Restoring a Masterpiece the Wright Way
A testament to Frank Lloyd Wright’s signature Prairie-style design, the Frederick C. Robie House in Hyde Park is more than a home, it is a work of art. With careful craftsmanship and thoughtful oversight, Bulley & Andrews (B&A) is conscientiously restoring the home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
We recently visited the Robie House, where B&A’s superintendent, Jesse Castleton, gave us a hard hat tour of the project. With the goal of restoring the entire house as Wright originally envisioned when it was completed in 1910, B&A’s current scope of work focuses on the house’s interior spaces.
After researching methods and testing the original materials of the home, historically matching plaster was formulated and mixed from aggregate, sand and lime putty to infill the walls true to their 1910 composition and texture. The team has worked carefully to manage the schedule, factoring in the extended 30 days needed for each coat of plaster due to its unique nature. Light fixtures, selected leaded glass windows and doors, as well as custom built-in hutches and furnishings, were also restored. And in the instance of the custom, Wright-designed bench in the living room, recreated completely. Every detail, down to the home’s ground level floors, is being meticulously returned to its original form. Bulley & Andrews Concrete Restoration (BACR) was brought in to replace the ground level with a form of colored concrete to match as close as possible the home’s original 1910 magnesite flooring.
Great care has been taken to protect the house throughout the restoration. The artistic, leaded glass windows are protected with clear sheeting to ensure the natural light, an integral component of the room’s design, is not diminished. Additionally, B&A installed special viewing windows to allow visitors an up close look at the expert craftsmanship and careful attention to detail required to restore this historic home. The front entry hall, billiard room, main stairway, upper hall, living room and its inglenook have all been restored. With completion expected in early 2019, there is still time to witness the transformation as it happens. To schedule a tour click here.
From the first major phase of the Robie House’s restoration 15 years ago, which included the conservation and restoration of exterior and mechanical infrastructure, to the home’s current interior restoration, Bulley & Andrews has been honored by the opportunity to restore this architectural masterpiece. As Wright himself said, “To thus make of a dwelling place a complete work of art… this is the modern American opportunity.”