When William Walker received Frank Lloyd Wright's autobiography in the mail, he found a handwritten note from the famous architect on page 26: "To Bill Walker -- Take good care of it." Wright was referring to the William Winslow House, the first home he built as an independently commissioned architect in 1893. Little did he know that the four-bedroom residence at 515 Auvergne Place, River Forest, Ill. would only have five owners and be in near-perfect condition 120 years later.
"It's had a remarkable run," said 60-year-old Peter Walker, who moved into the home when he was four and had it in his family ever since. "None of the windows have been broken; nobody has painted anything. The right people have always owned it."
Listing agent Pamela Tilton of Sotheby's International Realty grew up in River Forest and lived in Frank Lloyd Wright homes as well. But, she says, this one is truly unique. "You have Wright in the house, but also a little [Louis] Sullivan," she explained. "There is so much to take in."
THE WILLIAM WINSLOW HOUSE:
Because Wright had worked under Sullivan, his mentor's influence can be seen in an elegant wood arcade in the entryway, which some say is reminiscent of a balcony Sullivan designed in Chicago's Schiller Theatre Building. The home's wide-hipped roof and horizontal chimney, meanwhile, are distinctly Wright, showing early signs of his revolutionary "Prairie style." A circular dining room, u-shaped porte cochere and octagonal stair tower also indicate the budding architect was experimenting with shapes and forms -- a marked departure from gabled Victorians of the time.
The home was first built for William Herman Winslow, who worked at an ornamental iron and bronze company. He filled the interior with original sconces designed by his firm before passing the property onto the Mills in the early 1920s. The Johnson family owned the home next, followed by the Attwoods, who subdivided the lot in 1948.
The Walkers cared for the striking Roman brick and limestone estate over the next 55 years. They converted a screened-in porch into an enclosed sunroom, updated the kitchen and added wallpaper in the bedrooms. But other than this, no major changes have been made to the home. "My dad never bought paintings because he thought the house should speak for itself," Walker said.