'A piece of art with a lot of history': Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. house in Grayslake sells for $2.3 million

Gabby Sloan and Brian Thompson were interested in the star-shaped house in Grayslake because it stood on 30 acres of land overlooking a pond, woods and a prairie.

The married couple were searching for a new home for themselves and their Happy Pup Manor dog training and boarding business. The sprawling property seemed an ideal place to live and for their canine clients to run free.

Making it more interesting, they soon discovered the house was designed by the son of legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright and had two noteworthy owners: a wartime industrialist and an eccentric millionaire known for raising exotic animals.

“We loved the property because there were a lot of acres for the pups to run, and it had a fence,” Thompson said. “Then we saw the house, and we realized it was a piece of art with a lot of history.”

Sloan, 36, and Thompson, 35, recently purchased the house for $2.3 million with hopes that by March, Happy Pup Manor will move from its current location in Barrington Hills to its new home near Route 60 and Fairfield Road in Grayslake.

On paper, the house has the characteristics of a typical suburban luxury home: 5,950 square feet, five bedrooms, five baths and a five-car garage.

But a key selling point was that it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr., commonly known as Lloyd Wright, a midcentury modern architect whose buildings rival some of the creations of his famous father.

Lloyd Wright did most of his work in Southern California from the 1920s through the 1960s, with his most famous projects being the original Hollywood Bowl and Wayfarers Chapel.

His designs are similar to his father's: a minimalist aesthetic featuring open floor plans, horizontal lines, large windows, overhanging eaves, and harmony between the interior and its outdoor surroundings.

In the early 1950s, Lloyd Wright was asked to come back to his native Illinois and design a home for Chicago industrialist Roy A. Kropp, president of Kropp Forge Co., which made parts for tanks and planes during World War II. Kropp and his wife, Irene, had bought 300 acres in Grayslake and wanted a signature house built on a hilltop.

It's unclear how the Kropps ended up commissioning Lloyd Wright to design the home. But living in River Forest at the time, they likely were familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright, who once had a studio in nearby Oak Park and designed many houses in the area.

It may be that the Kropps even tried to commission Frank Lloyd Wright, only to be told he was too busy and that they should contact his son, said George Smart, executive director of USModernist, an organization dedicated to the preservation of midcentury modern structures.

“Frank Lloyd Wright was in the prime of his career in the 1950s and was working on the Guggenheim Museum at the time. He didn't have time to do much of anything, and he'd pass projects to his son,” Smart said.

Lloyd Wright completed the project in 1952, designing a home befitting the Prairie-style architecture of his father. It was one of only two buildings Lloyd Wright ever designed in Illinois, the other being the Good Shepherd Community Church in Park Ridge, which now is the Maine Township Town Hall.

An aerial photo taken Jan. 30 of the Frank Lloyd Wright Jr.-designed home and property in Grayslake. The home was built in 1952. Ryan Rayburn for the Daily Herald

The Grayslake home's exterior resembles a fallen star on a hill, with pointed eaves jutting at various angles atop the structure. The octagonal family room is lined with large picture windows that offer a panoramic view of the property.

The walls are wood and brick, with large wooden columns anchoring the floor plan. Hallways leading to different parts of the home are paved with pink and beige limestone and feature rows of windows looking out to the pond and woods. There is a large brick fireplace, interior and exterior waterfalls, an outdoor pool, a greenhouse, a tennis court and an indoor gun range.

“The house looks a lot like Frank Lloyd Wright's institutional properties,” Smart said. “It could be a hotel or a conference center.”

In reality, the house will soon serve as a training and boarding space for “Doodle” dogs: Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, Schnoodles and other crossbreeds of poodles that are clients of Happy Pup Manor.

Sloan and Thompson, the new homeowners, train and board up to 40 dogs at a time. A video on the Happy Pup Manor website features the pups having free range at the current Barrington Hills site, including frolicking in an indoor pool. The couple hope to convert the pool in the new home in Grayslake for similar use.

“We're huge animal lovers and the dogs live in the house with us,” Sloan said. “We needed more room. This is really our dream house.”

Coincidentally, the previous owner of the Grayslake house also boarded animals on the property: John F. Cuneo Jr., a prominent Lake County landowner whose family founded the Cuneo Press, National Tea Company and Hawthorn Melody Farms Dairy.

Cuneo, who grew up on an estate in Vernon Hills, bought the Grayslake property from the Kropp family in the 1970s. There he raised peacocks, bison and other animals, which were secure behind a large fence.

Cuneo sold much of the 300-acre property in 2016 to the Lake County Forest Preserve. He put the house and 30 acres of land up for sale the same year, asking $3.9 million. Cuneo died in 2019, and his estate kept the house up for sale until its recent purchase.

Since buying the home, Sloan and Thompson have grown to appreciate its history, learning more about a midcentury modern architecture and the history of the Cuneo family.

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