The Nathan Moore House
The histories of the Nathan Moore house and the Hills-DeCaro house immediately to the south are intricately intertwined — each was commissioned by Nathan Grier Moore and designed and executed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Nathan Moore was born in Cherry Tree, Pennsylvania in 1853. After growing up in Pennsylvania and graduating from Lafayette College in Easton, Pa in 1873, he moved to LaCrosse, Wisconsin where he opened a music store. He also began to study law at this time. Searching for greater business opportunities, Moore decided to move to Peoria, Il, arriving in 1877. There, Moore was admitted to the practice of law in 1878, met Anna Walker, and was married to her in 1881. They remained in Peoria and in 1883 gave birth to their first child, Mary.
Nathan Moore House
In 1885, Moore was offered a position in the Chicago law office of John P. Wilson, a cousin of his wife Anna. He decided to live in Oak Park and rented a house on North Grove Avenue in Oak Park. They lived there only a year and then bought a house at the corner of Forest Avenue and Superior (then called Wabun). In 1889, Moore’s final child, Marjorie, was born. In 1891, Moore purchased the next 75 feet of land to the south when fire destroyed the building on the lot; the first of several subsequent expansions of his property. By 1894, Moore’s law firm was doing well enough that he decided he would build a new house on his expanded lot. After interviewing a number of architects, Moore decided to hire his neighbor Frank Lloyd Wright, but he spared no words in letting Wright know the type of house he wanted…
”…but—I don’t want you to give us anything like that house you did for Winslowe. I don’t want to go down back streets to my morning train to avoid being laughed at. I would like something like this, and he laid some pictures of English half-timber on my table.”
Wright, with a growing family, needed the commission, but had doubts about building a house so contrary to his developing style.
“Three children were now running around the streets without proper shoes. How money was needed in that little gabled house! None knew so little as I where money was coming from. Could I take Mr. Moore on? Could I give him a house in the name of English half-timber good enough that I would not sell out? It was worth trying anyway. I tried it… They were delighted with the house, and so was everyone but me. … At any rate it was the one time in the course of a long career that I gave into the fact that I had a family and they had a right to live – and their living was up to me.” [this and the above quote from Wright’s autobiography]
Moore’s original house was moved three lots to the west on Superior, and the Moore’s lived there while their new house was built. The house was completed in 1895 and Moore and his family moved in. Click here for pictures of the Moore house prior to the 1922 fire, and here for a chart showing the development of the Moore estate. Wright went on to design many more homes, but none so totally a part of a classic style as the Moores’ original home. We shall continue the story of the Nathan Moore’s estate in the house right next door, but now we finish with the story of the Nathan Moore house.
On Christmas Day 1922, a fire broke out in the home and destroyed the second and third floors. Wright was commissioned by Moore to rebuild the house, making a number of significant modifications. The result is a quite unconventional Tudor house, with details reminiscent of Wright’s recent work at the Imperial Hotel, Midway Gardens, and the California textile block houses. Charles E. White Jr. (a former employee in Wright’s Oak Park studio, and prominent local architect) was Wright’s local coordinator for this remodeling; it is thought that perhaps he was responsible for the rather traditional interior.