The Lamp House: Madison’s oldest Frank Lloyd Wright home

The front of Lamp House | photo by @august85_

If you’ve lived in Madison long enough, you’ve probably heard of Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) + his architectural influence on the city. There’s even a Frank Lloyd Wright Trail showcasing some of his greatest Wisconsin designs, but if you take a trip off the trail towards 22 N. Butler St. (one and a half blocks east of the Capitol Square), you’ll discover a Frank Lloyd Wright hidden gem named the Robert M. Lamp House

Constructed in 1903 for Wright’s childhood friend + Madison’s then city treasurer Robert Lamp, the property combines living in the heart of downtown with beautiful lake views. Robert Lamp chose this location so he could easily access his office on Pinckney Street + sit on the roof of his home with binoculars and watch boaters on both Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. The Lamp House was considered a modern build for its timethink rooftop garden until 1913 — but kept traditional aspects such as casement windows, leading contemporaries to consider it “New American” in design. 

As the oldest FLW house in the city, the Lamp House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. In order to protect the house, the City of Madison created an ad hoc committee for the block to focus on preserving the history of the home while allowing for redevelopment. Conservationists have been keen on protecting the view of Lake Mendota from the 3rd floor penthouse, claiming that the views of the lake were essential to the design of the home. The surrounding area has seen the addition of new high-rises + apartment buildings over the years, but FLW’s influence on the city still stands tall with the Lamp House. Currently, the property is privately-owned and used for UW-Madison student housing

Back of Lamp House | Photo by @obeyaug

Lamp House special features include: 

  • Diamond-shaped ornamentation in the brickwork
  • Constructed out of cream-colored commercial brick
  • Traditional casement windows 
  • Fireplace apron in center of house
  • Open floor plan
  • When first designed, views of Lake Mendota to the north, Lake Monona to the south + the State Capitol from rooftop
  • 3rd floor penthouse added in 1913, replacing the rooftop garden

Interested in learning more about FLW and his influence across the US? Read about the world’s largest Frank Lloyd Wright museum, located in our sister market Lakeland, FL.