Chicago Tribune, April 8, 1869
Daniel Thompson will soon erect a building on the corner of Prairie avenue and Twentieth street. The lot has a frontage of 150 feet. The house will be either brown stone of marble, and cost about $100,000. Mr. Geo. Pullman, is also about to build a handsome residence on the same avenue, which will cost about as much.
Chicago Tribune, October 30, 1869
The style and cost of private houses are a fair indication of the wealth of city. Where there are streets lined with marble palaces, and brown stone fronts, there must be money, enterprise, and work. For so young a city, Chicago has a large number of splendid buildings; but so far there is no Fifth avenue established, no sacred region where only fashion can reside. This is partly because we have not yet had time to lay out a street of wealth; and here in the West we are not so exclusive and aristocratic as the residents of the fashionable quarters of Eastern cities. We are not so confined and cramped in our notions. Our ideas nd our minds generally take tone from the prairies, which are broad and expansive. The wealthy, as a rule, do not put on heavy style, and, when they do, it does not turn their heads and make them look down upon the less fortunate. In the course of time, probably, we will grow more generally aristocratic, and th aristocrats will be inclined to have select quarters all to themselves.
While waiting for all this, private enterprise is erecting handsome dwellings, of which the owners and the city may be proud. They are scattered here and there over the streets, and do not seem to concentrate in any particular locality. The residence of Mr. Daniel Thompson, Superintendent of the City Railway Company, now building on the northwest corner of Prairie avenue and Twentieth street, is the latest and most notable addition to the handsome houses of the city. The following details will give an idea of how magnicicent it will be when finished:
The lot has a front of 193 feet on Prairie avenue, and a depth of 175 feet to an alley. The building is in the Italian style of architecture, the extreme size of which is 66 feet 6 inches on Prairie avenue, with a depth of 94 feet. The foundation of all exterior walls is of concrete, 2 feet thick and 4 feet wide, and all interior walls have concrete foundation 2 feet thick and 3 feet wide. The rubble wall of the exterior walls is 25 inches thick to grade line,. upon which the pavement walls will commence. It is faced with ashlar of Connecticut brown stone, from the Portland quarries. This ashlar will have rubbed surface, with square rustic joints. The ashlar is 6 feet high, with heavy moulded base and water-table. The windows for basement are entirely above ground. All exterior walls above the basement are face with the best quality of Baltimore pressed brick, and are constructed with an air space of four inches, so as to plaster upon the brick walls. ll division walls are of brick, resting upon wrought iron beams where there is not a wall beneath. All the windows are trimmed with brown stone. The approach to the main entrance, which is on Prairie avenue (being an east front), is up a flight of stone steps, which is covered by a stone porch, with fluted stone Corinthian columns, and from these columns spring stone brackets, which support a Corinthian cornice of stone. The main entrance is through a tower which is 73 feet high, to the vestibule 5 feet 6 inches by 7 feet, heavily paneled with native wood, Through the vestibule door is the main hall, 10 feet 6 inches wide and 34 feet long, with a hall on one side of this main hall 10 by 14 feet, in the shape of an inverted L. On the left are elliptic headed folding doors leading into the reception room, which is 20 by 20 feet, with a half octagonal stone bay-window, having a southern exposure, with two windows in the east front this reception room.
1936 Prairie Avenue
The front windows are shaded by a verandah, with stone floor, Corinthian fluted columns, and stone cornice and roof. On the opposite side of the hall is the parlor, with elliptic headed folded doors, immediately opposite the doors to he reception-room. The size of the parlor is 18 6x 34. It is lighted by two windows on the east front, opening upon a stone balcony, supported by stone brackets. In the rear of the parlor is the library, with which it connects by sliding doors. The latter is 24 6×29, is octagonal in shape, and is lighted by two windows on the west side, and one on the northeast side of the octagon. The library opens on the south by sliding doors to the dining-room, which has double sliding doors, the two rooms being separated from each other by a passage 5 feet wide, extending from the main hall to the butler’s pantry. The dining-room is 16×25 and is lighted by two windows opening to the south. Adjoining the dining-room is a China closet 7 6×8. and the butler’s pantry, 5 6×7 6, is between the dining-room and the kitchen. A side entrance on the south, with a side hall 7×7, is lighted by a large window opening to the south, with closets on the opposite side of the hall for coats, hats, &c.
In the rear is the kitchen, 16×17, which has a rear exit on the west to the yard. The kitchen has rear stairs to second story, and stairs below to laundry under the kitchen. The kitchen has a pantry and stair closets in addition to the butler’s pantry.
In the basement, under the reception-room, is the billiard-room, 20×20, with a bay window. Under the parlor is the drying-room, 18 ft. 4 in. x 33 ft 6 in., so arranges as to allow all vapors to pass through the ventilating flues to the attic and into the open air from the attic. The room for the steam heating apparatus is under the library. The wine cellar, ice room, and refrigerator are near the laundry, with water-closet for servants, and wash basin and closet from the billiard-room. The stairway to the second story is from the main hall, with rear stairs to the second story from the kitchen.
The second story is divided into large rooms, with a chamber over the reception room 20×20, with a half-octagonal bay window on the south, and two windows opening to the east, on to the roof of verandah, which forms a balcony, with stone railing and stone balusters around it. There is a ball-room from the chamber, approached from a vestibule 6×6, with a closet at the end of the vestibule, 4 ft 8×5 ft. 6 in. for hanging clothes, with a sliding door from vestibule into bath-room, 8×10, fitted up in the best manner with all conveniences. Opposite the bath-room is a closet which opens from vestibule, 7 ft. 8 in. x 4 ft., with case of drawers in a recess. Adjoining this chamber, in the tower, is a dressing-room, 10 ft. 6 in., lighted by two windows over main entrance; besides these rooms are four large chambers, averaging 16×20 each, with closets and wash-stands to each. There is a bath-room, from to main hall on the rear part, 6×6, and a water-closet, 4×5, independent of the bath-room.
There are three bedrooms over the rear part, with closets and wash-stands to each; also a store-room, with clothes press, which extends to a closet in laundry for soiled clothes. There is also a sink-room on the second floor, and a closet for broom near the rear stairs. There is an attic in the main house, which is lighted by frieze-light windows, and is subdivided into rooms for storage, etc.
The height of the stories is as follows:
- Basement, 9 feet; principal story, 14 feet 9 inches; second story, 13 feet 6 inches for the main part, with the kitchen 13 feet; and the second story over kitchen, 12 feet.
The main floor is six feet above the grade line. The total elevation of main building is forty-four feet above grade to top of cornice; the rear part is thirty-seven feet high from ground line to top of cornice. The tower is seventy-three feet high from the ground line. The roof will be covered with slate, with copper flashings, &c. On the north side of the rear part is a stone cistern, which is to contain 6,000 gallons of rain water.
The inside finish is to be of hard woods—all the rooms,—and halls to have heavy enriched cornice, with paneled ceilings neatly frescoed. It is intended to erect the walls and enclose the building the coming year, and finish off the subsequent year. The cost of the building will be about $100,000.
To the rear of the house is the barn, 39×80 feet, built of same material as the house, with corresponding external appearance. The first-story to contain six stables and one box stall, harness-room, carriage-room, and several other rooms and water-closets. Then comes the ice-house, two stories high. In the second story is the coachman’s room, wit two closets, robe room, with closets, grain bins, and hay-room. The barn is ventilated in the most approved manner. The cost of the barn will be about $18,000.
The architect is Mr. L. B. Dixon, under whose supervision the building will be completed.
The Land Owner, May, 1874
The Prairie-Avenue Residences.
