OAK PARK, Ill. -- Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, but Frank Lloyd Wright lives here.

Wright died in 1959, two years before Hemingway, but the famous architect's legacy is so strong in this village west of Chicago that he seems to be part of the present. Home to more than two dozen Wright structures, including a church, two stables and a fountain, Oak Park boasts the largest collection of Wright-designed sites in the world. Wright lived in Oak Park for the first 20 years of his career, between 1889 and 1909, developing Prairie style architecture in a studio there. In contrast, Hemingway couldn't wait to leave, reportedly disparaging it as a place of "wide lawns and narrow minds." (The future novelist left at age 18 to become a reporter for the Kansas City Star.)

Some 80,000 people tour Wright's Oak Park home and studio each year (and about 10,000 visit the Hemingway sites) but visitors can also get a sense of Wright's impact just by strolling up and down the streets. In addition to the homes he built, his designs are incorporated into everything from windows to mailboxes to lamps at scores of houses the architect had nothing to do with. This village of 52,000 is a living testament to his influence.

That's part of why visiting Wright's home and studio is such a treat: A chance to see where the person responsible for it all lived, worked and created. "This is like a creative lab," said Tim Samuelson, Chicago's cultural historian and a member of the advisory board of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust.

As guides lead visitors through the house, often past furniture that Wright built, they explain Wright's use of space: how he not only controlled room size, which every architect does, but also influenced how big or small the rooms felt to people inside them.

For example, the drafting room looks even bigger than it is, a guide explains, because of a small passageway that opens up into the room, creating a bit of an illusion about the size. And where did he get that idea? The pyramids of Egypt employ the same trick.

In another room, the playroom, Wright cut a hole in the wall and shoved much of a piano into it, so that the keys of the piano are in the room and the rest of it hangs above a stairwell in space that wasn't being used for anything anyway.

Then there's Wright's attention to what occupies all that space: Light.

"Whenever he got a job he'd look at the site and see how the light fell" at different times of day, said Samuelson. Samuelson said he almost hates to take a picture in a Wright home because he knows the photograph will not do justice to how different the home looks from season to season and even from hour to hour.

"He thought of those things," said Samuelson.

And while Wright didn't spend a lot of time consulting clients about where this wall or that room would go, he did have a sense of what they would like.

"He had happy first clients, the houses fit them like a glove," said Samuelson. Of course, someone as eccentric as Wright, who famously strode about with a cape over his shoulders and a cane in his hand, tended to attract clients who appreciated Wright's sensibilities.

Wright also understood in the early years of the 20th century that the automobile wasn't a passing fad and that he'd better design his houses to cope with shining headlights and noisy engines.

Listen, the tour guide says, pointing to one of Oak Park's busiest streets, just outside Wright's window. The columns outside are not just decorative; they absorb noise, rendering near-silence.

But what really makes a tour of Wright's home and community fun – especially for those who don't know much about architecture – is that it brings a man who has been dead for more than a half century back to life as a neighbor, businessman, father and husband, without whitewashing his flaws.

For example, he liked the finer things in life but often strung merchants along when they came after him for payment. And when he moved to Oak Park, he borrowed money to buy a house from his boss at the time, famed architect Louis Sullivan. Sullivan lent him the money on condition that he not do any side jobs. Wright agreed but secretly "bootlegged" houses around town.

"He'd sign an architect's friend's name on necessary permits or documents so Sullivan wouldn't notice," Samuelson said.

Wright also got tongues wagging when he ran off with the wife of another client, leaving his wife and kids in his house and his mother in the house next door.

At the same time, Wright was kind. He supported Sullivan for well over a decade when the older man fell on hard times late in life, the guide said.

Maybe the best story about how Wright's work and personality came together is the one told at the end of the house tour in what was his office.

Wright's houses tended to have leaky roofs, at least partly because Wright asked contractors to build houses unlike anything they'd built or even seen before/ But Wright didn't seem much bothered by it, whether the owners blamed him or not. When people would call to complain, "There's water leaking on my desk," Wright, as the story goes, would simply advise them to move the desk.

