KANKAKEE — Wright in Kankakee has successfully completed a $1.7 million fundraising campaign to purchase the B. Harley Bradley House.
Located at 701 S. Harrison Ave. in Kankakee, The Bradley House is considered the birth of noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Prairie-style” design. Designed 120 years ago, the home is listed as a historic property with the National Park Service.
A short, socially distanced ceremony and announcement is being planned for 2 p.m. Saturday, July 25, on the Bradley House lawn.
Major restoration of the site started in 2005, under the watchful eyes of Gaines and Sharon Hall. Wright in Kankakee, a non-profit corporation, was formed in 2010 to spearhead fundraising and to purchase and operate the home.
Not revealed publicly until now, Wright in Kankakee President Norm Strasma explained that “essentially the Halls donated the property to Wright in Kankakee.” That was a $700,000 donation. “The $1 million they spent on the restoration is being returned to them without interest following 10 years of partial installments along the way,” Strasma explained.
Strasma said that the Halls’ donation was “very significant and very generous.”
The B. Harley Bradley House, located south of downtown Kankakee on the Kankakee River, doesn…
“It was not just the money,” Strasma said. “It was all the time they put into renovating the home.”
“I’m happy that Wright in Kankakee has taken up the reins,” said Gaines Hall about the project. “Ten years ago, it was a big question mark. Wright in Kankakee took it and ran with it. They had a wonderful group of volunteers.”
Hall praised all other volunteers and donors, giving special mention to Strasma and Bob Bohlmann, the volunteer executive director of Wright in Kankakee, and Laura Golowski, the volunteer secretary.
Two key gifts helped put the campaign over the top. The Charlton Family Foundation contributed $50,000, as did Tom Knicklebine.
Knicklebine was the key contractor for most of the renovation.
“He was the brains and the craftsman,” Hall said.
He also donated $50,000, Hall said.
“If you could get it started, we could get it finished,” Hall said Knicklebine told him.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Bradley house is closed now, but Bohlmann said it should be open for small socially-distanced group tours in August. The gift shop is open by request.
Bohlmann said the successful fund drive does not mean that the work is over at the home. Preservation and maintenance will be ongoing.
“Like any house,” the wood will need to be maintained. The roof shingles are, for example, rough sawn cedar.
“You can’t run to the hardware store for new ones,” he said.
More than 500 donors, along with income from tours and the gift shop, contributed to the drive to purchase the home. Travelers from 48 states and 26 foreign countries have visited the home.
Major contributors over the years included Betty and John Azzarelli, The Charlton Family Charitable Foundation, Gaines and Sharon Hall, Tom and Joan Knicklebine, Norm and Janice Strasma, Nancy Johnson Sweet, and Martun Whalen and Kathleen Kennedy.
An ongoing project that continues is the replacement of missing art glass with reproductions made by Kankakee’s Jesse Mulligan.
Future planned fundraisers include a benefit concert by cellist Mike Block and a presentation by former Kankakeean Paul Hendrickson about his book, “Plagued by Fire: The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright.”
Among other honors, the home is one of 13 architectural sites on the Illinois Frank Lloyd Wright Trail. In 2019 it received the President’s Award from the American Institute of Architects in Illinois. One such award is given every year.