Frank Lloyd Wright’s Frederick Bagley House Dodges Demolition and Will Be Restored

The future of the 1894 Dutch Colonial-style, Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Hinsdale, Illinois, was not looking very bright just two months ago. It had been on the market for $1.3million. The historic Frederick Bagley House has been renamed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy to be a “unique, irreplaceable” early Wright work. However, it is now in a happy end or, perhaps, a new beginning.

Five-bedroom home, which was subject to many alterations over the years and didn’t enjoy legal protection from demolition/redevelopment, will be saved from the destruction ball by its new preservation-minded owners. Safina Uberoi, Lukas Ruecker and Lukas Ruecker own the Tonkens House National Historic Landmark-designated Tonkens House. This rare and remarkably intact concrete block Usonian Automatic home was designed by Wright in the Cincinnati suburbs. This home was built 60 years after the 1954 Bagley House.

Historic image of the Frederick Bagley House in Hinsdale, Illinois. . Image Courtesy of Gilman Lane/Courtesy Oak Park Public Library Special Collections

“We are grateful to all the support and warm reception we received from Village of Hinsdale’s Historic Preservation Commission, and are excited about taking over as stewards the Bagley House from the sellers,” Uberoi and Ruecker said in a celebratory announcement by the Conservancy of the sale of the home. “Our experience working on the Wright-designed Tonkens House, Cincinnati, taught us that restorations are a team effort. We look forward to working closely with the Conservancy and the Village of Hinsdale over the coming years.”

The Bagley House, which was listed for $1.3million on the private market in July, was immediately placed in a worrying state of vulnerability. This is despite the fact that historic homes are a common practice in Hinsdale. Local preservationists were dismayed by this. The Conservancy noted that older homes on the properties immediately south and north had been razed in order to build larger, more modern replacements. However, the listing for Bagley House did not mention Wright’s connection and its historical significance. In a move that alarms preservationists, the Village of Hinsdale filed a pre-plan review showing the potential for redevelopment.

Courtesy of Patrick Mahoney, AIA

The threat to Bagley House was so real that the Conservancy, the Hinsdale Historic Preservation Commission, and Landmarks Illinois launched an urgent campaign to save it and find a preservation-minded new owner. Uberoi, Ruecker noticed the campaign and made an offer that included a preservation guarantee. The sellers accepted the offer.

Frederick Bagley, a marble exporter, commissioned the home at 121 South County Line Road. It is a strikingly revivalist design that sets itself apart from other Wright-style residences throughout Chicagoland. It still features elements Wright would have used in later projects. The home’s main feature is the octagonal library. Wright’s Oak Park Studio library was completed in 1898 and took a similar shape.

Barbara Gordon, the executive director of Chicago’s Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, stated ANin July that the Bagley House was one of two Wright-executed works featuring fully-rendered classic details. The other is the Blossom House (1893), still standing in Chicago. It is also the Wright-designed home of Hinsdale.

We were concerned about the possible risk to the Bagley House. This is a critical part of Wright’s canon and would have been devastating for the Wright community. However, we are grateful for all the support and response from the Village, especially the Historic Preservation Commission and the wider community of Wright fans in the US and around the world,” Gordon stated in a recent press release. We are happy that we were able in a matter of one week to find a preservation-minded buyer, keeping in mind our mission to preserve Frank Lloyd Wright’s remaining built works. We are looking forward to helping the new owners with our technical expertise and services.

Uberoi, Ruecker have stated that they intend to use the resources of the non-profit to restore the Bagley House back to Wright’s original design, while also “considering sensitive methods to add living space.” This will be documented on The Conservancy’s website. They also plan to secure the Bagley House’s landmark status and donate a preservation easement for the Conservancy to ensure that the house is not destroyed.

Hinsdale is hopeful that the demolition-dodging result in the sale Bagley House will spur substantive change to preserve older homes in a community in which a previous attempt to enact an interim moratorium on demolition of historic homes was defeated by village trustees following opposition from the Hinsdale Plan Commission.

Alexis Braden (neighbor of the Bagley House, member of the Hinsdale Historic Preservation Commission) said that this sequence of events demonstrates the importance of proactive preservation efforts in the community. “Fortunately, the Bagley House story had a happy end. It also revived the discussion around creating preservation guidelines for our community.