Our artist shows in this issue a number of the beautiful homes on Prairies avenue, one of the most fashionable and handsomely-built of all our South-Side thoroughfares. No city in the world can rival Chicago in its residences, a fact which shows that this class of buildings has not suffered by the fire and the consequent turning of capital into the erection of business blocks.
After all, one of the greatest attractions a city can offer is its homes, for to obtain them is the end of most men’s aspirations, for which they toil and sweat in the counting-room and at the various trades and professions. Visitors who crowd to Chicago neglect to see the homes of our citizens, being wholly absorbed and astonished by the wonderful buildings put up since the fire in the burnt district. They should not fail to visit such streets as Prairie avenue, where the home-life of our citizens of means is laid.
THE HOMES OF CHICAGO—Residences of Prominent Citizens on Prairie Avenue
The Land Owner, May, 1874
16th to 22nd Streets
Robinson Fire Map
Inter Ocean, January 2, 1887
Chicago has every reason to be proud of her beautiful homes. The stranger from the distant East, the far West, or the sunny South, after a brief sojourn in the Garden City, looked upon the shores of a great lake, carries back with him pleasant memories of the avenues, boulevards, and palatial homes that adorn them, as well as recollections of the city’s wonderful activity and progress. Upon the South Side, for a distance of six blocks, Prairie avenue is pronounced the residence street par excellence. A pleasing feature is the marked individuality displayed by the owners in erecting mansions, substantial and beautiful, but different from each other in the style of architecture. The aggregate wealth of the residents of these blocks is placed at $50,000,000, at a low estimate. Presidents of banks and large corporations; senior members of the most prominent firms, transacting a larger business than any in their particular line in the West; owners of bonds, stocks, and real estate; the leaders of society, the patrons of the opera, and the subscribers to every charitable object are among the number whose homes are within these few blocks, and whose residence property has reached the highest market price. The stroller notices among the number the following, first on the west and then on the east side of this avenue to Twenty-second street.
Leaving Sixteenth street and wending his way southward, the sightseer observes on the west side of the street an oddly-constructed brick house, with steps peculiarly shaped leading to the main entrance. It has a rounded corner surmounted with a tower. The grounds are enclosed with an iron fence. Mr. John G. Shorthall, the President of the Humane Society, and a lover of the god and beautiful, had his house built under his personal supervision.
Prairie Avenue, 1887
Morning and night, a showy turnout is noticed before the squarely-built house, with the number 1612 over the portals. It is owned by Mr. W. P. Studebaker, one of the Studebaker Brothers, whose immense carriage-warehouse rears its head aloft upon Michigan avenue.
The venerable and well-preserved Mr. Robert Law, the pioneer coat merchant, makes No. 1620 his abode. The house is commodious, olive green in color, and affords a fine view of the lake. Mr. Law shares the honors, as a dealer in black diamonds, with Mr. William P. Rend, in ranking.
Among the millionaires, Mr. William R. Stirling, the treasurer of the Joliet Steel Company, received No. 1616 and its furnishings from his model father-in-law, Mr. William G. Hibbard. At No, 1638 is another son-in-law of Mr. Hibbard’s, R. R. Gregory, Esq., who has many substantial reasons for remembering the generosity of the large-hearted hardware merchant when he enters his English cottage.
Mr. Morris Einstein, the retired clothier and capitalist, is the fortunate owner of several houses facing this avenue. His own residence, No. 1628, is a three-story pressed-brick front, which stands back in well-kept grounds. The house is none too roomy for the numerous children and grandchildren.
A most attractive house, No. 1702, is that of Mr. Turlington W. Harvey, the lumber merchant, and one of the few of that line of business whose riches approximate a million of dollars. The chief charm of this house, French chateau, in the style of architecture, is its home-like appearance, displaying the good judgement of Mr. and Mrs. Harvey. While it is large, it does not suggest a chilling splendor, but an atmosphere of comfort and content pervades their earthly paradise.
The dark colored frame house, with the entrance in the center, is the residence of Mrs. J. M. Walker, who is spending the winter in Italy. Wirt D. Walker is often seen at the races, driving a pair of jet black horses to a dog cart. His brother, James Walker, before his departure for Europe, purchased the double-swell brick houses immediately south of the family residence. The coming summer it is his intention to replace these houses with a dwelling house rivaling in beauty any on the avenue, and in keeping with its surroundings. The purchase price was the highest paid for inside lots of residence property in this city. Mr. Joseph E. Otis has completed the remodeling of No. 1730, where he has dwelt many years. Mr. Otis is one of the three brothers who have grown wealthy in the rise of real estate. The Eighteenth street corner, the northwest, was formerly owned by Mr. E. G. Asay, the lawyer, Mr. Hugh J. McBirney, President of the McBirney & Johnston Company, lives at No. 1736. At the close of a summer day the veranda of this hospitable home is always filled with the family and their many friends.
Passing to the opposite corner upon the south, and a most originally planned structure greets the eye. The architect was the late Mr. H. H. Richardson, of Boston. The same gentleman designed Mr. Franklin McVeague’s house upon the lake shore drive and the new Field store. This strange looking building elicits many comments from both residents and strangers. For solidity it is superior among the thousands of well built homes in this city. There is no dividing line between the outer walls of the house and stable. The windows upon the street and avenue are for the most part small and the roof is sloping. The house covers every foot of the frontage. The grounds within are not visible except from the house of the owner.
The northern wall of the new house, adjoining upon the south is unbroken. The residence is said to be of the Spanish-Mexican type, and of convenient internal arrangement. Its late architect had a National reputation. When finished the house will be occupied by the builder, John J. Glessner. Warder, Bushnell & Glessner, and will lone represent a large fortune. In strong and marked contrast to Mr. Glessner’s, is the granite house of Mr. O. R. Keith, which is receiving its finishing touches. Mr. Keith has personally attended to the pettiest details in the construction of his new home and is highly elated with its unique facade and superb interior. During his sojourn abroad he collected numerous rare articles abd choice paintings which will adorn the walls.
Mr. G. Henry Wheeler has a charming house, No. 1812, arranged and furnished in exquisite taste. Mr. Wheeler is of the firm of Munger, Wheeler & Co., and a son of the venerable Hiram Wheeler, Esq.
Mr. Charles M. Henderson, a leading jobbing shoe merchant, and a millionaire, has enjoyed his airy but substantially built mansion for many years.
The Fernando Jones house has been improved and enlarged recently. The late Mr. Wilbur Storey passed the closing years of his life in this house.
The light stone-front house, No, 1828, is a gen of artistic beauty, and the taste displayed in the selection of the costly paintings and the articles of virtue in this truly beautiful home reflects great credit upon Mr. and Mrs. D. B. Shipman.
Contiguous to Mr. Shipman’s is the handsome brown stone of the old and well-known resident, Mr. George B. Marsh. The most striking architectural feature is the main entrance, which has highly polished pillars of Scotch granite on either side. Being a connoisseur of cabinet ware and hard wood, Mr. Marsh has made choice of the best material which grows in the forest to embellish his delightful abode.
Side by side stand the houses of two of the best citizens of which Chicago can boast and they are brothers. Edson is the name of one and Elbridge is the other. The name Keith is synonymous with honesty and integrity, With the growth of this city they have kept pace and are in affluent circumstances. Mr. Elbridge Keith is President of the Metropolitan National Bank and the senior member of the hardware firm of Keith, Benham & Dezendorf, and Congressman in embryo. Mr. Edson Keith is a millionaire, head of a prominent firm, and the first President of the Calumet Club. His residence, although erected over twenty years ago, stil ranks among the most ornate and elegant of more recent date.
