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posted: 6/15/2015 5:30 AM

Historic status sought for Frank Lloyd Wright farmhouse in Kane County

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  • A fountain sprinkles outside the large living room windows of the Muirhead Farmhouse, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1951. Its owners hope to have the home added to the National Register of Historic Places.

      A fountain sprinkles outside the large living room windows of the Muirhead Farmhouse, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1951. Its owners hope to have the home added to the National Register of Historic Places.
    john starks | Staff Photographer

  • Sarah Muirhead Petersdorf and her husband, Mike, rehabbed the family farmhouse near Plato Center in 2003 and opened it up to the public. Now they want to preserve its history and future by getting the property listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Sarah Muirhead Petersdorf and her husband, Mike, rehabbed the family farmhouse near Plato Center in 2003 and opened it up to the public. Now they want to preserve its history and future by getting the property listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • The Muirhead farmhouse has a Usonian design, a term coined by Frank Lloyd Wright to describe buildings uniquely suited for middle-income citizens of the United States or North America. Wright believed such buildings were the most challenging to design. The property, located near Plato Center, may be the only farmhouse Wright designed.

    The Muirhead farmhouse has a Usonian design, a term coined by Frank Lloyd Wright to describe buildings uniquely suited for middle-income citizens of the United States or North America. Wright believed such buildings were the most challenging to design. The property, located near Plato Center, may be the only farmhouse Wright designed.
    Daily Herald File Photo

 
 

A Kane County property recently targeted for ComEd power lines may now end up on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council on Friday will review an application to include the Muirhead Farmhouse designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for inclusion on the register. The hearing is the first step that, if approved by the council, will set the property on a path to a federal hearing.

"It was a dream of my grandmother's to be listed, but they never took the time to seek the recognition," said Sarah Muirhead. "We are pursuing this in their honor."

The 30-page application tells the story of the property, which is located near Plato Center.

Muirhead's grandparents, Robert and Elizabeth, were big fans of the famed architect's work. So much so that they took a trip to Wisconsin in the fall of 1948 to see Taliesin, Wright's studio.

While walking the property, they happened upon Wright's personal secretary who introduced them to Wright. The Muirheads jumped at the opportunity to get Wright interested in building them a farmhouse. After much correspondence, and two years of planning, Wright completed the design in February 1951. Construction finished on the six-bedroom, 2½-bathroom home in 1953.

Robert and Elizabeth Muirhead lived in the home until retiring to Wisconsin in the mid-1980s. After a short period of vacancy, a grandson and his wife moved in.

Then, in 2003, Sarah Muirhead and her husband, Michael Petersdorf, moved back from Minnesota to begin an extensive rehabilitation. The family sold the surrounding farmland to the Kane County Forest Preserve District to help fund the restoration. That work was complete in 2005, when the property was opened as a bed and breakfast inn and for public tours.

The family stopped using the property as an inn in June 2012 because of "overwhelming public response." But tours are still given.

New ComEd power lines scheduled to be part of the $200 million Grand Prairie Gateway project almost became part of those tours earlier this year. The forest preserve district worked out a deal with ComEd to allow new power lines and towers to run along railroad tracks that abut the farmhouse to the south.

But the Muirhead family, with support from historic preservation groups and Wright fans, successfully defeated that deal when it came before the Illinois Commerce Commission for review.

Now the Muirheads are taking another step to preserve and protect the future of the farmhouse by requesting it be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The property is one of seven the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council will consider during a meeting at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield.

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