ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Nestled in the woods right off Spring Brook Road, in Rockford, lies a hidden architectural treasure – the Laurent House.
Designed in the late 1940s for a disabled World War II veteran, Kenneth Laurent, and his wife, Phyllis, renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright built a beautiful home, decades ahead of the American Disabilities Accessibility guidelines.
Wright is famous for designing over 1000 structures in his lifetime and was especially proud of the Laurent House, showcasing it in his book of the 35 most significant buildings of his 70-year career.
“It is also the only home Wright designed to be completely wheelchair accessible.” said Mary Beth Peterson, Board Vice President and Director of Tours & Volunteers for the Laurent House Foundation, Inc.
The home has been turned into a museum, and is now staged as it looked in the 1950’s, showcasing beauty and practicality.
In the 1940’s, Laurent wrote Wright a letter, asking him to design a home for someone bound to a wheelchair, and on a $20,000 budget (about $276,000 today).
Wright wrote back two weeks later, and agreed to the project, designing a 1,400 square-foot Usonian–Hemicycle style home.
“It’s a style that he’s trying to do, to bring beautiful designs to middle-class Americans,” said Peterson. “So, he’s doing different things to save on costs, in order to be able to do this. Prior to this body of work, Wright’s clients were very wealthy.”
Despite cutting costs, Wright designed more than just the house: he also designed the furniture. As it exists today, all the furniture in the home, except for two chairs, were designed by Wright himself. Even the original orange-green and Cherokee-red color scheme remains in place.
The Laurent House has brought Rockford to the attention of architectural enthusiasts worldwide.
“It’s truly thrilling. We get tour companies from all over the United Kingdom, from Australia, from Japan. We’ve even had a few guests from Italy and China, all around the world,” said Peterson. “And, certainly, all across the country. And they come to Rockford just to see this house. It’s great.”
Reservations are required for a tour. Masks and social distancing are still required and group tours are limited to 6-8 people.