Mr. P. P. Moulton, of Reyburn, Hunter & Co., paid a high price for his lot, and has placed upon it an exceedingly magnificent house of the modern style. It embodies to a high degree of strength, convenience and architectural beauty.
Towering far above the Moulton turrets is the big brick, with brown-stone trimmings, of the packer, Samuel Allerton. The Allerton mansion is conspicuous for its size and the extent of the grounds attached to it. It was not built by its owner and occupant, but was purchased at a bargain. A rare and costly jewel is enhanced in value and beauty by its setting, and this fine residence is especially noticeable because of its unrivaled grounds. Some ideas may be gained of their value when it is known that Mr. Allerton refused $117,000 for the lawn south of his home. The house itself is of no one pronounced style of architecture, but it has both French and Gothis characteristics, which are harmoniously blended. Mr. Allerton is a self-made man, and free from ostentation. At Lake Geneva, his country home, he has a steam yacht, and recently, to his other possessions, has added a tally-ho. His millions rate as high as half a dozen, for Mr. Samuel W. Allerton is President of the Allerton Packing Company.
Located at the southwest corner of Twentieth street is the cheerful-looking residence of Mr. John M. Clark, of Grey, Clark & Engle, leather dealers. Mrs. Clark is associated with Mrs. Dexter and Mrs. Pullman, forming the incomparable trio that has made the dancing class so successful and exclusive, its members being the creme de la creme of the upper-tendom of Chicago society.
Mr. Louis Wahl made No. 2026 his home, and often gathered about him the young people, that they might make merry. Upon the upper floor there is a commodious dancing hall. Mr. Levi Rosenfeld, a retired dry goods merchant and capitalist, succeeded Mr. Wahl in the ownership of this beautiful home. Mr. Ebenezer Buckingham, President of the Trader’s Insurance Company, has his residence at No. 2026, and Mr. John B. Sherman, Vice President and manager of the Union Stock Yards, lives upon the opposite corner of Twenty-first street.
Mr. Charles D. Hamill, whose fair face is as well known on ‘Change, drives from No. 2126 Prairie avenue to his office.
The last house upon this avenue, at he corner of Twenty-second, was erected by the late W. F. Tucker.
It is made conspicuous by its rounded corners and many towers. Mr. Byron L. Smith, the present owner, is Vice President of the Merchant’s Loan and Trust Company Bank, and the only son of the late Mr. Sol Smith, who left an estate of nearly a million dollars.
Prairie Avenue, about 1890.
Upon the east side of the avenue Colonel Jesse Spaulding, the ex-Collector of the port and lumber dealer, has the title deeds of No. 1637. The house is one of the plainest upon the street, although the owner has abundance of means to build a residence that would add still another to the numerous palaces that ornament this avenue.
Wr. William G. Hibbard, the President of the Hibbard, Spence & Bartlett Company, the hardware firm, has his lares and penates at No. 1701, and that number is known for good cheer which prevails within. Of an amiable and cheerful temperament, this prosperous merchant, not only at his own fireside brings happiness, but his genial influence is felt in many other households. An ideal father and grandfather is Mr. William G. Hibbard.
The late Palmer V. Kellogg and family formerly occupied No. 1709. Mr. Kellogg has been gathered to his fathers, and Mrs. Kellogg is traveling in Europe. During her absence, Mr. Thomas Murdoch, of the firm of Reid, Murdoch & Fischer, has leased the handsomely furnished house. Mr. Murdoch drives a dog cart, to which is attached a pair of stylish horses. He keeps banking hours, arriving at his store at 10, and leaving at 4 o’clock. With congenial spirits, he lunches at the Chicago Club daily. Both Mr. Hibbard’s and Mr. Murdoch’s commodious dwelling houses would invite attention wherever located.
The tastefully constructed frame house with modern improvements, No. 1721, is where Mr. Wirt Dexter, the able lawyer, enjoys his repose, for, when he leaves his law office he leaves behind him the cares of his profession and thinks only of his comfortable home and its happy inmates. Short and heavy in build, when astride a cob, his favorite exercise, as he trots down Calumet avenue, Mr. Dexter has the appearance of a well-to-do farmer jogging leisurely along. When his son Sam is home from college he often accompanies his father and is a graceful equestrian. Only an imaginary dividing line separates the grounds of Mr. Wirt Dexter and his friend, Mr. George M. Pullman, of palace-car fame. Scarcely an hour in the day but carriages may be seen slowly passing by the massive brown-stone palace of Mr. Pullman, while the occupants gaze with admiration upon the ornate bronze doors, the antique vases and the richly-curtained windows, and imagining the eloquence concealed within. Probably there is no residence on the South Side so complete in all its appointments as Mr. Pullman’s. If there is a historic spot in this city it is near the porte-cochere of the Pullman palace, for, there stands an unsightly cottonwood tree, a connecting link between the Chicago of the present and of the past. When a sapling of it was a mute witness of the massacre of the unsuspecting whites by the treacherous red men in 1812.
Crossing Eighteenth street, there is a long east frontage of unimproved lots. Upon this desirable corner and the adjacent lots Messrs. Eames & Rhodes erected (upon paper) the sky-scraping flats, while the residents for many blocks upon this aristocratic avenue held up their hands in holy horror at the mere mention of such a sacrilege. These sacred precincts as yet remain unmolested by the ruthless flat-builders, and no huge shadows fall upon the domains of the Garden City’s untitled lords.
The first house is not so large as its neighbors, but with the ground is valued at $75,000. The owner, Mr. Joseph G. Coleman, is a fine-looking young man, a son-in-law of Mr. S. B. Cobb, the capitalist and President of the Ohio Butt Company. In pleasing contrast to Mr. Coleman’s house is the much-admired light stone front of Mr. Joseph Sears, the oartner of N. E. Fairbank. The pressed brick residence, No. 1823, is the peaceful, domicile of the highly esteemed lawyer, Judge Thomas Dent.
There are two capacious brown-stone residences which are rivals in size, but entirely different in their style of architecture. The arrangements of the interiors are as dissimilar as the exteriors, yet both are harmonious in their designs. The first, No. 1827, is Mr. J. W. Doane’s, the President of the Merchant’s Loan and Trust Company and the Commercial Club, and whose face is familiar to all the parishioners of Trinity Episcopal Church, where he has been a vestryman a score of years. The furnishings of Mr. Doane’s house are modern, rich, and beautiful, as many who have shared his hospitality can testify. Among the distinguished guests who have graced his board are Canon Farrar and Bishop Beckwith.
The other brown stone referred to was built by Mr. Osborne R. Keith. Ill health compelled him to absent himself from this city, and he resided abroad for a year and disposed of his elegant residence to Mr. Norman B, Ream for $150,000. Mr. Ream, since taking possession, has still further beautified it, and the artisans have not yet completed their task. This young millionaire is the latest accession to the hautton of Prairie avenue.
South of Mr. Ream’s is the unpretentious residence of Mr. Marshall Field. It was erected when mnsard roofs were deemed necessary and indicative of the latest style in architecture. Upon the southern exposure is a conservatory fitted with rare flowers. It is conjectured that Mr. Field will soon build a palatial mansion on the boulevard property he purchased of Mr. Potter Palmer, commensurate with his wealth and taste, and which will be unsurpassed in the West.
The President os Jennings Drying Machine Company, Mr. William H. Murray, lives at No. 1919, and his brother-in-law, Mr. Charles Schwartz, the successful broker skillful driver of a tally-ho, and likewise of the most expensive and speedy roadsters in the Western country, is a member of his household.
