Visitors who don’t want to hassle with driving in traffic will appreciate the new-as-of-2013 Wright Around Chicago Bus Tour, offered by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust. Conducted on summer Wednesdays and running 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., tours start (and end) at the Rookery downtown then proceed through the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, the Frederick C. Robie House and the Charnley-Persky House Museum. Guides on the bus provide commentary about Chicago architecture; volunteers also lead informative tours at the homes.
At the Rookery, we learned all about Wright’s 1905 redesign of the central light court within this 1888 building, one of Chicago’s early skyscrapers. And at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio (our favorite stop), our guide detailed the development of Wright’s distinctive architectural style. We ate a hearty boxed lunch on the porch of the Robie House before touring the home, built between 1908 and 1910 and considered a masterpiece of Wright’s Prairie style. Robie House is currently under restoration; though the architecture is striking, the home is only sparsely finished at present.
Our last stop was the Charnley-Persky House Museum, designed by Chicago architect Louis Sullivan in 1891 and believed to have been influenced by Wright, who once called this “the first modern house in America.” Now the home of the Society of Architectural Historians, it contains some interesting architectural elements, but feels like a bit of a letdown after the other stops.
Given the price of this tour ($150, including lunch), we wish we’d been able to see some spaces not normally made available to the public—like the third floor of the Robie House. Also, the quality of the tours varies depends on the experience of the volunteer guides. Overall, though, this is a convenient and easy way to learn about Wright’s influence in Chicago.