Coonley House

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Avery Coonley House
Avery Coonley House, 300 Scottswood Road, 281 Bloomingbank Road, Riverside (Cook County, Illinois).jpg
Coonley House is located in Illinois
Coonley House
Location 300 Scottswood Road and 281 Bloomingbank Road, Riverside, Illinois
Coordinates 41°49′13.98″N 87°49′43.03″W / 41.8205500°N 87.8286194°W / 41.8205500; -87.8286194Coordinates: 41°49′13.98″N 87°49′43.03″W / 41.8205500°N 87.8286194°W / 41.8205500; -87.8286194
Built 1907
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Architectural style Prairie School
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 70000243
Significant dates
Added to NRHP December 30, 1970[1]
Designated NHL December 30, 1970[2]

The Avery Coonley House, also known as Coonley House, was designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Constructed in 1908, this is an estate of several buildings built on the banks of the Des Plaines River in Riverside, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. It is itself a National Historic Landmark and is included in another National Historic Landmark, the Riverside Historic District.


The Avery Coonley House (built 1908) in Riverside, Illinois is located on a small peninsula surrounded by the Des Plaines River. One of the few estates that Wright developed, it is the first example in Wright's work of the zoned plan. Living quarters are raised, in typical Prairie fashion, and a pavilion links various living spaces. Much more than just a house - it is an entire complex of interrelated buildings with extensive gardens designed by famous landscape architect Jens Jensen. The main structure of the Avery Coonley House is the living room wing located on Bloomingbank Road, behind that on Scottswood Road is the bedroom wing. The complex also includes a separate stable/coach house and gardener's cottage (1911).

Avery Coonley was heir to an industrial fortune and had an unlimited budget. The Coonleys had investigated Wright's other homes and told him that they saw in his work "the countenances of principle". Wright stated in his autobiography that "This was to me a great and sincere compliment. So I put my best into the Coonley House." Wright considered the Coonley house among his finest works up to that point. Wright included designs of the Coonley House in his 1907 exhibition at the Chicago Architectural Club. Construction began a year later. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970.[2][3]

The lower exterior of The Avery Coonley House is tan stucco rising to a frieze (ceramic tile] banding with art glass windows in a geometric pattern. Tall privacy walls extend around the U-shaped complex, disguising a central courtyard garden which contain terraces, a large reflecting pool, shallow planters, a small pond and sculpture garden. The backsides of the Coonley living room wing, bedroom wing, gardener's cottage, and stable form the interior space of this private courtyard. In 1951, the buildings on the Coonley estate were divided into four separate residences. The main house was divided into two and the former coach house and gardener's cottage were all given separate addresses.[3]

For the education of the Coonley's young daughter, Wright designed the The Avery Coonley Playhouse in 1912 on nearby Fairbank Road just southwest of Scottswood Road. The art glass windows of the Coonley Playhouse feature one of Frank Lloyd Wright's most well known designs with a pattern based on balloons and confetti, very festive for the intended use of the structure. The windows of the Coonley Playhouse are now all replicas, the originals having been removed in the middle of the 20th century. Many of the originals can be seen in museums, such as the Art Institute of Chicago which prominently displays one of the Coonley Playhouse windows near its main entrance. The colored side of the art glass windows faced the inside of the house, while the outsides that faced the exterior are white. The kindergarten school moved from the Coonley Playhouse to a larger facility in Downers Grove in 1916 and eventually became a full K-8 elementary school.

The village of Riverside is one of the oldest planned communities in the United States, dating back to the early 1870's. It was designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted -designer of both Jackson Park (fairgrounds of the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893) and Central Park in New York City. The streets of Riverside wind and crisscross, forming small islands of houses and green space; quite a contrast to the strict grid of nearby Chicago.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ a b "Avery Coonley House". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-10-03. 
  3. ^ a b Charles W. Snell (March 5, 1970). National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Avery Coonley House (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-06-27. . Accompanying 7 photos, exterior, from 1970 and undated. PDF (3.31 MB)

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