LK Horner House

From HistoryWiki

The LK Horner House, 1331 W. Sherwin Avenue was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was the third Wright-designed house within Rogers Park.

The Horner Residence was a smaller Prairie-style home designed at the height of Wright's Prairie School period. The cruciform floor plan is similar in footprint to the J.J. Walser, Jr. House (1903), the George Barton Residence (1903), and the K.C. DeRhodes House(1906), but with modifications. A major difference was the grade of the first level. Like the DeRhodes, only the Entry/Reception Room was at ground level. The balance of the first level was five steps higher. This allowed utilities to be housed in the "basement" which was accessed by stairs next to the kitchen.

At a glance the Horner Residence might be mistaken for the Thomas H. Gale House (1904). Its low-pitched roof appears nearly flat until its seen from a distance.

When Wright published Ausgeführte Bauten und Entwürfe von Frank Lloyd Wright in 1910, he chose not to include the Horner Residence, but instead included an illustration and floor plan of the Barton (Plate XXVI), DeRhodes (Plate XXIX), and although not the same floor plan, the Gale (Plate XLV).

One year later Wright did included an exterior and interior photograph of the Horner Residence, and the floor plan for the first and second level in Frank Lloyd Wright, Ausgeführte Bauten (Executed Buildings), 1911, pages 62-63. That same year Wright included the same two photographs and floor plan when he published Frank Lloyd Wright, Chicago Sonderheft, 1911, pages 53-54.

While the Horner Residence is a smaller version of Wright's Prairie-style home, he included many of the prairie-school features found in most of Wright's designs during that period. Broad overhangs, balconies, terraces, built-in planters, cabinets, furniture and seating, rich oak trim, distinct horizontal; and vertical lines, Wright-designed art glass windows and light fixtures, large centrally located fireplace, vertical spindled screens enclosing the stairway. Wright chose wood and stucco for the exterior of the home.

Samuel H. Horner was born on October 19, 1857 in Morrison, Illinois. He began his career as a "piano man", selling pianos in his home town. His wife, Lena J. Kent (Lena Kent Horner), was born on October 22, 1864. Records indicate that Samuel and Lena were married in Whiteside County, Illinois, which included the town of Morrison.

They moved to the big city, Chicago, where he became a piano salesman at Steger & Sons, Co. In 1893, at the age of 36 he took the plunge and started his own company, The Horner Piano Co. It was located at 549 W. North Avenue. This was centrally located to some of Wright's clients at the time. This begs the question. With Wright's love of the piano, was this the connection that brought Frank Lloyd Wright and Samuel Horner together. Wright's son, John Lloyd Wright, wrote, "It seemed to me in those days that he would rather have had six grand pianos and hold off the sheriff, than one fully paid without the sheriff." "My Father", page 77.

In 1910, Samuel, Lena and A. Horner, Samuel's nephew. incorporated the Horner Piano Co. with a capital stock of $20,000, for the manufacture and sale of musical instruments and pianos. That is the equivalent of over $465,000 in 2010 dollars. At the time, he was quoted that "for the present he would confine his attention to selling, but admitted that he may enter the manufacturing business a little later on". There is no evidence that they entered the manufacturing business.

In October 1912, they announced the marriage of their daughter Hazel Beatrice Horner to Charles O. Hilton, who were married in their Wright designed home. "The house was decorated in autumn foliage and red and white roses."

Lena was very active in the Rogers Park Women's Club as early as 1914. In 1917 she became president and served until 1919. "Lena K. Horner... was part of a fashion revolution with her daring décolletage on full display; a daring dress with a mesh overlay. Her relaxed look would pave the way for the short hemlines and drop waists of the 1920s..."

During February, 1918 Samuel Horner became seriously ill, and was confined to his home for two months. During his illness, his son, Sam Horner, Jr. was in charge of the business. After recovering, it was announced in June of 1918 that he purchased his nephew's interest in the Horner Piano Company. His recover was not sustained, and on July 11, 1918, at the age of sixty, he passed away at his Wright designed home. He was buried in his home town of Morrison, Illinois. His obituary in The Music Trade Review reported, "Mr. Horner was one of the best known of the old-time piano men in Chicago."

Horner's son-in-law Charles O. Hilton was promoted to vice-president and manager of the Horner Piano Co., but resigned in 1920 to take another position moving his family to Seattle then Baltimore.

Lena continued to live in her Wright designed home for another seven years after her husband's death. But as the city expanded north, single-family homes were being replaced with apartments. Such was the case with Rogers Park. In June 1925, she moved the Horner Piano Co. and her home north to Evanston, Illinois. She would continue to carry pianos, player-pianos, reproducers, and musical merchandise, as well as radio equipment".

Music Trade Review reported that Mrs. Samuel H. Horner, president of the Horner Piano Co., died on January 25, 1928 after a brief illness. Funeral services were held at her home in Evanston.

But by the time Gilman Lane photographed the home circa 1940, the adjacent home to the East had already been replaced by a large apartment complex. The front porch had also been enclosed. The city continued to grow, and just 44 years after Wright designed the home, it too was consumed by growth. Combined with a lack of appreciation for Wright's work, it was demolished to make room for a small, nondescript apartment building.