On the quiet block of 104th Place, running between Prospect Avenue to the east to Wood Avenue on the west, lies an unexpected surprise. This block contains eight houses of the Prairie school of design, all but one designed by an architect just starting out with his own practice after leaving the employ of Frank Lloyd Wright. His name was Walter Burley Griffin. These eight houses make up the largest concentration of Prairie-school houses in Chicago.
Griffin was commissioned in 1909 for his first house in the area by a Russell L. Blount, a real estate manager for a bank, as a home for Blount and his wife. Blount never lived in that house, however, because he was offered a considerable amount of money for the home before it was even finished being constructed (Barton, 104th, 3). Blount accepted this offer (and commissioned Griffin for another house for his now-homeless family. He chose to build it on the same street as his last home. Blount himself became a real estate developer, using Griffin for all of the homes he built in the area.
Many houses on the street were built as homes for the families of contractors and builders. These houses were built according to designs in popular magazines at the time. When Griffin’s designs came on the scene, it must have been like a foreign wind blowing through the leaves on the sidewalk. These designs were actually based on a Wright design, “A Fireproof Home for $5,000”, that had been published in Ladies’ Home Journal in 1907 (Barton, 104th, 7). These houses started to sell like hotcakes.
Griffin designed seven houses for Blount before leaving for Australia; he had won the design competition held for the right to design the new capital city, Canberra.