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Mason City, Iowa hosts the highest concentration of integrated Prairie School architecture in the world. Between 1908 and 1916 coherent groupings of commercial and residential buildings took their place on the quite literal Midwestern prairie as designed by the cream of the crop of young Chicago architects innovating in the direction first proposed by Louis Sullivan. On a corner of the downtown square Frank Lloyd Wright produced a three-part structure that wrapped around the intersection of two principal streets to house a bank, a hotel, and a connecting set of office and retail space. He tossed in a home for friends of his developer clients. Nearby, his former associates Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony envisioned and mostly realized a gathering of Prairie Style homes uniquely situated with an eye to each other and to the larger landscape. Another Wright associate, William Drummond, superintended the commercial project and designed a home for a second friend of the developers. Barry Byrne, a fourth alumnus of this informally organized school, finished up Griffin and Mahony’s work after they had won an international contest to design the capital city of Canberra and left for Australia to see it built. Duties for completing the final house were given to a young local, Einar Broaten, who in coming decades would extend the Prairie School influence into other northern Iowa towns.

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©2017 Jerome Klinkowitz



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