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If You Go...

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  • Frank Lloyd Wright

    In this file photo of March 18, 1957, architect Frank Lloyd Wright visits Robie House, his 1909 Prairie style design, on Woodlawn Avenue in Chicago, Ill. (AP Photo/File)

  • Frank Lloyd Wright

    In this file photo of Aug. 16, 1938, architect Frank Lloyd Wright is seen in his studio and home in Talisien, Spring Green, Wis. A Frank Lloyd Wright archive of more than 23,000 architectural drawings and other material is being moved permanently to the Museum of Modern Art and Columbia University's Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library in New York, it was announced, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012 by Sean Malone, president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. (AP Photo/File)

  • This undated photo provided by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust shows the exterior of the home side of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, Ill., which was built in 1889.

  • This undated photo provided by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust shows the exterior of the studio side of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, Ill., which was built in 1889.

  • This undated photo provided by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust shows the exterior of the studio side of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, Ill., which was built in 1889.

  • This undated photo provided by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust shows the Arthur and Grace Huertley house, designed by Wright and built in 1902, on Forest Avenue in Oak Park, Ill., a few doors away from the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. Oak Park is home to 29 Wright structures, the largest number in of Wright designs built in any one place in the world. (AP Photo/Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, James Caulfield)

  • This undated rendering, provided by the Milwaukee Art Museum, shows a Frank Lloyd Wright drawing of a house called Fallingwater in Mill Run, Penn. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Art Museum)

  • Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona

    <a href="http://www.franklloydwright.org/fllwf_web_091104/Tours.html" target="_hplink">Built in 1937</a>, tours are now available every day (except Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter) from 9am to 4pm.

  • Taliesin, Wisconsin

    This Spring Green home is open for <a href="http://www.taliesinpreservation.org/visitors-guide/our-tours/house-tour" target="_hplink">2-hour tours</a> every day from 12pm to 3pm.

  • Fallingwater House, Pennsylvania

    This home, built in 1937, is <a href="http://www.fallingwater.org/82/tours-and-tickets" target="_hplink">open for tours</a> every day from 10am to 4pm (reservations are essential) and is closed every Wednesday.

  • Darwin D. Martin Home, Buffalo, New York

    This <a href="http://www.darwinmartinhouse.org/tours.php" target="_hplink">1904 property </a>is currently under restoration, but normally 90-minute tours are available every day except Tuesday and Thursday.

  • Price Tower, Oklahoma

    Wright's <a href="http://pricetower.org/" target="_hplink">only realized sky scraper</a> now serves as a National Historic Landmark and houses a museum, hotel and bar inside.

  • Hollyhock House, Los Angeles

    Built between 1919 and 1921, the home was designed for philanthropist Aline Barnsdall. Tour the home (<a href="http://hollyhockhouse.net/visit/" target="_hplink">reservations not essential</a>) Wednesday through Sunday.

  • Guggenheim Museum, New York

    This famous New York museum was <a href="http://www.guggenheim.org/" target="_hplink">built in 1959</a> and is now open every day except Thursday.

  • Kentuck Knob, Pennsylvania

    <a href="http://www.kentuckknob.com/directions.html" target="_hplink">One of the last homes </a>to be completed by Wright, Kentuck Knob was opened in 1956 in Chalk Hill.

  • Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio, Illinois

    You can visit the <a href="http://gowright.org/visit/home-and-studio/tour-information.html" target="_hplink">1889-built home and studio</a> of Wright himself in Oak Park. Tours are open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and the last week in January by guided tour (reservations recommended).

  • Unity Temple, Illinois

    Wright was just 38-years old when he got the commission to build the temple in 1871. Of the building Wright <a href="http://www.unitytemple-utrf.org/building.html" target="_hplink">reportedly said</a>, "That was my first expression of this eternal idea which is at the center and core of all true modern architecture. A sense of space, a new sense of space."

