I wasn’t expecting to find a Frank Lloyd Wright building on Main Street in Dwight, Illinois. Information I was reading about Wright listed a bank there, so I went to check it out. Dwight is located about 75 miles southwest of Chicago.
While the exterior of the First National Bank of Dwight is rather plain and bunker-like, the promotional brochure informs readers that it was “Frank Lloyd Wright’s answer in design to demonstrate the solidness of a small town bank.”
The building started out in 1906 as both a bank and real estate business. Side by side doors at the entrance and again in the conference room have you wondering about the design until you learn the history of the building. Eventually, in the 1960s, the bank took over the entire building, and the partition dividing the two businesses was removed.
Inside visitors can see the Wright details, including an original table he designed for the bank lobby.
My husband and I were there on a Friday which we discovered was a good thing. That’s popcorn day, and a gentleman handed us a theater-style box of fresh popcorn (no little paper bag)!
Employees were friendly and helpful considering we were not bank customers and only there to gawk around. “We get a lot people stopping here to look at the building,” said one of the tellers patiently.
We were also fortunate that no meetings were taking place in the Wright-designed conference room. A nicely-dressed lady took us over to the room, turned on the lights, and encouraged us to look around and take photos.
The building has been thoughtfully maintained and restored. In talking with the staff, there is still a lot of pride in the building and the bank. It was a worthwhile stop.
A brochure we picked up in the bank featured other places to see in “delightful Dwight.” Across the street from the bank is a handsome stone depot, built in 1891 and on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s a curious assortment of other attractions – a windmill owned by the village, and a public library located in the former carriage house of a large estate. The former Keeley Institute, now the William Fox Developmental Center, was an early facility for alcohol and drug rehabilitation. The stained glass windows designed by Louis J. Millet above the entrance depict the five senses. And there’s an 1857 Pioneer Gothic Church.
Route 66 . . .
Dwight is also known for its location on Route 66. Enthusiasts can check out the Amber-Becker Texaco Station, recognized as the longest-operating Route 66 gas station at sixty years of service. It’s now a charming little museum.
Where to Eat . . .
Follow the Mother Road to Great Food and have lunch at the Old Route 66 Family Restaurant. We sat in chairs covered with Route 66 fabric and enjoyed the daily special – a hearty plate of roast pork served open face with mashed potatoes and gravy.
While we were eating, I noticed many elderly men and women coming into the restaurant. It was heartwarming to see the young waitresses being very kind, patient, and helpful to these older folks.
After a visit, I would agree with Dwight’s proclamation that they have an old-fashioned atmosphere and friendly residents.
About 25 miles north of Dwight is the village of Seneca. There you’ll find an agricultural icon – a wooden grain elevator. The four-story M.J. Hogan Grain Elevator was constructed in 1861-1862 and is the earliest remaining grain elevator built along the Illinois & Michigan Canal.
Grand Ridge, Illinois
Continue 17 miles southwest of Seneca to Grand Ridge where you’ll find another wooden elevator, smaller in size, with faded red paint that gives it a weathered look.