The two stately houses, numbered respectively 1923 and 1945, between Mr. Murray’s and Twentieth street, are the homes of two wealthy widows, Mrs. Charles P. Kellogg and Mrs. George Armour. The last named is spending the winter in England, and is estimated worth over $1,000,00. It is her oldest son, Mr. George A. Armour, of No. 1932 Calumet avenue, who is the benefactor of that most worthy charity, St. Clement’s Church. Another son is Mr. William Armour, who lives at No. 2017, and is rich for a young man and young for a rich man. He inherited vast wealth, and has an annual income, and is not troubled about his ranch.
Mr. William B. Walker is at home at No. 2027, and can there welcome his brothers-in-laws, Coleman and Armour. Another of the Otis family lives modestly and quietly at No. 2033.
The steamboat house at the northeast corner of Twenty-first street is where Mrs. H. O. Stone entertains her thousand and one friends. The opposite corner is owned by Mr. Eugene S. Pike, the shrewd real estate manipulator. Mr. Robert W. Roloson, the commission merchant, is a few doors north of Mr. Philip Armour’s elegant but not imposing residence. At nightfall Mr. Armour’s house is particular noticeable, as a glimpse of the library, statuary and paintings can be obtained by the pedestrian, the parlors and reception-room being brightly illuminated. A biographical sketch of Mr. Armour, as well as those of Mr. Pullman and Mr. Field, hae previously appeared in The Inter Ocean.
Mr. Mozier P. Greene, the able President of the Chicago Lumber Company, is the next door neighbor of the millionaire pork-packer. Mr. Greene’s convenient and expensive house is in striking contrast to the home of his boyhood days. Mr. Greene is an exemplification of enterprise and Western growth. From a poor boy he has risen to a position which constitutes the head of a powerful corporation, controlling the largest number of lumber markets in the land. As at Mr. Armour’s, the curtains are drawn aside during the early hours in the evening, presenting a brilliant and attractive scene to the passer-by.
Rand McNally’s Bird’s Eye Views of Chicago, 1893
Prairie Avenue, a neighborhood of millionaires, that for twenty years has grown more celebrated in local annals. On this street live many prominent personswhoseestatesareAvorthfromonetothirtymillionseach. Thehouses are very large, and there are but few to the block. Some of these houses for many years have been occupied by men of immense wealth, who, had they sought only their own happiness, might have lived solely for worldly enjoy- ment. Buttheyallowedthemselvesonlyreasonablecomforts,acceptingbur- dens that they might help build the Fair. Mr. Pullman, at No. 1729; Mr. Field, at No. 1905; Mr. Pike, at No. 2101 together with their neighbors have had a large part in the “World’s Columbian Exposition, and without Prairie Avenue perhaps there had been no thirty-million-do’Har Fair. Whether this avenue will hold its distinction against the Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Boulevard depends largely on the determination of its leading residents. If Messrs. Pullman, Field, and the rest spend their days in their old homes, property will retain its social value for the elite. The avenue is quiet and free from the interminable throngs of Michigan Boulevard ; yet the prospect that the latter will be ten miles long in a straight line, and that fifty feet front anywhere south of Twenty-second Street will yet be a large fortune, must militate against the prestige of Prairie Avenue.
The Pullman residence occupies an area on the north side of Eighteenth Street, the house facing Prairie Avenue, with a handsome approach from the foregoing street. The old homestead is a stately brown-stone mansion with Mansard roof, having been remodeled in 1892 to admit a picture-gallery and palm-house. A charming feature of this beautiful estate is the magnificent conservatory and spacious lawn, forming a private park, on the south side of Eighteenth Street, bordering Calumet Avenue and commanding a grand view of Lake Michigan. The entire grounds are marked by quiet elegance and taste. The spot is historic, the very cottonwood tree beneath which the Fort Dearborn massacre in 1812 occurred, still standing here, recalling the terrible fate of victims fittingly commemorated in
The Massacre Monument, the gift of Mr. George M. Pullman, a bronze
groupatthefootofEighteenthStreet,designedbyMr.CarlRohl-Smith. The work is strikingly original, the action spirited, and the tragic incidents of the drama portrayed with impressive force. Great skill is shown in the delineation of separate figures, and the ensemble is both harmonious and effective. The central subjects were modeled from life after famous Sioux chieftains. The scene depicting the rescue of Mrs. Helm from imminent death; the prostrate form of the post surgeon, meeting his fate at the hands of a victorious savage; and the significance of a crying child, recalling the massacre of infants, are realistically vivid in their motive and execution. The monument marks the spot where the tragedy was enacted, and upon the panels of the pedestal are four bas-reliefs illustrating more fully the general subject of the work. The base, pedestal, and sculptured group are of commanding proportions, and the city may congratulate itself upon so important an addition to its many beauti- ful works of art and one of so permanent an historic value.
From Eighteenth to Twenty-second. This locality is to be noted for the residence of J. W. Doane, No. 1827, which was perhaps the first “Chicago palace” to arrest the attention of city editors. Here, while Mr. Key, the artist, was at work within, the press reporters took daily assignments, and no doubt several of the Exposition buildings reached completion with half the notice that attached to the frescoes and finishing of Mr.Doane’s home. W.F. Storey then set out to astonish the community, and the house recently demolished at Fortieth and Grand Boulevard was the next object of local wonder. As we are not to return by this route, the carriage should proceed very slowly for the next four blocks, as there is much lo see. Here men of practically unlimited means have resided for two decades. Elder civilizations are not so democratic, and perhaps nowhere else on earth can so many wealthy households be found grouped together. Here within an area of five blocks there are at least forty of the sixty members of the Commercial Club. We have passed the Pullman and Field mansions, and now come to the residence of Philip D. Armour, the third in Chicago’s chief trinity of millionaires. This region has drawn heavily on the “West Side’s leading men, a fact which has had much to do with the new slyle oiroeoco and belittled church architecture. The aristocratic quarter of Prairie Avenue is now passed. Wealth that at last aroused the jealousy of New York, merchants whose business affects every mart on earth, distributors and public servants of wide influence, have been left behind as we cross the cable tracks of—
Twenty-second Street.—Here was once the city’s ultima thule. Here, as late as 1865, on the prairie, men played ball and boys wandered off toward the old Chicago University, now no more. We come upon the diagonal Cottage Grove Avenue at Twenty-third Street, and because of the struggle between business and comfort, we seem to have lost our street and our pavement, and rumble along over a stone road already worn out. At Twenty-third Street are the Marathon Apartments on the right, and at 2535 the Loring School for young ladies and children, established in 1876.
Chicago Tribune, January 9, 1898
People have been living in Prairie avenue for thirty years and more, the span of a generation, and in the passing of this third of a century have hung crepe on their doors and admitted mourning into their hearts many a time. Indeed, so great a number of the residents have been taken away by death that the avenue in its old limitations, between Sixteenth and Twenty-second streets, might almost be called an avenue of widows and widowers. Time has dealt gently with many of the denizens of this quiet old street and some are hale and hearty, though far beyond the allotted three score and ten. The houses along the way are staid and prim and the sunlight makes them very bright and cheerful. Yet there are vacant chairs in nearly every one.
Take this avenue, beginning at Sixteenth street, and scan it, and here are some of the widows and widowers who dwell in it.