  • Dana-Thomas House, Illinois

    This <a href="http://www.dana-thomas.org/tours.htm" target="_hplink">1904-built home </a>is open for 20-minute tours 9am to 4pm on Wednesday through Sunday. Reservations are not necessary.

  • Robie House, Illinois

    Created for Wright's client <a href="http://gowright.org/visit/robie-house.html" target="_hplink">Frederick C. Robie</a> in 1910, the building sits on the campus of the University of Chicago. Tours are open to the public Thursday through Monday (book in advance).

  • Biltmore Hotel, Arizona

    Wright served as the <a href="http://www.arizonabiltmore.com/about/" target="_hplink">consulting architect </a>on this hotel, opened in 1929.

  • Wingspread, Wisconsin

    Herbert Fisk Johnson commissioned Wright to design his home after Wright created the headquarters for the S.C. Johnson & Son company. Wingspread, a 14,000-foot home, was <a href="http://www.johnsonfdn.org/at-wingspread/wingspread" target="_hplink">completed in 1939</a>.

  • Weltzheimer/Johnson House, Ohio

    The <a href="http://www.oberlin.edu/amam/flwright.html" target="_hplink">Weltzheimer/Johnson House</a> sits a few blocks away from Oberlin's campus. Completed in 1949, the house is open for tours on the first and third Sundays of the month.

  • Pope-Leighey House, Virginia

    This 1,200-square foot Alexandria, Virginia home was commissioned by journalist Loren Pope in 1939. Its second owner, Marjorie Leighey, <a href="http://popeleighey1940.org/" target="_hplink">donated the home</a> to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The home is open for tours Thursday through Monday, 10am to 5pm.

  • Stockman House, Iowa

    <a href="http://www.stockmanhouse.org/" target="_hplink">Built in 1909</a> for George C. & Eleanor Stockman, the home is opened Thursday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sundays from 1pm to 5pm.

  • Rosenbaum House, Alabama

    This home, <a href="http://www.wrightinalabama.com/contact.html" target="_hplink">built in 1939</a> for newlyweds Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum, is the only Wright home in Alabama. The home is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm, and Sundays 1pm to 4pm.

  • Gordon House, Oregon

    The <a href="http://www.thegordonhouse.org/tours.html" target="_hplink">only Wright building in Oregon</a> (it was commissioned in 1957 and completed in 1963, four years after Wright's death) is open for guided tours of the home 12pm to 4pm.

  • Falling Water

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  • Child of the Sun, Florida Southen College

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  • Greycliff, Derby, NY

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  • hoyt house, geneva, illinois

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Karla_Kaulfuss"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Karla_Kaulfuss">Karla Kaulfuss</a>:<br />

  • The Historic Park Inn & City National Bank Building, Mason City, Iowa

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  • The Historic Park Inn & City National Bank Building, Mason City, Iowa

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Claudia_Collier"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Claudia_Collier">Claudia Collier</a>:<br />The last remaining hotel in the world designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (1909=1910). It is currently undergoing restoration and will re-open as a 27-room boutique hotel in June, 2011. A classic example of Prairie School Architecture.

  • The Historic Park Inn & City National Bank Building, Mason City, Iowa

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  • Sutton House, Nebraska

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/John_Linko"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/John_Linko">John Linko</a>:<br />The Harvey P. Sutton House in McCook, Nebraska, a classic Prairie Style residence built in 1905. McCook is a charming small community in southwest Nebraska along US-6.

  • Lloyd-Jones House, "Westhope", Oklahoma

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  • Rosenbaum Usonian House

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  • Taliesin West at Night

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  • Bradley House, Kankakee Illinois

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  • Allen-Lambe House, Wichita, Kansas

    <em>molls73 twitpic</em>

  • Gammage Auditorium, Tempe AZ

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    <em>molls73 twitpc</em>