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Dana Thomas House

 

Dana-Thomas House

301 East Lawrence Avenue
Springfield, IL


The Dana-Thomas House (built 1902-04) is an expression of architect Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style. Built in Springfield, Illinois for patron Susan Lawrence Dana, the town house reflects the mutual affection of the patron and the architect for organic architecture, the relatively flat landscape of the State of Illinois, and the Japanese aesthetic as expressed in Japanese prints.  The house was designed for display and entertainment. An arched doorway admitted guests into a series of expanding spaces, the vestibule and reception hall.

The concept of "expanding space" was repeated throughout the house, with windows placed so as to continually draw the resident or guest into an awareness of the outside. Wright designed more than 250 art-glass windows, doors, and light panels for the house, most of which survive. Much of the art glass, and the mural by George Mann Niedecken surmounting the dining room interior, centered on a sumac motif.

A substantial west wing leads visitors through an interior Torii gate into two of the largest rooms in the house. The ground-level library contains special easels designed by Wright for Dana to display her collection of Japanese prints, part of the more than 100 pieces of Wright-designed white oak furniture in the house.

Susan Lawrence Dana lived in the house for approximately 24 years, from 1904 until about 1928. At first a successful hostess and leader of Springfield's social scene, she later became increasingly reclusive and turned her attention to spiritualism and the occult. Suffering from increasing financial constraints in her later years, she closed the main house about 1928 and moved to a small cottage on the grounds. As Dana struggled with age-related dementia in the 1940s, her home and its contents were sold.

Charles C. Thomas, a successful medical publisher, was the second owner and custodian of the Dana-Thomas House in 1944-1981. He and his wife are credited with maintaining the house's original furnishings and design, and with selling the home and its furnishings as a unit to the state of Illinois in 1981 for significantly less than could have been earned had the household been broken up.

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency took control of the mansion in 1985 and led a restoration effort that has refitted the house to its 1906 appearance. It is believed to contain one of the most intact Frank Lloyd Wright architectural interiors in the United States.