Frank Lloyd Wright and His Little Gem

Laurent House at dusk - Photo by Nels Akerlund

Laurent House at Dusk – Photo by Nels Akerlund

My Little Gem

Frank Lloyd Wright signed the contract in July of 1949 to build his only structure designed for a person with a disability. Completed three years later, Kenneth and Phyllis Laurent moved into the single-story, Rockford home, decades before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was on the books.

Kenneth, paralyzed from the waist down, and his wife Phyllis, reached out to Wright after his tour of duty in the U.S. Navy put him in a wheelchair for life. “To give you an idea of my situation, I must first tell you that I am a paraplegic. In other words, due to a spinal cord injury, I am paralyzed from the waist down and by virtue of my condition, I am confined to a wheelchair. This explains my need for a home as practical and sensible as your style of architecture denotes,” said Laurent in his letter to Wright.

Laurent House in 2013 During Restoration - Photo by Michael Dwyer

Laurent House in 2013 During Restoration – Photo by Michael Dwyer

The couple lived in the house from 1952 until 2012 when they moved into assisted living and both passed away that same year. “The building is unique in that it has been continually occupied by the original owners, and contains not only furnishings designed by the architect, but many personal items of the owners. In other words, it is a complete work of art,” said restoration architect John Eifler of Eifler & Associates Architects.

Frank Lloyd Wright personally selected the home to be included in a book highlighting his 35 most significant buildings; and he called it “my little gem.”

Saving the Laurent House

On December 11, 2011, The Laurent House Foundation acquired the home and its contents at auction. Every Frank Lloyd Wright building leaks when it rains. Therefore, after cleaning and restoration, the home is now open to the public for viewing.

Every Part of the Laurent House was Designed for a Wheelchair to Use - Photo by Michael Dwyer

Every Part of the Laurent House was Designed for a Wheelchair to Use – Photo by Michael Dwyer

The house and all the furniture were designed by Wright to accommodate Laurent’s needs. It’s one of 60 Usonian homes built by Wright designed for middle-income clients. Large doorways, large hallways and no thresholds allowed Laurent to move comfortably in his wheelchair.

Chicago Common Brick and Red Tidewater Cypress were used to construct the solar hemicycle footprint, patio, fishpond and carport. Local materials and labor from Rockford were used to build much of the home.

At a quick glance, visitors will have a difficult time noticing the home was designed for a person with a disability; the home is beautifully “Wright” in design and many may picture themselves living there.

Tour the Laurent House

The Laurent House is now open and will welcome tours on the first and last weekend (Saturday and Sunday) of each month. Upcoming tour dates are:

Resorted Laurent House Now Open for the Public

Resorted Laurent House Now Open for the Public

· June 7 and 8
· June 28 and 29
· July 5 and 6
· July 26 and 27
· August 2 and 3
· August 30 and 31
· September 6 and 7
· September 27 and 28
· October 4 and 5
· October 25 and 26

Reservations are required and they have the policy of no smoking and no photography. Rockford is less than an hour west of Chicago. Admission is $15 per person. Visit or call 815-547-7642 for more information and for more about Rockford, Illinois, visit



About Michael Dwyer

Michael Dwyer is a freelance content provider. Michael writes about happenings in the Rochester area, travels across Michigan and destinations around the world. Contact him at

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