One Tank Trip: Oak Park

June 13, 2008 8:39:42 AM PDT
Ask anybody who lives there and they'll give you dozens of reasons why they love Oak Park. No matter where you live, Oak Park has a variety of things to see and do. And that's why we've included it in our one tank trips.

Oak Park has many claims to fame, from the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright to its acclaim as the birthplace of Ernest Hemmingway. From the collar counties, Oak Park is at most, a 75-mile drive, and once you're there, there's plenty to do. The Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio is where Wright lived and made architectural history from 1889 to 1909.

"It's where he developed the Prairie Style architecture, which is the only true unique American style architecture," said Joan Mercuri, president, CEO, Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust.

As you walk from room to room, you can see Wright's modernism design - a far cry from the Victorian homes of the turn of the 20th century. The rooms are open; they seem to blend. From the windows to the furniture, nature was a big influence in Wright's designs, creating illusions of space is prevalent in many rooms.

In another of Wright's innovative designs, the grand piano is placed under the staircase and held up by a bracket in order to maintain the quality of sound without taking up too much space.

Wright and first wife Catherine raised six children there; and like father like son, John Lloyd Wright was the inventor of Lincoln logs in 1916. Oak Park has 24 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings - more than anywhere in the world. They include Unity Temple, a national historic landmark.

Just around the corner, the Ernest Heminway Museum pays tribute to the Nobel Prize winning author. There you'll see rare photos of Hemingway and other memorabilia showing how life in Oak Park influenced his writings.

"He went off to World War I from here and his residence was in Oak Park during the war, so "A Farewell to Arms" was actually written about events that happened while he was an Oak Park citizen," said Redd Griffin, Ernest Hemingway Foundation Oak Park.

Across the street is the home where Hemingway was born in 1899. The Queen Anne style home contains many original family pieces.

A short drive south brings you to the Pleasant Home, another national historical landmark, designed by Prairie School architect George Maher in 1897. On the second floor are the Historical Society of Oak Park & River Forest and an exhibit featuring another famous author.

"One focus we've had in recent years is on Edgar Rice Burroughs, who wrote the Tarzan stories, a number of them while he was living in Oak Park," said Frank Lipo, executive director of the Historical Society Of Oak Park & River Forest.

Burroughs lived in several different homes in Oak Park before moving to California in 1919.

Your visit to Oak Park is very family-friendly with the Wonder Works Children's Museum. Kids up to age 10 can enjoy hands-on exhibits while learning valuable skills in problem solving and cooperation.

And if you just want some time for a little R&R, you can soak up the beauty of the Oak Park Conservatory. This botanical gem offers fern, tropical and desert greenhouses as well special seasonal floral displays.

Ernest Hemingway Birthplace
339 N. Oak Park Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302
p 708 848-2222 f 708 386-2952
www.ehfop.org

Ernest Hemingway Museum
200 N. Oak Park Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302
www.ehfop.org

Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio
951 Chicago Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302
p 708 848-1976 f 708 848-1248
www.GoWright.org

Historical Society of Oak Park & River Forest
217 Home Ave. Oak Park, IL 60302
p 708 848-6755 f 708 848-0246
www.oprf.com/oprfhist

Oak Park Visitors Center
158 Forest Ave. Oak Park, IL 60301
p 708 848-1500 f 708 524-0446
www.visitoakpark.com

Wonder Works, a Children's Museum in Oak Park
6445 W. North Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302
p 708 383-4815 f 708 383-5730


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