An October 2006 trip
to Oak Park by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: My first day in Chicago was spent unwinding in Oak Park, a suburb about 9 miles from Chicago and home of Frank Lloyd Wright, the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway, and home to some of the most beautiful Victorian and Prairie style architecture on earth.
I chose to stay in Oak Park rather than Chicago because someone suggested it would save money on hotel fares and had some great architectural and historical places to visit. After a long day of flight cancellations and being stuck in airports the day before, I decided to stick around Oak Park and check out what it had to offer. Among the most popular places to see in Oak Park are:
2. Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple on Lake Street, which is still an active place of worship on Sundays.
4. I stayed in The Write Inn on Oak Park Avenue, and this place dates from the early 20th Century, and its lobby and hotel rooms reflect this Golden Age.
The Write Inn is a good hotel for one to stay in and is less than a mile from the El Train station. It is also close to the main square where several restaurants and coffee shops are located. I recommend eating at one of these eateries before venturing out.
2. Oak Park's Great Harvest Bakery
O'Hare Airport is located about 25 minutes from Oak Park, but many Chicago taxi companies will not go to Oak Park. The best company to go to and from the airport is the Village or Blue Cab Company based out of Oak Park. You can call for reservations or have someone in the airport do it for you. It will cost you between and plus tip to go to and from the airport each way. I was very impressed with the punctuality and professionalism of Village Cab's drivers.
Hotel | "The Write Inn"
Hotels in Chicago can be quite expensive for one on a strict travel budget. Someone from IgoUgo recommended that we stay in Oak Park, which is about 10 miles west of Chicago in order to save money, and about the only hotel that fit my budget was The Write Inn, which is located on Oak Park's main drag, Oak Park Avenue.
I spent 4 nights at The Write Inn, and I must say I was pretty happy with the accommodations. I shared my room with another IgoUgo traveler to save costs even more, and the fourth floor suite suited my needs perfectly with two separate rooms and a shared bathroom. The rooms were nice and clean with a Murphy bed in one room, and my room had a nice bed with a TV, armoire, and bureau for putting my clothes in, and a nice view of Oak Park Avenue and the condo building across the way. My matress was a little soft for my liking but comfortable, and the old windows were hard to open when I wanted some fresh air (thank God for all of that heavy lifting I do at work!). No worries! I was just there to sleep and shower, and I don't need the Plaza on my trips.
The Write Inn is located a short walking distance to several restaurants and shops in the downtown, and they have a nice little restaurant called Hemmingway's in the Write Inn. I had breakfast in there one morning, and the prices were reasonable, and the food was good, but I would recommend going outside the hotel for most meals in order to save money.
The architecture dates from the 1930s and 1940s, and it is like going back in time when you step into the lobby. While waiting to go out, I would sit in the lobby and read the paper. One night, the manager came in with his English Bulldog, Thor, and I was happy to play with the funny looking and lovable pooch for a while.
The Write Inn is easily accessible to O'Hare Airport, and Village Cab can pick you up or drop you off at the hotel. The El station is a short walk away and can get you to Chicago in a half hour. Prices range from $75 for a single room to $160 per night and up for a suite. I highly recommend it for one on a budget and for one like me who likes peace and quiet.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 28, 2007
Write Inn Hotel
211 N. Oak Park Avenue
Oak Park, Illinois 60302
Restaurant | "Erik's Delicatessen "
Erik's Deli is a popular local eatery in downtown Oak Park. It has a huge menu of sandwiches, entrées, and salads that you have to take time to decide what to have because everything looks so good.The first time I ate at Erik's, I had the Chicken Salad Quesadilla. It is chicken salad loaded into a huge tortilla and shaped into a quesadilla and comes with your choice of fries or coleslaw. I am glad I chose the coleslaw because when the quesadilla came to my table, it took up half of the plate, and I barely finished it. The whole thing with a bottled water cost about $8.
The second time I ate at Erik's was the Sunday before going home. Looking for food before going to the Hemingway Birthplace, I returned to Erik's. This time, I ordered the Chicken Caesar Salad. I wasn't disappointed a second time, and the salad was huge with tons of lettuce, chicken, Parmesan cheese, and a great Caesar dressing. Being a Sunday, the place was crowded with families and other people enjoying the nice October afternoon.
Happily full and having time before my tour of the Hemingway Birthplace, I enjoyed the fresh air at the nearby park and burned off the calories walking to the birthplace.