- John G. Shortall, 1600
Robert Law, 1620
Mrs. Ella S. Clark, 2121
Mrs. M. A. Meyer, 2009
Mr. A. D. Lamb, 2011
Mr. Silas B. Cobb, 2017
Mrs. H. O. Stone, 2035
Mrs. Helen Rockwell, 2101
Mrs. Miner T. Ames, 2108
Mrs. Judith L. Marshall, 2100
Mrs. Alice A. Sloan, 2115
Mr. Thomas M. Avery, 2123
Mrs. James M. Walker, 1720
Mr. George Henry Wheeler, 2125
Mrs. George M. Pullman, 1729
Mrs. C. M. Henderson, 1816
Mrs. Edson Keith, 1906
Mr. Marshall Field, 1905
Mrs. Charles P. Kellogg, 1923
Mrs. Henry Corwith, 1945
Mrs. L. A. Herrick, 2108
Mrs. A. H. De Teresa, 2018
Mr. Ebenezer Buckingham, 2036
Mrs. G. F. Bissell, 2003
Beginning at Sixteenth street Prairie avenue in resent years has been changing its aspect in small degree. The noisy trans of the Illinois Central line, flying by in such close proximity, are no novelty, for they were there—some of them—as early as any of the residences. But the row of tall, old-fashioned houses that faces south in Sixteenth street and peers down the avenue is altered. All the residents of the choice neighborhood used to rejoice that two of those brown guardians at the street’s end, looking like twins, were occupied by Dr. Edmund Andrews and Dr. Hosmer A. Johnson. Dr. Johnson is dead, leaving a fine, fair memory, and Dr. Andrews has gone farther south in Prairie avenue, away below Twenty-second street. And now there is a blazing sign on this tall home of the two doctors announcing that it is the Hotel Abbott.
John G. Shortall First.
Just in front of this hotel, and the first house on the west side of Prairie avenue, is the home of John G. Shortall. He is a widower—the companion of his pipe and the friend of dumb animals. Mr. Shortall’s wife died seventeen years ago. She was the daughter of John N. Staples, a pioneer in Prairie avenue, and she grew to womanhood in the residence afterward bought by T. W. Harvey. Mrs. Shortall is remembered as a bright and clever woman who like society and loved her home. Mrs. Shortall’s full name was Mary Dunham Staples, and she was the pioneer’s eldest daughter. The marriage took place Sept. 5, 1861. Their one child, John Louis Shortal, was born in 1865. He and his wife reside with his father.
Just a little way south of Mr. Shortall lives Robert Law, the coal merchant, who is also a widower. Mrs. Law had been dead for a good many years. The home of Mr. Law is a three-story red brick of good old-fashioned proportions. Mr. Law is a Presbyterian and a member of the First Church.
Mrs. James W. Walker, widow of the railroad attorney, lives in the homestead at 1720 Prairie avenue, a large frame house with a hospitable look. Her residence looks directly over at that built and occupied by her husband’s partner, Wirt Dexter. His widow dwelt in that house until a year ago, when she removed to Boston. Mrs. Walker, however remains in the old neighborhood. Her husband has been dead a number of years. Mr. and Mrs. James R. Walker live next door on the south of Mrs. J. M. Walker.
The recent death of George M. Pullman has, of course, added one yo the large list of widows in Prairie avenue. Mrs. Pullman lives in the great brownstone mansion at Eighteenth street, her two sons living with her. Her daughter, Mrs. Frank Orren Lowden, lives near by, in Twentieth street. It was in March, 1867, that Mr. Pullman was married to Miss Hattie A. Sanger, a daughter of James Y. Sanger, who was one of the earliest settlers of the city. Mr. Sanger is remembered as having been largely interested in notable public works, among them the Ohio and Mississippi railroad and the Illinois and Michigan Canal. When Mr. Pullman died he left, besides the widow, four children—Mrs. Lowden, and Mr. Frank Carolan of San Francisco. Mrs. Pullman is known among her friends and neighbbors as a kindly and benevolent woman who is always ready to open her home and the theater in its third story for charity benefits, children’s entertainments, and for all helpful work. Her father, it is recalled, was once a partner of General Stewart and John S. Wallace.
South of Eighteenth Street.
The widow of Charles Maher Henderson still occupies the family home at 1816 Prairie avenue. She was Mis Emily Hollingsworth, daughter of James Hollingsworth of Chicago. Mr. Henderson was one of the city’s business-men until his death a couple of years ago. He came to Chicago in 1853 and was married five years later. Fro the start his interests in this city were in the shoe and leather business. Mr. Henderson was, and Mrs. Henderson is still, a worker in the first Presbyterian Church.
George Henry Wheeler, whose home is at 1812 Prairie avenue. recintly lost his wife. The President of the Washington Park club and the Chicago City railway company is a familiar figure to frequenters of the South Side boulevards. He is fond of good horses and generally tools his dogcart southward in the early afternoon. His daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Young, live with him. Mt. Young is a Louisville man, and was an Assistant Corporation Counsel in Mayor Swift’s administration.
Mrs. Edson Keith still resides in the homestead at 1906 Prairie avenue, next door south of her brother-in-law, Osborne R. Keith. With Mrs. Keith are her son and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Walter Keith. Her other son, Edson Keith, Jr., lives further south in the street, at 2110. It ws in September, 1896, that the community was shocked by the tragic drowning of the elder Mrs. Mrs. Keith’s husband, the merchant. Mrs. Keith is deeply interested in church work, being a member of the Universalist society.
Marshall Field lives at 1905 Prairie avenue. Mrs. Field died while in Nice somewhat more than a year ago, and in answer to the desire of her son, Marshall Field Jr., and her daughter, Mrs. Arthur Tree, now residents of Leamington, England,. was buried near that old town. Mr. Field travels a great deal, but for more than half of each year is at the great red brick residence that has for so many years been an ornament to the avenue.
Next door south of the residence made vacant by the removal of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Field Jr. is the large brick residence occupied by Mrs. Sarah H. Kellogg and her daughter, Mrs. Pierrepont Isham. Their number in the avenue is 1923. Mrs. Kellogg is the widow of Charles P. Kellogg, the wholesale clothier. She is a quiet woman, but very well known in society.
Mrs. Henry Corwith occupies the residence formerly owned by Mrs. Barbara Armour at 1945 Prairie avenue, with Charles R. Corwith and John W. Corwith. The house stands alongside the home of the widow of Charles P. Kellogg and is equally commodious. Mrs. Corwith’s house is on the corner of Twentieth street. Her husband now dead a number of years, came from Galena, and his wealth was made in real estate, in lead, and iron.
Samuel W. Allerton, whose big red brick house and ample grounds at 1936 Prairie avenue are typical of the man, is a widower remarried. Mr. Allerton was married in 1860 to Miss Paduella W. Thompson of Peoria, who died in 1880. A year later he married his deceased wife’s sister, Miss Agnes C. Thompson. Mr. and Mrs. Allerton are domestic and rural in their tastes—in fact, Mr. Allerton is always pleased to be called a farmer—and only recently this picturesque Chicagoan announced that he was going ton leave Chicago because it is too dirty to be endured, and make his home permanently at Lake Geneva. As a packer, a Board of Trade man, a miner of gold, a banker, and a businessman the story of Mr. Allerton’s success is a story of the success of Chicago. His venture into the field of politics have been no less interesting because less successful than his business enterprises. His campaign for Mayoralty against the elder Harrison in 1893 was unique, and his more recent Senatorial ambitions afforded Chicago and Illinois an interesting experience.
Mrs. George F. Bissell is the widow of the insurance man whose office was for so many years located in the Montauk Block, just west of the First National Bank. Mrs. Bissell lives with her two sons at 2003 Prairie avenue. Her husband was active in all public affairs, was interested in genealogical records, and for a time was President of the Illinois society, Sons of the American Revolution. He died but a few years ago.
At 2009 Prairie avenue Mrs. M. A. Meyer lives with her sons and daughters. She has been a widow for some time. SHe is the mother of Mrs. Levy Mayer, who has a home at 1815—one block north.
