Located at the center of the Prarie School Historic district, 301 N. Oak Park Avenue isn’t just a great place to live; it’s a gateway to architectural history. Just a stone’s throw away from Frank Lloyd Wright’s own home at 951 Chicago Ave., tourists are frequently seen taking in the beautiful architecture and scenery of the Oak Park Village. Jealous visitors understand that when you live in Oak Park, you’re living history.
APA names Oak Park’s Historic District to top 10 in the nation
Oak Park’s Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie School of Architecture Historic District has been designated one of country’s 10 Great Neighborhoods by the American Planning Association (APA), an independent, not-for-profit educational organization.
In a statement released last week, the APA said the district was singled out for having the world’s single greatest concentration of residences designed by architects representing the Prairie School style and as a model of smart growth and transit-oriented development.
“On behalf of the citizens of Oak Park, I wish to thank the American Planning Association for recognizing our Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District as one of the top 10 great neighborhoods in the nation,” said Oak Park Village President David Pope. “We Oak Parkers and the tens of thousands of visitors who come here each year to marvel at the architecture in the district have long known we had something special. Recognition by an organization as prestigious as the APA makes it official.
“The Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District has long served as a model for smart growth, sustainability and livability with its connected street grid with alleys and sidewalks, and its transit-oriented design, which were ahead of their time when the neighborhood was first laid out. Since then, creative adaptive use has preserved the historic character of the neighborhood and has helped to keep the area vibrant, attractive and livable for residents, tourists, commuters, bicyclists and motorists alike.”
Since APA began Great Places in America in 2007, 40 neighborhoods, 40 streets and 30 public spaces have been designated in 47 states and the District of Columbia.
“We’re very excited to name Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District as one of this year’s Great Neighborhoods,” APA Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer, FAICP, said in a written statement. “With nearly 2,000 historic properties including the home of Wright himself, the neighborhood is world famous. Equally important is its compact design. Residents don’t have to rely on automobiles to get around given the host of public transportation systems serving the neighborhood.”
Oak Park incorporated in 1902 and developed its first plan in 1925. A Village-wide architectural survey completed in 1970 formed the basis for many community plans and Village actions, including the 558-acre neighborhood’s designation as a local historic district in 1972 and a national historic district a year later.
Wright, who was 21 when he moved to Oak Park in 1889, lived there until 1913. The neighborhood contains 23 buildings he designed or remodeled. Characterized by their horizontal form, low-pitched roof lines, restrained ornamentation and open floor plan, the Prairie-style homes in Oak Park are among more than 1,700 residential and commercial properties that contribute to the area’s designation as a local and national historic district.
The compact neighborhood is served by several train and commuter rail lines and buses, and a multi-modal transportation center is located along the neighborhood’s western edge between Marion Street and Harlem Avenue. A bicycle plan adopted in 2008 envisions every Oak Park resident and destination being within two blocks of a bikeway.
Through Great Places in America, APA recognizes unique and authentic characteristics found in three essential components of all communities – streets, neighborhoods and public spaces. The APA says its Great Places offer better choices for where and how people work and live, and are defined by many things including planning, architectural styles, accessibility and community involvement.