For reasons not clear to me, I am drawn to the Single Style. Perhaps it’s the primary shapes and simple palette of materials; the reminiscence of children’s building blocks. Richardson invented it as part of his reform of Victorian excess. And it was a natural for Wright, because his mother had inculcated those shapes into his subconscious through the Fröbel system of “gifts”. I just never grew up or out of them myself, though I’d never heard of Fröbel .
H. H. Richardson and his successors McKim Mead & White rarely fell into the trap of formula. The Isaac Bell house at Newport, Rhode Island is still one of the Single Style’s high points. Others did, however, even Wright. Consider the S-S type I call the “3-2-1”.
The “3-2-1” was ubiquitous during the 1890s. It can be found from Ogunquit to San Diego and everywhere in between. Start with a prismatic gable-roofed mass, then add a two-story hipped bay and a tall dormer in jaunty asymmetry. MM&W did them. So did George Maher, though most of his examples are gone. And Wright, during the so-called “bootlegged” period, when he was working at home after hours and in violation of his contract with Adler & Sullivan, dipped into this vernacular to make a little cash on the side. Chicago Avenue in Oak Park has a cluster of three of these just a block west of Wright’s own home and studio. They stand out today because we learned about them through Grant Manson’s Frank Lloyd Wright to 1910; I found them on my own on Saturday excursions. But I wonder if they were noticeable at the time.
As a fourteen- or fifteen-year-old, I filed these away for future reference and have never been sorry. So you might know that one of these suckers would show up here, though I can’t say who lived there. But it would have been in the 1890s, perhaps before the Panic of 1893 set in and the bottom dropped out of building.
For me, what’s not to love about the discipline of modularity and mono-material.