Susan Lawrence Dana

Heiress of the Prairie (Style)

Susan Lawrence Dana’s extravagant lifestyle was fueled by heartache. She became an heiress upon the 1901 death of her beloved father and chose to renovate his Springfield home to cater to her progressive lifestyle. For that, Dana hired burgeoning architect Frank Lloyd Wright and he transformed the structure into a masterpiece of modernity. The grandiose result embodied their partnership and Dana’s multifaceted identity as she hosted women’s rights activists, orphans for story time, and local celebrities at parties.

Wright’s vision and architectural style are apparent throughout the entire home, but each room was built to complement Dana’s passions, ideals, and unlimited budget. From the local lumber used to structure the home to the motif of butterflies—referencing her as a “social butterfly”—neatly woven throughout the house, Dana’s various roles are constantly apparent to visitors. Wright captured the essence of the Midwestern landscape through his Prairie Style and Dana’s progressivism in the home’s design.


Object label:

Dana/Wright Art Table & Art

A Frank Lloyd Wright table designed for displaying Dana’s artwork because his architectural plan did not allow for hanging anything on the walls. Watercolor paintings signed E. Pike from the Lawrence family

Courtesy of the Dana Thomas House, Illinois Department of Natural Resources

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