Mrs. A. D. Lamb, at 2011 Prairie avenue, is living with his son, Benjamin B. Lamb. Their home is the old Wilbur F. Storey homestead, where Mrs. Story lived and where she died in 1896. Mrs. Storey’s sister was the wife of A. D. LAmb and their maiden name was Bissell, their brother having been an innkeeper here in the earlier days. He kept the old Matson House at Dearborn and Randolph streets, where the Borden Block now stands. Mrs. Lamb died several years before her sister, Mrs. Wilbur F. Storey. In his more active days A. D. LAmb was a partner in the firm of Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Co. Afterwards he had some mining interests. The Storey home is of gray stone and stands closely wedged in between a brown stone house and a tall new brick residence, bult in renaissance style.
William H. Reid of the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank, whose home is at 2013 Prairie avenue, is a widower remarried, the present Mrs. Reid having been a Kentucky belle.
Two widows live in the residence at 2018 Prairie avenue. It is the home of Mrs. L. A. Herrick, whose husband, a prosperous merchant, died a number of years ago. With Mrs. Herrick is her widowed daughter, Mrs. A. H. De Teresa. She was married to a Mexican gentleman, the owner of large properties in Mexico, He died soon after their marriage. With Mrs. Herrick also is her son, E. Walter Herrick, a well-known clubman.
Just south of the Herrick home is the old-time residence of a widow, Mrs. Mark Kimball, who no longer lives in the avenue. Her husband in earlier times was a hardware merchant of the firm of Botsford & Kimball. Her son is Eugene Kimball, who lives in Kenwood. The mother is at the Lakota.
Silas B. Cobb is one of the widowers of the street. He is also one of the landmarks of Chicago. He is a man of great wealth, and lives in a wide, rambling, red brick house at 2027, next door south of the attorney, James L. High. With Mr. Cobb are Mr. and Mrs. William B. Walker and Charles Cobb Walker. Mrs. Walker is Mr. Cobb’s daughter. Two doors north of the Cobb residence his daughter Bertha used to live. She was Mrs. William Armour. Her husband died, and later she was married to Walter D. Denegre, a resident of New Orleans, who not long ago missed an election to the United States Senate by the narrow margin of three votes.
Mrs. Cobb died several years ago. She was one of the twin Warren girls whose father settled in the vicinity early, and established the place near Warrensville. Her twin sister is Mrs. Jerome Beecher, who is now a widow but not a resident of Prairies avenue. They were beautiful girls, and widely known among the older inhabitants. Jerome Beecher was once a business partner of Silas B. Cobb in the shoe and leather business. Mrs. Beecher lives at 241 Michigan avenue. Mr. Cobb os now above 80 years of age. He walks about in the avenue, and takes the air in the constant company of a valet. He is a large owner of Chicago City railway stock. He ttok steps toward perpetuating his memory recently by building the beautiful Cobb Hall for the Chicago University. He has also given large sums to the charities of the city.
Bereavement came years ago to the home of Mrs. H. O. Stone, 2035 Prairie avenue. She has been a widow many years. Her children are everything to her now. These are Horatio and Carl, both married; Mrs. Secor Cunningham, whose runaway match startled Chicago society a few years ago; and Robert, a student at Yale, who is just now home for the holidays.
Ebenezer Buckingham has been in Chicago and likewise a resident of Prairie avenue for many years. He is a widower, and resides at 2036 with his son, Clarence Buckingham, and his daughters. He is a bank President, and is also much interested in the elevator business. In the old days the firm name was Sturges & Buckingham.
John B. Sherman, 2100 Prairie avenue,, was for a long time—at least for ten years—in the widower’s list, but was married again three years ago, and thus is removed from that roll. Mr. Sherman is at the head of the Union Stock-Yards company.
At the home of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene S. Pike, 2101 Prairie avenue, lives Mrs. Helen Rockwell, Mrs. Pike’s mother, a charming old lady, who has seen her four score years and ten. Mrs. Rockwell is a widow.
Miner T. Ames, the coal merchant, was once one of the substantial residents of the avenue. He lived in the house directly south of W. W. Kimball’s, but when he died his widow sold the property and removed a little south, to 2108 Prairie avenue, where dhe still resides. One of her daughters is the wife of Mr. Boldt, manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New YOrk. Her son, “Snake” Ames, was for several years a famous football player.
Robert W. Roloson, the Board of Trade man, whose home is 2100 Prairie avenue, is a widower remarried. The present Mrs. Roloson was Miss Belle Marshall of Kentucky, and her mother, Mrs. Judith L. Marshall, a widow, makes her home with her daughter, Mrs. Roloson is a descendant of Chief Justice Marshall.
Mrs. M. M. Rothschild of 2112 Prairie avenue is a widow, her husband having taken his own life while temporarily insane. Mr. Rothschild’s dementia took a peculiar form, for, although he left an estate valued at $2,000,000, he imagined himself a pauper and hanged himself in his own home.
The big white house at 2115 Prairie avenue, of which Philip D. Armour is head, shelters a widow, Mrs. Alice A Sloan, the friend and confidant of Mr. Armour. Home life and domestic happiness mark the Armour family, father and sons, and while Mrs. P. D. Armour is still a young and striking-looking woman she is not so often seen in society as many of her neighbors.
T. M. Avery in the List.
Thomas M. Avery of 2123 Prairie avenue, the President of the Elgin Watch company, is a widower, and his son, Frank Morris Avery, who makes his home with his father, is a widower remarried. The present Mrs. Avery was May Clarke, the star of the Carleton club’s dramatic corps, and she is spoken of as “the beautiful Mrs. Avery.” Her mother, Mrs. Ella Clarke, who is a widow, also makes her home with Mr. Avery.
Mrs. Charles Schwartz was one of the widows of Prairie avenue, but she left Chicago soon after her husband’s death, about five years ago. She was a Miss Wadsworth, the daughter of T. W. Wadsworth, and more than one tragedy has marked her life. In her young womanhood Miss Wadsworth became engaged to a sterling young Chicagoan, who died on the eve of the day that had been set for the wedding. Later she met and married Charles Schwartz, the head of the great Board of Trade firm of Schwartz, Dupee & Co. and one of the founders and principal supporters of the Washington Park club. His sudden death in the very prime of a successful career closed one of the most charming of homes in Prairie avenue. Mr. Schwartz was one of the greatest entertainers in Chicago, and vied with his wife in preparing novel and amusing entertainment for his guests. It is related among his intimates that upon one occasion Mr. Schwartz engaged Paderewski to give a piano recital at his residence at the instance of his wife. The magnetic young pianist gladly accepted the invitation of the big stock broker—for a consideration of $1,000—and, with the check in his pocket, enraptured the select company that was gathered by the invitation of the broker’s wife. At the conclusion of the musicale some of Mr. Schwartz’s men friends lingered for a game of poker. The pianist joined the party, but—in the language of the club most affected by Mr. Schwartz—he also ran, for when the game broke up—so the story goes—the Schwarz check for $1,000 was back in the Schwarz pocket along with $500 in I.O.U.s signed by Paderewski. Mr. Schwarz was as engaging as his widow is charming. She has recently returned to Chicago from Massachusetts, but will not live in Prairie avenue again, having taken a house in Cedar street.
