The new owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed cottage in the Chicago suburb of Glencoe, Illinois, have formally requested permission to tear down the 106-year-old home, a village official confirmed Wednesday.
Wright, widely considered America's greatest architect, designed the Sherman Booth Cottage, a flat-roofed, one-story frame house, in 1913. It served as a temporary home for Booth, who developed the architect's Ravine Bluffs neighborhood in Glencoe, including Booth's permanent home.
The small house sits on a large lot just west of Sheridan Road. The Chicago-based historic preservation group, Landmarks Illinois, on May 1 placed the cottage on its annual list of the state's most endangered historic places, saying the small structure was vulnerable to a teardown that would make way for a larger home.
If the Booth cottage were to be demolished, it would mark the second time in two years that a building by Wright had been torn down.
Last year, a Wright-designed building in Whitefish, Montana, was destroyed after negotiations over a possible sale fell apart. Designed by Wright in 1958, the Montana building was originally a medical clinic and later converted to a bank and professional offices.
A Wright-designed beach house in Grand Beach, Michigan, was torn down in 2004. It was the first Wright building since 1973 to be destroyed.
The Booth cottage, at 239 Franklin Road, sold for $555,000 earlier this month. The buyer was listed as 239 Franklin LLC. In the demolition permit application provided to the Tribune by Glencoe officials, the contact person for the owner was identified as a Jean Yang, but other personal information was redacted.
The cost of demolition was listed as $10,000.
Jordan Lester, Glencoe's deputy village clerk, said Wednesday that the application for a permit to demolish the cottage was incomplete. However, the village has no legal recourse to prevent the demolition.
Glencoe has two types of landmark status – honorary and certified. The Booth cottage is an honorary landmark. The village can review demolition plans for such a landmark but it does not have the legal power to prevent demolition, Lester said.
Preservationists consider the Booth cottage significant because it anticipated Wright's later, low-cost Usonian houses.
"Unfortunately, this lamentable event is indicative of the lack of enforceable strength embodied in the historic preservation ordinance in Glencoe," said Eddis Goodale, president of the Glencoe Historical Society. "Despite the laudable efforts of the Glencoe Historical Society, the Glencoe Historic Preservation Commission, preservation-minded local residents, and national Frank Lloyd Wright organizations, the loss of this Wright structure is a body blow to the architectural pedigree of Glencoe."
In an online alert posted Wednesday, Landmarks Illinois said that once the demolition permit is complete, a 180-day delay period will be triggered.
Wright, who died in 1959, practiced in Chicago and Oak Park in the early phases of his decades-long career. His masterworks include Oak Park's Unity Temple and Chicago's Robie House, both recently restored, as well as New York's Guggenheim Museum.