The Hills-DeCaro House, located at 313 Forest Avenue in Oak Park, has an extraordinary history. This house is part of the self guided Frank Lloyd Wright walking tour that can be seen while visiting Oak Park, Illinois.
The original structure, seen below, was built by architect Charles C. Miller for William Cunningham Gray in 1883. After changing ownership in 1900, the home was moved south of its original location, and rotated counterclockwise… who knew they could do that in 1906. Frank Lloyd Wright was then commissioned to redesign the home, thus creating the Prairie Style home seen above. This was achieved by entirely engulfing the original building, creating a more horizontal vibe, versus the vertical look of the original home.
Completed around 1907, the home was a wedding gift from Nathan Moore, to his daughter Mary Hills . Not fond of the homes ‘stern and austere’ look, she hired a new architect to make alterations, such as extending the kitchen wing to include a pantry and breakfast room, enclosing the rear porch, and adding a children’s playroom under the rear porch.
In 1975 Tom and Irene DeCaro purchased the home and began a diligent restoration with the aid of architect John Tilton. But a fire in 1976 devastated much of the structure, including the entire second and third floors. Following a neighborhood fundraiser, construction resumed, returning the front elevation to its original 1906 design. For their part in the restoration, the Oak Park Landmarks Commission voted to rename the completed structure as the Hills-DeCaro House in 1977.
In 2009, the Smylies, who bought the home in 2001, decided to recreate a portion of the original pergola that had once existed. Subsequent digging uncovered the limestone foundation for the pavilion, while Roman bricks were matched to remnants found near the buried foundations.
I had no knowledge of any of these facts until I did research for this article. All I can tell you is how much I loved the grand, yet elegant proportions of this home when I stood in front of it. I also loved the color palette of the home, which seems to reflect todays current trend of of highly contrasting black and white exteriors. Little did I know when I walked through the alley behind the home, that the gorgeous pergola was fairly recent and a recreation of the original lost many years ago. This kind of love for architecture gives me faith in humanity on the eve of this very nerve racking election.