Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “the mission of an architect is to help people understand how to make life more beautiful, the world a better one for living in, and to give reason, rhyme, and meaning to life.” Should you find yourself wandering among the beautiful neighborhoods and business districts of Oak Park, it seems that the entire community has adopted that sentiment and brings it to life in everything they do.
The village of Oak Park is not far removed from Chicago’s Loop. It’s the second stop from Ogilvie Transportation Center on the UP-West Line, a little more than 10 miles from the lake. As soon as you step out of the Oak Park Metra station, you’re on Marion Street, a hub of boutique shops and eateries that invite you to walk along and explore. A small sign on the station noted that this downtown area has been crucial for connecting commuters and goods to Chicago since 1848. Though the general aesthetic of the area emits a modern European vibe, I relished in imagining how the community developed over the years around the train station.
To get a more tangible glimpse of the past, however, I knew I needed to walk along the residential streets. A quick stop at Sugar Fixé for an iced coffee and oh-so-flakey croissant gave me the energy I needed to start my tour of the historic homes along Forest Avenue.
Oak Park is the location of the former home and studio of Frank Lloyd Wright, the iconic American architect who established the standards of what became known as the Prairie Style. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust provides a guided interior tour of Wright’s home and studio from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, a guided tour of the homes around the neighborhood every day at noon, or a self-guided audio tour available 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. But a quick jaunt around the neighborhood on your own yields a lovely time in its own right.
This is just the start of all the activities available in Oak Park. There’s also Ernest Hemingway’s birthplace home and museum, the Oak Park Conservatory, Lake Theatre for catching a movie, and Scoville Park where free live music is available every Sunday during the summer and statues honoring Percy Julian and a statue honoring WWI vets can be found. Regardless of you and your family's interests, there is something wonderful to be found in Oak Park.