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2 Millikin Place opens its doors to Heritage & Holly tour

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DECATUR – It's a good thing Frank Lloyd Wright put plenty of built-ins in one of his last surviving examples of open style Prairie School architecture at No. 2 Millikin Place.

That's because in the late 1980s, after former owners William and Bonnie Sutton were unable to sell the house with furnishings or the furnishings as a group after his paper business took them to Ohio, they auctioned off just about everything that wasn't nailed down.

The good news is that much of it is at the Milwaukee Art Museum, in the hometown of interior designer George Niedecken, where the home's new owner is planning a field trip in his quest to restore the six-bedroom house to how it looked when Decatur industrialist Edward Irving and his family moved in in 1910.

Plans include having replicas made of the home's original wall sconces, area rugs, curtain room dividers and doors for the library's built-in bookshelves.

Visitors should see three sets of those new doors, crafted by Duane Shepherd of Decatur with art glass created by Steve Brooks of Springfield, as the house appears next weekend on the annual Heritage & Holly Historic Home Tour for the first time since 1996.

“I want to open it up to people who are interested in seeing it,” Marc Willis said. “When you live here, you get used to it, but I came in here for the first time, it was just like, 'Wow.'”

Even lacking some original accoutrements, the house remains distinctive.

Interesting features include casement art glass windows, skylights offering the option of artificial light, a built-in grandfather clock and buffet, and a great room on the ground floor that's open yet divided from east to west into a dining room, living room and library.

Paul Kruty, professor emeritus of architectural history at the University of Illinois and author of books about Wright and his associate Marion Mahony Griffin, will also be in the home during the tour on Saturday afternoon and give a talk at 2 p.m. in the James Millikin Homestead.

Donna Williams, president of the sponsoring Near Westside Restoration and Preservation Society, said the combination of the house and the expert makes the 24th annual historic home tour “a real event for Decatur.”

“This is the jewel in the city's architectural crown,” Williams said. “Everyone's really excited.”

Not the least of whom are the home's occupants, Willis and the woman who led the consultant from Maryland to the Midwest to buy the house in 2013, Petersburg native Andrea Frazier.

The couple has hired David Heide Design Studio in Minneapolis to work with them on restoring the house and have just redone the landscaping to make it compatible with the home's horizontal lines. “We have hydrangeas and coral bells planted,” Frazier said.

She and Willis are contemplating major work to the roof and eaves, however, before investing in many other improvements.

Among changes to the home they're looking at reversing is the addition of a window along the north side of the entryway.

“Frank Lloyd Wright wanted people to feel like they were coming through a tunnel that's dark and opens up into the reception area,” Willis said. “That gave it that awe factor he was going for the minute you walked in.”

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