Prairie Style - 1900 to 1920
The Prairie style was born and bred in the great Midwest. It originated in Chicago with a group of architects led early on by Louis Sullivan, who became teacher and mentor to the others, including Frank Lloyd Wright. They were known as the Prairie School, and Wright was probably the best known of the group and the indisputable master of the Prairie house.
At left, 106 West Church Street is made of wood clapboard and cement blocks. The massive porch posts are of cement blocks. The roof has a flared slope roof with a slight turn up at the edge.
Wright had declined an offer to train at the renowned Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris because he did not want to be influenced by European classical architecture. "Democracy", he said, "needed something basically better than the box" - and better than the box he set out to design. Strongly influenced by Japanese wooden architecture that he first observed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Wright designed homes that emphasized the use of the horizontal line using low-pitched hipped roofs with deep overhanging eaves and long bands of windows. His early designs for Midwest suburban clients were landmark high style homes, but the Prairie design elements, like its sister style Craftsman, were dispersed throughout the country by pattern books and popular magazines. It was a vernacular home style that became popular everywhere.
Prairie itself was a short lived architectural style that came and went between 1900 and 1920. But those popular vernacular style homes known as American Four Square or "Prairie Box" continued to be built into the 1930s. These homes are boxy in shape, composed of two-and-one-half stories, with four rooms up and four rooms down, and include a full-width front porch supported by massive piers and columns. The distinguishing characteristic is the large central dormer, often seen in a variety of architectural shapes.
The home at 75 West Church Street has a hipped roof with deep wide eaves. The porch has massive square columns on stone or cement block pedestals.
Prairie, Four Square, and their contemporary Craftsman style share many design and architectural elements: including porch pillars, columns and window and door designs. Fairport Village does not have a true Prairie Style example, but does have many houses in the Prairie Box four square design.
A low-pitched pyramidal roof usually two stories high, showing deep, wide eaves and may show additional one-story wings or porches; all of the exterior design elements emphasize the horizontal line.
Roofs and Cornices
The hipped roof, whether it is symmetrical or asymmetrical, with or without a front entry, is the most common version. Some roofs show a flared slope roof with a slight turn up at the edge. Gabled roofs are seen, but rarely.
Massive square or rectangular piers of masonry to support the porch roofs are an almost universal feature of these homes. Four Square porch designs usually have a wide central stairway leading up to the porch level.
Small pane windows showing geometric patterns in the upper sashes of wood double hung windows.
The architect Louis Sullivan, developed elaborate scrolled decorative ornamentation that adorned many of his buildings. Sometimes these details can be seen on Prairie style doorways as decorative friezes or door surrounds. Wright's patterns for windows and doors tend to be more geometric and angular. Craftsman designs are also seen.