Dana-Thomas House

The Architect – Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) revolutionized American domestic architecture. He established his own architectural office in 1893 and quickly attracted clients who agreed with the principles of his Prairie style. At the time of his death he had completed 638 designs. Few artists can claim the imaginative range and breadth of vision that is demonstrated in his work. One of Wright’s early triumphs, the Dana-Thomas House located at 4th Street and Lawrence Ave, in Springfield, IL is the best preserved and most complete of his early “Prairie” houses.

Unlike most Wright projects, this commission involved a complete restructuring of an existing home. Completed in 1904 for Springfield socialite and women’s activist Susan Lawrence Dana, the 12,000 sq ft house also includes more than 100 pieces of furniture and 450 art glass windows, doors and light fixtures designed by Wright.

Original sculptures by Richard W. Bock ornament the vestibule and reception hall. The four dining room walls are decorated with only original George Niedecken murals surviving in a Wright house. Wright repeated a sumac theme throughout.

Typical of the Prairie Style, the exterior has low horizontal roofs, wide overhanging eaves and rows of ribbon art glass windows. A raised main living level, open floor plan and centralized fireplace are other characteristics for which Wright Prairie houses are noted. The house has two rooms with barrel-vaulted ceilings and a very large entertainment gallery, approached though a long conservatory hall. Another unique feature is the “duck pin” bowling alley on the lowest level.

Susan Lawrence Dana owned the house until 1944, when it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Charles C. Thomas for their publishing firm. It was sold to the State of Illinois in 1981 and is maintained by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

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