Mrs. Mosher T. Green was until recently a member of the colony of widows who live at 1912 Prairie avenue. She is the widow of the well-known lumberman, The tragic death of her husband not long since will be recalled by nearly every Chicagoan. Mr. Green was drowned from a pleasure boat off Highland Park while attempting to rescue a Newfoundland dog that had become exhausted while swimming in the lake. The accident added one to the list of tragedies, the shadows of which hover about the avenue. Mr. Green was one of the pioneers in Chicago’s lumber trade, a pillar in Bishop Cheney’s church, and a companionable citizen. One of the last incidents in the life of the Greens on Prairie avenue was an elaborate reception prepared with great pains and given for their friends from all parts of the city. That reception was a matter of much interest and is recalled as a part of the unwritten history of the thoroughfare. Mrs. Green moved away soon after her husband’s death.
Thirty Years Ago.
Thirty years ago two houses adorned Prairie avenue. One was at 1824, which used to be the home of the Marsh family. The other was the John N. Staples homestead in the middle of the block, on the west side, between Eighteenth and Seventeenth streets. No building relieved the monopoly of the sand flats on the east side of the street and only the tracks of the Illinois Central and Michigan Central railroads lay between the roadway and the lake. Street cars did not reach the home of these pioneers—the Staples and the Marsh families. A passenger who did not choose walking all the way fro the center of the town could ride as far south as Twelfth street in a State street horse car and go afoot the remainder of the distance. Mr. Marsh was a member of the lumber firm of Palmer, Fuller & Co. After his death his widow kept the place open for a time, but finally gave it up and went to a farm near Laporte, Ind., where she died. The old Staples homestead, 1703 Prairie avenue, was soldn to T. W. Harvey. Fernaqndo Jones was the third person to build in the avenue. He still lives in the house he built there, at 1834.
The avenue has retained its character and consistency and has had a large share in the history of Chicago, in that it has been the residence of so many of the city’s prominent citizens, some dead and some still living.
Chicago Tribune, November 17, 1929
By Betty Browning.
Brown stone mansions with spacious gardens behind wrought iron fences, carriage houses roomy enough for a dozen equipages, gray renaissance chateaux, high stoops, broad verandas. and blue slate mansard roofs still line Prairie avenue. The street preserves much of the outward semblance of the Prairie avenue of fifty years ago, when Marshall Field, George M. Pullman, Philip D. Armour, and many other builders of Chicago fortunes lived here and made it a center of the city’s avenue wealth and fashion.
But Chicago neighborhoods change quickly, and, with the passing of older generation, sons and grandsons moved away and Prairie avenue became a tradition of dead merchant princes and forgotten balls. A caretaker guards the empty, shuttered Field mansion at 1905, and “furnished rooms” proclaims the destiny of the Armour house at 2115. Chickens and ducks run wild in the premises of the J. D. Sherman house and vacant lots replace the old homes of Eugene S. Pike and Silas B. Cobb.
Only Stone Wall Remains.
All that remains of the Pullman mansion at 18th street, with its “picture gallery and palm house, magnificent conservatory and private park,” are a stone wall and a few steps leading to an empty site.
Publishing houses and engineers have taken over some of the more fortunate houses. The old Arthur Meeker house at 1815 remains nearly intact, with paneled walls preserved, in the hands of a firm of publishers. The Architects’ club has made its headquarters in the house of W. W. Kimball, the piano manufacturer, at 1801.
“Palace” Awaits Wrecker.
But “Chicago’s first palace,” the residence of J. W. Doane, whose construction is said to have caused more newspaper comment than that of any World’s Fair building, has been abandoned by its business owner, and now awaits the wreckers with paneling and statuary exposed to the weather through open doors and windows.
The houses of Charles D. Hamill, Frederick T. Haskell, Henry A. Blair, James E. Otis, and William Gold Hibbard are in other hands, and roomers have replaced guests in the ballrooms where Mr. H. O. Stone once held sway. Only a few scattered stone and wrought iron garden urns and carriage posts are left of that era of garden parties and cotillions.
Status Commemorates Massacre.
Prairie avenue has been linked with Chicago history since frontier days. The old trail from Fort Dearborn to Fort Wayne ran near the upper end of Prairie avenue, and, when Fort Dearborn was abandoned in the war of 1812, the settlers fled along the trail as far south as Prairie avenue and 18th street. There the Indians attacked them, and a statue a few feet from Prairie avenue on 18th street, erected by George Pullman at the very doorstep of his house, commemorates the massacre.
In 1856 Stephen A. Douglas, who lived near Prairie avenue at 35th street, deeded ten acres at 34th street through which Prairie avenue now runs to an infant University of Chicago. This early university, of which Douglas was both incorporator and trustee, was later succeeded by the present university.
At Zenith After the Fire.
It was not until after the fire that Prairie avenue reached the zenith of its fame. At that time the older residences on the west side were abandoned and people began to move north or south. Prairie avenue was particularly favored because of its proximity to the lake, although the Illinois Central tracks presented a certain disadvantage which capricious fashion chose to disregard. By 1880 the street was lined with new houses of a style far more pretentious than any Chicago had ever before known.
An old Chicago guide of the time of the World’s Fair says:
- Some of these houses for many years have been occupied by men of immense wealth, who, had they sought only their own happiness, might have lived solely for worldly enjoyment. But they allowed themselves only reasonable comforts, accepting burdens that they might help build the fair. Mr. Pullman, Mr. Field, and Mr. Pike, together with their neighbors, have had a large part in the World’s Columbian exposition, and without Prairie avenue there would have been no thirty million dollar fair.
Wane After Turn of Century.
With the turn of the century began the wane of Prairie avenue’s fortunes. A book published in 1899 comments:
- Whether this avenue will hold its distinction against the Lake Shore drive and Michigan boulevard depends largely upon the determination of its leading residents.
By the second decade of this century the last of the old families had moved away, leaving here and there a solitary survivor.
Prairie avenue’s name was not idly conferred. In the fifties it ran beyond the city limits at 22d street through Stephen Douglas’ broad acres. As the city spread southward, Prairie avenue was extended to the less heavily populated outskirts, and to this day acres of open field break the street here and there before it finally ends at 134th street.
1600, John G. Shortall
1608, Henrietta G. Frank
1612, Peter Studebaker
1615, Thomas D. Rhoades
1616, William R. Stirling
1619, Thomas D. Rhodes
1620, Robert H. Law, Dr. Lyman Ware
1621, John H. Hamline
1623, Granger Farwell
1625, Hugh J. McBirney, Jr.
1626, Abraham Longini
1628, Morris Einstein
1630, Peter Brust,
1634, Erastus Foote
1636, H. Morris Johnston
1637, Jesse Spalding
1638, Robert B. Gregory
1701, William G. Hibbard
1702, John Staples
1709, Palmer V. Kellogg
1712, Albert Sturges
1720, James M. Walker
1721, Wirt Dexter
1726, James R. Walker
1729, George M. Pullman
1730, A. A. Dewey, Joseph H. Otis
1736 (1734), Hugh McBirney
1800, John J. Glessner
1801, William M. Kimball
1808, O. R. Keith, Cobb & Frost architect
1811, Joseph Coleman, William B, Keep
1812, George H. Wheeler, Burnham & Root architect
1815, Joseph Sears
1816, Charles M. Henderson
1823, Thomas Dent
1824, Samuel Barber Pomeroy, Henry Hinsdale, Charles Schwartz, George R. Marsh
1827, John W. Doane
1828, Daniel B. Shipman
1834, Fernando Jones
1900, Elbridge G. Keith
1901, O. R. Keith
1905, Marshall Field
1906, Edson Keith
1912, Byron T. Moulton, Mosher T. Green
1919, Marshall Field, Jr.