Erik's is open daily from 11am to 9pm and is a great way to start your day or end it. The prices are cheap, but the food isn't!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 6, 2006
Erik's Delicatessen Restaurant
107 N Oak Park Ave
Oak Park, Illinois 60301
Restaurant | "Oak Park's Great Harvest"
The first time I went into the Great Harvest was on a Friday night that I had to myself. Just wanted to stay in the room and catch the baseball playoffs, I decided a sandwich to go was in the cards. Upon entering the Great Harvest, I was greeted by these wonderful aromas and a very nice worker. She asked me if I wanted to sample some bread, and not wanting to spoil my appetite, she gave me an entire slice of blueberry bread for later. I ordered a 1/2 turkey sandwich on whole grain bread. It turned into a whole sandwich for the price of 1/2, and it was very good with lettuce and tomatoes, and that blueberry bread disappeared before I got back to the hotel.
I returned two more times to the Great Harvest for breakfast, and I wasn't disappointed either time. I had scones both times, and they are bigger than hockey pucks and very filling. They are freshly made every morning, and you can watch the bakers making the food right from your table.
I ordered two cranberry scones on the Sunday before leaving Oak Park, and I saved one for the day after I returned home, but as I was unpacking my bags, I left the scone bag on my bed and forgot about it, but Loki isn't a dumb dog and found it. When I returned to my room to put something away later that night, I discovered the scone bag and nothing else. Loki enjoyed the scone just as much as I did! BRAT!The Great Harvest is open at 6am daily but closes at 6pm, so if you want an early dinner, get there early or you lose out! Prices are under $5 for a scone and coffee and a little more for dinner and if you have a latte with your meal, but it's worth the time and money!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on December 6, 2006
Great Harvest Bread Co.
736 Lake St.
Oak Park, Illinois 60301
Attraction | "The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio"
Upon arriving at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, you are greeted by several statues on the outside of the house and a beautiful garden in between the buildings. Tours of the home and studio are hourly, and you can get your tickets ($9 for adults) in the Gingko Bookstore, the souvenir shop. Photography isn't allowed in the studio and home, so you must check in all backpacks, cameras, and purses in the lockers located in the garden before going on tour.
After waiting about 20 minutes for the next tour to begin, we were greeted by our guide, Ted Smith, a retired Oak Park history teacher. You can tell that Ted loves his job as a volunteer for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation by his enthusiasm while showing us around the Wright complex and regaling us with stories and trivia questions about Wright's life and career.
Frank Lloyd Wright began his architectural career in Oak Park in 1889. He was a newlywed and built his home as a small cottage which went through numerous remodels and reconstructions in the next 20 years. Wright hated the ornate trimmings and stiffness of Victorian architecture and wanted to design homes and furniture that was nice to look at, but functional. Wright experimented with several styles and shapes in his home, which was expanded to house Wright, his wife, and six children.
I found that many of the rooms give an optical illusion when you step in. The barrel-shaped children's room is long and narrow, but it is bigger than you think when you step inside. Wright designed his showroom for clients in an octagonal shape with many windows to give the room a lot of light for showing clients his architectural plans.
Scandal drove Frank Lloyd Wright from Oak Park in 1909 when he had an affair with a friend's wife. He fled to Europe for a while, but returned to Oak Park a couple of years later. Some people never got Wright's architectural style, but critics and fellow architects loved it and emulated it in their work.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio is open from 11am to 3pm daily and only guided tours are available and leave on an hourly basis. Tours last about 45 minutes and are well worth your time.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 28, 2007
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
951 Chicago Avenue
Oak Park, Illinois 60302
Attraction | "Other Frank Lloyd Wright Oak Park Sights"
Frank Lloyd Wright completed the Unity Temple around 1906 after a 1900 fire destroyed the original temple. Wright was a member of the Unity Temple and was asked to design the new temple after the fire on a $40,000 budget. Using concrete and metal reinforcements, Wright designed a modern temple that was practical and went against the Gothic architecture of several of Oak Park's churches. I didn't go inside the temple, but I found the outside of the Unity Temple very imposing and different from many of the churches that I have visited in Europe and the US. The church has services every Sunday and tours daily for about $8. Unity Temple is also gay friendly for members of the gay and lesbian community who want to attend church there.
Another of my favorite FLW buildings in Oak Park was the Moore-Dugal Residence. It is still a private residence, so tours are not available, but one can look at it from the outside and marvel at its half-timbered exterior and beauty. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Moore-Dugal home in 1895 after he left the Adler & Sullivan firm to strike out on his own. This home was his first independent commission, and it is gorgeous. Unfortunately, an early morning fire destroyed much of the third and fourth floors of this house on December 23, 1922, and Frank Lloyd Wright returned from his work out of town immediately to begin redesigning and reconstructing the home in 1923. So what you see is the reconstructed home and not the original.
I highly recommend taking an independent walking tour of Oak Park to see many of the Victorian, Prairie, and Wright homes in the area. Most of them are private homes, but you can admire them from afar and enjoy their beauty.