Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Nathaniel Moore Banta

To judge by search results -- a completely unsystematic, journalist sort of thing to do -- Nathaniel Moore Banta, teacher and author of a good many children's and nature books in the early 20th century, is much better remembered for the house he commissioned, the 1908 Nathaniel Moore Banta House, which is now part of the Arlington Heights Historical Museum. Banta was F.W. Müller's son-in-law (see Monday), and had his house built near the old man's, which is a fine Victorian structure. Banta's house, on the other hand, is considered an Arts and Crafts design.

It's a handsome house, distinctive in this part of the world for its large porch, which unfortunately wasn't very hospitable on a day near freezing. Both inside and out, with its long lines and rectangles and simplicity of feature, the house feels like a break with the past, especially if you've just come from the nearby Victorian structure, which is only about 20 years older. Handsome in its own way, Herr Müller's house still seemed heavier and darker by comparison.

A local architectural firm called W.W. Abell & Son designed the Banta house. The long lines and the rectangles of the house reminded me of Frank Lloyd Wright's work, though not as long or so very rectangular as what I've seen of his. I'm not an authority on him or Arts and Crafts, so I have to wonder who influenced whom at the time, and how much Wright actually borrowed from other people, rather than dreaming up himself. I'll leave that to people better educated in this branch of architectural history, though I suspect it's a matter of dispute even among them.

While his house is certainly worth visiting, the life of the man who lent his name to the house is also worth a link.

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