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updated: 5/7/2013 5:41 PM

Find out what it's like to grow up in a Frank Lloyd Wright house

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  • Frank Lloyd Wright dining room with original furniture

      Frank Lloyd Wright dining room with original furniture
    Kim Bixler

 
Kim Bixler

Don't miss this rare opportunity to hear firsthand the unforgettable story of growing up in a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It will be at 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, at Unity Temple, 875 Lake St. in Oak Park. It is free. Reservations are not required, but RSVPs will have guaranteed seating. http://franklloydwrightunitytemple.eventbrite.com

For 17 years, Kim Bixler's family owned a prairie-style home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. They moved in on June 29, 1977 and handed over the keys in 1994 to the next owner. Her parents were both 36 years old when they moved into the house. Kim was eight and her brother Kurt was six. They were the seventh owners to occupy the only home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Rochester, New York built in 1908 for widower Edward E. Boynton and his 20-year-old daughter, Beulah. Kim and her brother spent many hours hiding in Wright's meticulously crafted built-ins, climbing over delightfully warm oak radiator covers, scaling the central hearth, and sliding down the dog-leg staircase enclosed by nine-foot stained glass bay windows.

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On a daily basis cars would slow as they passed the Frank Lloyd Wright house; passengers staring from the windows, their mouths slightly open in awe. Kim and her brother would peek through the stained glass windows staring at people, who were staring at them, oblivious to their spy game. At least one person every weekend would knock on the door, begging for a tour schedule (there was none), pleading for a peek inside, often relaying their hardship tale of the distance they traveled and lengths they took to see projects designed by the famous architect. Occasionally, Kim would grant an architecture student a quick tour inside the house if their tale was interesting enough, accent fascinating, or eyes particularly desperate.

Repair and restoration projects were underway non-stop at the house. Roofs leaked, ceilings caved, paint was stripped and returned to its original state. The windows strained against the brutal Rochester winters. Her parents raced to keep one step ahead of the deterioration speeded by the elements. As an adult, Kim learned to scorn Wright's preference for form over function. Flat roofs abutting stained glass clerestory windows in the dining room caused continuous leaks when the snow piled up and melted against the windows warmed by the furnace. Internal downspouts, built into the walls of the house, filled with debris and ice, and forced her parents to question Wright's sense of practicality when chunks of rotten plaster fell onto the floor. No stranger to harsh weather himself, Wright designed the Boynton House in an unforgiving climate that forced her parents to repeatedly open their checkbook.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Boynton House was the subject of frequent public scrutiny and community pride. The house tours, TV specials, newspaper features, charity events and celebrity visits left Kim comfortable with public speaking, and with a dash of inflated ego.

The beauty of the house was indisputable. Wright's work formed Kim's preference for natural materials, clean lines, and open spaces. Seventeen original pieces of furniture and 253 stained glass windows, doors, light fixtures remain in the home.

For additional speaking engagements in the Chicago area, visit the website www.kimbixler.com or www.growingupinafranklloydwrighthouse.com.

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