If you are planning a trip around Frank Lloyd Wright architecture or Illinois’ National Historic Landmarks, Riverside is a MUST. Out of the 87 sights in Illinois on the National Park Service’s list, Riverside has three. Two of those are Frank Lloyd Wright creations while the entire village is the third. A walking or biking tour is the best way to experience this community and Wrights architecture.
Two families are responsible for bringing Wright to Riverside. The Tomeks for the Tomek House, also known as the Ship House, and the Coonleys for the Avery Coonley compound both renowned examples of Wright at his best.
The Tomek House at 150 Nuttall Road was completed in 1906 and served as the model for the famed Robie House in Chicago. It is well preserved and restored and became a National Historic Landmark in 1999.
The Coonley’s are responsible for several Wright structures and one of only three compounds of Wrights design in the United States. Originally on ten acres of land designed by landscape architect Jens Jensen, the Coonley Estate includes both the residence and the Avery Coonley School Playhouse. This was the first “zoned plan” project of Wright’s and was completed in 1912. The buildings of the compound can be seen from Bloomigbank Road, Scottswood Road and Fairbank Road on the southwest side of Riverside. The playhouse has been both a school and a residence and is noted for Wrights departure from his usual abstract art glass windows. Instead of the usual abstracts, Wright opted for fanciful balloons and American Flags. Both the Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City include original windows from the Avery Coonley School Playhouse in their collections.
While all of these are private residences, a walking or bike tour through the beautiful gaslight lined streets of historic Riverside is wonderful experience.