Frank Lloyd Wright has built many homes, but a theater? Apparently so: Meet the Avery Coonley Playhouse, which is now for sale in Riverside, IL, for a mere $750,000.
In fact, “schoolhouse” is a more apt description, since it was originally built in 1912 to be an elementary school that included an auditorium and stage for theatrical performances.
In 1917, the playhouse was converted to a private residence. In 1980, the home’s current owners paid a mere $260,000 for it, then spent decades renovating and restoring it.
Last summer, the owners put it up for sale for $800,000. Yet they took it off the market after a few months, and put even more work into it. Currently, the home boasts 3,503 square feet of living space, with two bedrooms and two adjacent bathrooms that have been completely updated with marble countertops and newer fixtures.
“The current owners mostly worked on the bedrooms and made them ready to move into,” says Compass listing agent Mike McCurry. “Also, there was an area that had previously been used for storage, and now they made that into a family room.”
McCurry says the sellers are hoping that with the latest improvements, “the next curators of the home will find it irresistible.”
So what’s ‘irresistible’ about this Frank Lloyd Wright home?
Thankfully, in spite of these many renovations, the historic stage and auditorium remain intact, and now serve as a grand living room with a fireplace.
Among the home’s most arresting features are Wright’s signature leaded-glass windows, which ring the auditorium. Their design might look familiar—it’s been featured on everything from coasters to floor mats.
According to historical sources, they were inspired by a parade with balloons, confetti, and flags, and were called a “kinder-symphony” by the architect. They’re reported to be the first introduction of circles into his designs.
However, most of the examples seen in this home are replicas. McCurry reports that previous owners had removed many of the windows and sold them all over the world, for prices up to $250,000 each. Some of the originals can be seen in museums. While a few of the original windows remain in the house, the current owners were allowed to have museum-quality reproductions created and installed in the historic building.
And honestly, could you spot the fakes in the photos below? Didn’t think so.
The one room that still needs updates
Yet in spite of all of the work that’s gone into keeping this home up with the times, there’s still one room that cries out for a makeover: the kitchen.
“It still has a lot of the original elements—they once used it for teaching culinary arts,” McCurry says. Some of the original cabinetry is there, too.
It does have modern conveniences, including a Viking stove, dishwasher, and even a soda fountain, but there’s still room for improvement.
“We expect future owners will want to renovate that, and have left that on the table,” McCurry says.
You might wonder why, after spending so many years renovating their cherished home, the owners are parting with it at this point in time.
“They’ve done everything they ever conceived of doing,” explains McCurry. “Now that they’re retired, they’re ready to retire from curatorship of the home. They’ve priced it at a point they hope will encourage the next curators, who truly appreciate its architectural style, to come in and take over.”
If recent sales of local Wright homes are any indication, those future owners could well be right around the corner. The playhouse was built on the same grounds as the much larger, 6,000-square-foot Avery Coonley house, which finally sold in February for $1,150,000. It had been on and off the market for almost 10 years, after being listed for $2,890,000 in 2010.
Who knows? Maybe lightning will strike twice in the same place, in the same year, and sell this Wright home, too.