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Frank Lloyd Wright building in Illinois to open for public tours

July 5, 2010 |  3:00 pm


When is a mansion more than just a mansion? Take a world-famous architect and throw in a juicy back story and you have what may turn out to be a bona-fide tourist attraction.

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that a 1900 mansion designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is scheduled to open for public tours and will be turned into an arts education center.

Located about 60 miles south of Chicago in the town of Kanakee, the B. Harley Bradley House has been purchased for $1.7 million by a group historic preservationists.  According to the report, the purchase price is $200,000 less than the asking price of the owners -- Gaines Hall, an architecture professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his wife, Sharon.

The house has seven bedrooms and features more than 100 of Wright's art-glass windows. It is considered by some to be an example of Wright's Prairie style. Elisabeth Dunbar, the preservationist group's president, told the newspaper that it has a 30-year mortgage on the mansion. Tours are expected to begin this summer, with tickets costing $15 a person for a tour lasting just more than an hour, said the newspaper.

The mansion, which was renovated by the previous owners, comes with a lurid history involving a past resident, Stephen Small, who was a vice president of Mid-America Media. In 1987, kidnappers abducted Small from the house and and buried him alive in a box as part of a ransom scheme.

According to a report at the time, the box was equipped with a jug of water, candy bars, a battery-powered light and an air pipe. The kidnappers tried to extort $1 million from Small's family, but the victim suffocated before being found.

Read the full story at the Chicago Tribune.

-- David Ng

Photo: the B. Harley Bradley House. Credit: Chicago Tribune