is a beautiful journey and one that will take you several days to fully enjoy. Seeing these architectural marvels is certainly worth your time, and will change the way you look at the world around you.
Be sure to spend just as much time off the beaten path as on it, as you gain a deep appreciation for this sensational part of Wisconsin. With plenty of hiking and biking trails to enjoy, breathtaking scenery, and a number of fun attractions and things to do, you'll never be bored. When it's time to relax and unwind, our unique collection of Wisconsin Bed and Breakfasts will be here and waiting.
Start planning your adventure to see these 9 incredible Frank Lloyd Wright houses and buildings. When it comes to lodging, our Wisconsin Bed and Breakfasts await!