Couple makes sure Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home will stand the test of time
Village board unanimously adopts ordinance that awards home designed by famed architect protection from demolition
Peter and Ellen Van Vechten considered their surroundings a call to action.
In their 20 years of residency in Glencoe, the couple said they have seen about one honorary local landmark destroyed each year.
They couldn’t let it happen to one special landmark: their home.
The Van Vechtens are the owners of 1023 Meadow Road, a Glencoe home that was designed in 1915 by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The husband and wife closely followed several public meetings earlier this year considering the relocation and preservation of the Sherman Booth Cottage, another signature Glencoe property designed by Wright.
When the local couple heard some neighbors question the value and longevity of Wright-designed structures, they knew it was time to ensure the long-term preservation of their home.
They submitted a landmark application earlier this year , and Glencoe’s Village Board approved the request during its Thursday, Nov. 19, regular meeting.
“It’s been said that you don’t own a Frank Lloyd Wright house, but you merely act as its steward for the time that it’s under your watch,” Ellen Van Vechten said during the Nov. 19 meeting. “We have tried to be good stewards of the home, but we realize that without landmark certification, we cannot protect the home after it leaves our hands.
“We do not plan to sell the home at any time in the foreseeable future. But if we should ultimately decide to sell, even our best intentions would not be sufficient to protect the property.”
The certified landmark status grants the home the highest level of protection and ensures that it will not be demolished. All exterior modifications to a certified landmark must be approved by Glencoe’s Historic Preservation Commission, said Jordan Lester, management analysis for the Village of Glencoe.
The Van Vechtens’ home is one of nine properties in Glencoe designed by Wright. Glencoe currently has the third largest concentration of Wright’s residential work, behind only Chicago and Oak Park.
According to the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservatory, Wright designed hundreds of homes over the course of his 70-year career. His work is traditionally cherished and he is widely considered the greatest American architect.
Village documents show the home is part of the Ravine Bluffs subdivision, which was originally created by Wright and Jens Jensen for the Booth family.
Documents detailing the history of the subdivision say it’s the first subdivision Wright built and is currently one of the most intact subdivisions of his remaining.
Peter and Ellen have owned the home since 2000, but it was not until recently that they considered applying for landmark certification.
“For many, what we have here in Glencoe is a point of pride for our community,” Peter said. “We have been considering landmarking our house for some time; however, I didn’t see it as an urgent issue because it seemed quite unimaginable that someone would tear down a Wright structure here in Glencoe. However, recent events have changed my thinking.”
With landmark status now approved, the Van Vechtens hope the local piece of history will remain in place for years to come.
Ellen told the board the couple’s purpose in applying is to “ensure that the home is protected from demolition and preserved in perpetuity as part of Wright’s body of work and as part of Glencoe’s rich and unique architectural legacy.”
Village President Lawrence Levin, and several trustees, applauded the local couple’s efforts.
“I think you have blazed a very important trail and I thank you both for your excellent leadership and for putting your home up to become a certified landmark,” Levin said.
Glencoe now has 10 certified landmarks within village limits, according to village documents. Lester told The Record that not all of the Wright-designed properties in the village have the landmark designation.
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Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.