Lora Hieronymus Robie (educator and book lover)

robie picLora Hieronymus Robie, one-half of the couple who had Frank Lloyd Wright design Chicago’s famed Robie House, spent far more time as a Springfield resident than she did in the house named after her and her husband.

Lora Robie (1878-1947) was born in Pekin, but as a child moved to Springfield with her family. Her father, B.R. Hieronymus (1841-1926), was one of the founders and later president of the Illinois National Bank.

Lora Hieronymus met Frederick Robie while she was attending the University of Chicago, and the two married in 1902. The Robies bought property near the University of Chicago in 1907 and commissioned Wright to build their home. Construction began in 1909 and was largely complete by May 1910, when the couple and their two children moved in.

Robie House (Wikimedia Commons)

Robie House (Wikimedia Commons)

The Robie House is considered one of the great examples of Wright’s Prairie School of architecture (which also includes Springfield’s Dana-Thomas House). One critic said the Robie House is “for many Americans the finest work of art turned out by any of our architects in our history as a nation. In this house Wright blends the sonorous long lines of the machinelike form with a rich decorative effect that is ages old.”

In April 1911, however — less than a year after the Robies moved into their new home — Lora Robie moved out again, and she and the children returned to Springfield. She filed for divorce in 1912, accusing her husband  of infidelity. (Frederick Robie also faced financial problems following the death of his father, for whom the younger Robie had worked. As a result, he was forced to sell the house in December 1911. The Robie House now is owned by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust and is open for public tours.)

Lora Robie, who had briefly been a teacher in Springfield prior to marrying Frederick, became an instructor of history, English and Latin at Lawrence School. She then taught at Springfield High School, where she eventually was appointed dean of giris.

She resigned in 1925 and opened the Robie Book Store at 406 S. Fifth St. in 1927. After closing the store in 1943, Robie became manager of the book department at Myers Brothers Department Store. She also did book reviews for women’s groups and adult education classes and in radio broadcasts.

The Illinois State Journal paid tribute to Lora Robie following her death in January 1947:

Aptly described as a cultural leader, she always gave to those with whom she came in contact something of her own tireless enthusiasm for good living. …

She visualized her beloved books, the many people of the book world she knew so well, and thousands of young minds eager for truth, all of which would live on and on. In this she found a measure of comfort.

Only in the knowledge that the ideals and thoughts of Mrs. Robie do carry on, can we take any solace in the fact of her death. May the memory of her unique personality continue to do the good work which she so well begun when life was hers to spend day by day.

More information: Local newspaper files available through Lincoln Libraryschs logo (2)

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.



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7 Responses to Lora Hieronymus Robie (educator and book lover)

  1. Suzanne Lidstrom says:

    This is touching information about my daughters’ great-grandmother.
    Lora was quite accomplished in her life, especially at those times. I am happy to learn this about her, and my daughters will also be thrilled to learn more about the feminine side of their family. I would love to learn more about her descendants.

    • editor says:

      Yes, exactly — accomplished even aside from the F.L. Wright connection. Thanks for reading.

      • Jen Robie says:

        Hello! I am the great-granddaughter that is previously mentioned. I am so excited to find out that my great-grandmother was such a strong, academic woman and a wonderful boon to her community. I have never known the Robie side of my family. “Sunny” left my father at an early age. If possible, I would love to know more about the Robies! I currently live in Chicago, thank you!

        • editor says:

          Thanks very much for reading.

          • Carolyn Houghton Chapman says:

            Jen, Thanks for being on line. I am a cousin, the great granddaughter of John Pendleton Hieronymus, younger brother of Benjamin Rector Hieronymus, father of Lora Hieronymus Robie. I have lots of family information that might interest you, including Ben’s Civil War Diary. I’d be happy to share, if we can find a way to be in touch.

    • Carolyn Houghton Chapman says:

      How wonderful to see you on-line. This week is the reunion of the Hieronymus Family in America, meeting in Wilmington, OH, this year.
      I’d love to be in touch with you, Suzanne. I have much Hieronymus family information and would be happy to share.

  2. Jen Robie says:

    I’m so broken hearted that I read this message now and not in August! I would love to know more about the family, and meet you. I am finishing an intense nursing program in Naperville, IL that will finish in Dec. Would you be willing to meet in Jan?

    Looking forward to it,
    Jen Robie

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