1923, Mrs. Charles P. Kellogg
1936, Daniel M. Thompson, Samuel W. Allerton
1945, George Armour
2000, John M. Clark
2001, Dr. John W. Streeter M.D.,
2003, George F. Bissell
2009, Max A. Meyer
2010, William L. Grey
2011, Mrs. Wilbur F. Storey
2013, William H. Reid III
2017, Mrs. William Armour
2017, Silas B. Cobb
2018, Mrs. Elijah W. Herick, J. L. Lombard
2021, James L. High
2026, Louis Wahl, Mrs. Levi Rosenfeld
2031, Samuel A. Talman
2033, Frederick R. Otis
2035, Mr. Horatio O. Stone
2036, Ebenezer Buckingham
2100, John B. Sherman
2101, Eugen S. Pike
2108, Mrs. Miner T. Ames
2109, Robert W. Roloson
2112, Max. M. Rothschild
2115, David Kelley, P. D. Armour
2120, Frank S. Gorton
2123, T. M. Avery
2125, Charles H. Wheeler
2126, Charles D. Hamill
2130, Thomas Murdoch
2140, William F. Tucker, Byron L. Smith
An aerial view of what the neighborhood looked like in 1935. This view, looking northwest, has the R. R. Donnelley plant in the foreground, depicts the numerous other printing companies surrounding the remains of the original mansions.
1801 S. Prairie Ave. (Kimball); 1808 S. Prairie Ave. (O. R. Keith); 1811 S. Prairie Ave. (Coleman)
Chicago Tribune, January 24, 1954
Prairie av. is the real ghost street of Chicago despite the fact that many people live along it, more perhaps than ever before. The wraiths are its remainng great mansions, hollow shells emptied of the gay luxurious life they once sheltered—grotesque, disquieting memorials amid the tenements, small workshops, and bare fields of today.
People of modest means built and owned the first houses on the sparsely settled ground south of 16th and south and west of the tracks of the Illinois Central railway. Somewhere around 16th st. were the 20 acres of land which surrounded the house of the hardware merchant, Henry B. Clark. Later to be known as the Widow Clark’s house, this was the pride of the south side, and supposed to be equal to William B. Ogden’s mansion on Hush st.
Lined with Trees
This was the only preten tious residence in the neigh borhood when, shortly before 1880 this district became fash ionable. It now seems like irrational caprice which took the great magnates of the time there, when with their money they might as easily have turned toward Lake Shore dr.
Photografs of that period show Prairie av. lined with trees. This semi-rural atmosphere apart from the city, which then had over 500,000 population, may explain the vogue of Priairie av.
By 1885, the Armour, Field, and Pullman houses, three of the greatest that were to be on Prairie had been built The prestige of these names started a rush toward the street. At the time of the Columbian Exposition 1893, the contemporary writer, Everett Chamberlin, could name 77 millionaires who had houses there between 16th and 22d sts. alone.
Many Had Ballrooms
Evidently thinking he had to defend Chicago’s reputation for democratic simplicity, Chamberlin wrote that there were no palaces in the secluded and sedate precincts” of Prairie av. He added that practically every one of these houses had its own ballroom. Neither he nor other authorities were certain which was the most splendid residence.
Judgment varied with the years as each owner tried to outdo the other. At first the Marshall Field house was awarded the palm; then the Pullman mansion; then that of Daniel Thompson, and a little later, the residence of J. W. Doane was spoken of as “Chicago’s first palace.”
The consecration of Prairie av. was the grand ball which Marshall Field gave for son and daughter in January, 1886. It was said to have cost at least $75,000, the highest sum ever paid for a party in Chicago. It was called the Mikado ball, its theme having taken from a recently ‘produced, internationally famous musical comedy, The Mikado,” by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur S. Sullivan.
For this affair, Marshall Field imported the favors for his women guests from Paris. He gave the catering contract to Sherry’s, which brought the servants, linen, silver, food, and drink for the Mikado ball to Chicago from New York.
By 1899, Prairie av. had passed its peak as the city’s first residential street. As a rival, Rush st. was in its full glory, and the rising star of Lake Shore dr. threatened to eclipse them both. Prairie av. began a slow decline, which was completed during World War I (1914-18). By 1920, only some stubborn diehards still were living in the old houses.
In 1929, a visitor to the street noted that not a trace was left of the Pullman residence, and recalled that it had stood in its own private park, with its own palm house, conservatory, and picture gallery. The wreckers were then about to start demolishing the J. W. Doane house, and boarders were living in the mansion which once had been owned by Mrs. O. W. Stone.
Split Into Flats
Other houses had been split into little flats or single rooms, and a certain number toward the north end of the street had been taken by the Chicago branches of national publishing firms.
The process then noted has continued inexorably. A good part of Prairie av. today is open and neglected fields, tenements, garages, or small workshops. It is cluttered with rubbish and overgrown with weeds. A few of the old houses are kept in reasonable condition by the publishing firms or by institutions. Along the stretch from 16th st. south to 31st st. you will find, at apparently capricious intervals, some of the great houses of the great days. They are now all tenements.
A visit to Prairie av. is worth while, however, if only for the two splendid mansions still standing at 18th st.
Reputed Cost $1,000,000
The one on the southeast corner is the veritable palace completed in 1892 for W. W. Kimball, the piano magnate. At one glance you will readily believe that it must have cost the $1,000,000 reputedly paid for it. The style has been called French chateau and was made fashionable by the millionaires who were then building palaces along New York’s Fifth av.
It is much too ornate and unfunctional for the taste of today, but the fact remains that the Kimball mansion probably is the most superb specimen of this style still in existence.
The house opposite, on the southwest corner of Prairie av. and 18th is one of the few structures in all Chicago which may be considered to have both historical and esthetic value. When completed in 1886 for the late J. J. Glessner, a director of the International Harvester company, it passed. for an oddity, in striking contrast to the surrounding fashionable architectural style, which was mainly an American version of French second empire.
The Glessner house was the last work of architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who died before it was finished; hence it shows his genius at its full development. The only other structure in Chicago designed entirely by him wa the Marshall Field Wholesale building, demolished in 1930.
With its solid granite blocks, narrow rounded arches, and its general aspect, both grim and noble, the Glessner house is the perfect example of Richardson’s Merovingian sometimes also called Copley Square style. It is the direct predecessor of a Chicago style of architecture, thru the decisive influence which Richardson exerted on the local architects Dankmar Adler and Louis Henry Sullivan.
If anyone wishes to see, without leaving the city, stages of this Boston-Chicago school of architecture, which gave mod ern American construction its fundamental revolutionary ideas, he should begin with the Glessner house, which is pure Richardson.
Then he should proceed to the Auditorium, which is Adler and Sullivan influenced by Richardson, and then go on to the Charnley house at 1365 Astor which is Sullivan in collaboration with Frank Lloyd Wright.
It is no wonder distinguished European architects arriving in Chicago, like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who now lives here, know beforehand what the Glessner house signifies and want to see it before any other local structure.
Before his death in 1936, Glessner attempted to deed the house to the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects, but the chapte was unable or unwilling to accept so princely a gift. A provision of the Glessner will limits use of the house for the future to educational purposes, and it is presumably so used today. Its opposite number, the Kimball house, now is occupied by Domestic Engineering Publications.
Both Sturdily Built
With some modest maintenance, both those mansions should be able to stand for several centuries. The destruction of other buildings in recent years has amply proved, however, that the community has neither the means, desire, nor will to preserve any structure because of its historic or ether worth.
This confer of 18th st and Prairie av. is a good place to take leave of the streets of Chicago, with those two noble houses against their background of weeds, rubbish, and squalor.
The spectacle is a melancholy one, and many evoke any platitudes one fancies about the passing of earthly glories and the vanity of human wishes.