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An architectural tour of Mississippi River Country

Architectural wonders fill this region, including dozens of works by Frank Lloyd Wright, antebellum homes in the south and the iconic Gateway Arch.

Taliesin in Spring Green
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, Wisconsin (Credit: Travel Wisconsin)

Mississippi River Country is home to an amazing variety of architectural styles, from mid-century creations by iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright to an iconic structure on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Explore the works of Frank Lloyd Wright

Where to go: Wisconsin, Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri

Frank Lloyd Wright is widely regarded as America’s greatest architect, and visitors can find stellar examples of his influential work in Wisconsin, Illinois and even Arkansas, which is the site of a relocated and reconstructed Wright home. In 2019, four Wright properties in Wisconsin and Illinois were named UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Wisconsin, and visitors will be able to explore nine sites throughout the southern part of the state that show off some of the famed architect’s finest work. One of the most notable sites is Taliesin, Wright’s 800-acre estate in Spring Green that overlooks the Wisconsin River. Other significant buildings can be found in Madison, Milwaukee and Racine.

Illinois is home to the greatest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world. Visitors will find 10 sites open to the public on the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail, including his home and studio in Oak Park (just outside of Chicago), the Dana-Thomas House in the capital city of Springfield and the Laurent House in Rockford.

Originally constructed in 1956 along the Millstone River in New Jersey, Wright’s Bachman-Wilson House is a classic example of the architect’s Usonian architecture. The house was acquired by the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and reconstructed at the museum’s campus in Bentonville, Arkansas, in 2015.

Originally constructed for Russell and Ruth Knaus, the Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park is a 1,900-square-foot-home in nestled in the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood. It was Wright’s first building in the area and is one of only five Wright designs in Missouri.

Getting there: Chicago is served by O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport. Wisconsin’s main airports are Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport and Madison’s Dane County Regional Airport. Bentonville visitors can fly into Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, which serves nearby Fayetteville. St. Louis is served by St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

Historic homes

Where to go: Mississippi

Natchez, Mississippi—situated on a bluff overlooking the mighty Mississippi River—has more than 1,000 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of these buildings are pre-Civil War homes open to public tours, including Stanton Hall, Melrose and the unfinished Longwood.

Getting there: Natchez is a 90-minute drive from the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport in Louisiana.

An American architectural icon

Where to go: Missouri

There are few structures in America more iconic than the Gateway Arch, which sits on the banks of the Mississippi River in the heart of St. Louis. Part of Gateway Arch National Park, which also includes the Museum at the Gateway Arch and the Old Courthouse, the Gateway Arch was designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen and completed in 1965. The Arch, clad in stainless steel, is America’s tallest manmade monument and towers more than 600 feet over the Mississippi River. Visitors can take a tram to the top of the Arch and enjoy views that span more than 30 miles (48km) to the east and west, including downtown St. Louis, the river and the neighboring state of Illinois.

Getting there: St. Louis Lambert International Airport serves the city of St. Louis.