Barbara Armour House, Harry G. Selfridge House. James Deering House
Life Span: 1891-1925
Location: 117 Lake Shore Drive (1430 N Lake Shore Drive
Architects: Burling & Whitehouse
Inter Ocean, September 7, 1890
Among the Architects.
Burling & Whitehouse are letting contracts for the three-story residence to be erected on the Lake-Shore drive forMrs. Barbara Armour, at a cost of $75,000.
Chicago Tribune, March 29, 1891
Among the Architects.
For Mrs. Barbara Armour, Burling & Whitehouse are finishing a fine residence on the Lake-Shore drive. It is of buff stone ana Columbus yellow brick and will cost about $100.000.
Chicago Tribune, February 5, 1898
MRS. BARBARA ARMOUR BURIED.
Funeral Takes Place from Her Late Residence,
117 Lake Shore Drive Interment at Graceland.
The funeral of Mrs. Barbara Armour took place yesterday afternoon from the residence, 117 Lake Shore drive. The services were conducted by the Rev. Simon J. McPherson of the Second Presbyterian Church. The three children of Mrs. Armour George A. and Allison V. Armour and Mrs. Meredyth Whitehousewere present at the ceremony. Interment was at Graceland.
Inter Ocean, January 1, 1899
The purchase of the Barbara Armour home at No. 117 Lake Shore drive by Harry G. Selfridge for $100,000 was another notable sale. The lot contains 50×180 feet, and the house, of brick and stone, is three stories high.
Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1903
To be an expert orchidist and to indulge a taste for the cultivation of orchids is perhaps the most fascinating, the most expensive, and the most educational of fads which a society woman may adopt and follow. To Mrs. Harry G. Selfridge of 117 Lake Shore drive belongs the honor of being not only a connoisseur and the best informed woman in the west on the question of orchids and their culture, but also she is the enthusiastic possessor of one of the finest and most varied collections of orchids in the country.
In the pursuit of this fad Mrs. Selfridge is absolutely unique being possibly the only society woman in this country who has entered into this extraordinary and absorbing pursuit with a real scientific interest, productive not only pleasure to herself, her family, and her friends but perhaps of lasting value to the science of botany in general.
She has now in her possession over 2,000 varieties of orchids, many of which cost $500 for a single plant. Orchids are an expensive luxury. and while many rare plants are rated as high as $2,000 for a single plant, still this orchidist is constantly adding to her collection and will undoubtedly at no distant day be classed among the recognized orchidists of the world, as yet a small and therefore conspicuous circle of orchid enthusiasts.
Absorbing and Satisfying Fad.
There is perhaps no fad known to the society man or woman which may compare for delicacy, for absorbing interest, and for such exquisite satisfaction as the cultivation of these splendid, grotesque, and mysterious products of Dame Nature. Mrs. Selfridge’s private greenhouses are located on the grounds of her country home, Harrose hall at Lake Geneva, and are five in number, two of which are devoted solely to the culture of orchids, both of the aerial and terrestrial orders. These orchid houses are constructed particularly for proper housing of orchids, for they demand most careful, watchful, and persistent attention, with a certain degree of intense humidity in the atmosphere which is brought about by an especially constructed device. The larger of the two orchid houses is devoted solely to the cultivation of the aerial order. These are the orchids which are found growing on tree trunks, sometimes at the head of some mighty denizen of the jungle. This house is twenty feet wide and 100 feet long, and is divided into three sections by glass partitions. One section is devoted to East Indian species. another to Brazilian, and a third to Mexican. Other unclassified varieties from all sections of the orchid world are represented scattered among these three principal groupings. Running through the center of the house is a cement water tank three feet high, seven feet wide, and 85 feet long. Into this tank is collected all the rain that falls on the range of glass, and in addition to the tank there is a large cistern for storage. To the latter a large force pump is attached and the orchids are syringed with rain water only. The water in the tank maintains the atmospheric moisture in the house. Even the walks are especially constructed of cement and have depressions that will hold water. Alongside the walk is an inch water pipe, perforated every six inches. By turning a valve the entire length of the walk and under the side benches is moistened in a few moments.1
Hunting Flowers in Tropics.
Mrs. Selfridge is particularly inspired in her fad by Mr. Selfridge, who is himself a great lover of orchids and an amateur florist and botanist of local note. During their recent trip to Cuba they succeeded in capturing, as it were, several beautiful varieties growing in a wild state in a Cuban jungle. Running down these flamboyant products of the tropics is almost as dangerous and exciting an adventure as a tiger hunt. It is not the prey itself which makes the sport exciting except for the acquisition of an exquisitely beautiful living thing, but it is the associates of the animal kingdom in the way of scorpions, centipedes. and a dozen kinds of snakes, which seem to swarm in countless numbers in the particular habitat of the orchid, rendering the “capture” a most thrilling experience at times. During the recent journey of the Selfridges to Cuba they ventured out of Havana to a more or less heavily wooded jungle on the south shore, where Mr. Selfridge discovered several varieties of Oncidium. In a drenching rain, with scorpions particularly active, be climbed a tree, cut off several fine plants, and has brought them back to Chicago and added them to the collection as souvenirs of the trip.
Success in Crossing Varieties.
Mr. and Mrs. Selfridge are assisted in their fad by an expert gardener named Charles Gebhardt, who is in charge of the large Harrose hall greenhouses. In fact, the fad has reached with them the proportions of orchidomania, although it is a much more captivating mania than that of tulipomania, which seized European botanists a few years ago and which seems to have died down. The result in crossing species and the production of hybrids among orchids leads to most astonishing and bewildering results in shape and color. Mrs. Selfridge is now the happy possessor of a new hybrid, which is a cross between two distinct varieties of the Cattleya of the American tropics. The plant has not yet bloomed, but is expected to reach maturity this summer, to which event Mrs. Selfridge is looking with great expectancy. The Cattleya orchid is perhaps the largest of all known orchids and is generally characterized by exquisite shades of lavender and graceful, delicate curves.
Mrs. Selfridge has made an exhaustive study of the life of an orchid. Literature on the subject is more or less meager in detail, hence her knowledge has come from observation and experience. Unlike other orchidists, Mrs. Selfridge has no well defined partiality for any one family or even species. In fact. her enthusiasm as a collector permits of no specific loves hence her collection is bewildering in its variety.
It is little wonder that such a fad as this one can hold and absorb the attention, for it is a continual source of surprises, such as only Nature herself in her wonderful imagination can weave into life. Naturally Mrs. Selfridge is in the habit of giving many orchid dinners and luncheons in which her own blossoms dominate in the decorative scheme. They are a continual source of pleasure to her guests, for every orchid blossom is a treasure in itself and if kept in a cool place will live after It has been plucked from its stem for six weeks.
Chicago Tribune, November 9, 1907
Lake Shore Transactions.
Two interesting transactions are reported in the block between Burton place and Schiller street on the Lake Shore drive, one of the finest residence blocks in the city. These transactions comprise the placing under contract of sale to La Verne W. Noyes of the O. W. Potter residence at the southwest corner of Burton place, and the lease to R. T. Crane Jr. of the Harry G. Selfridge residence at 117 Lake Shore drive for a term of three years.
The Potter residence is one of the finest on the drive and has been on the market for $175,000. It is reported Mr. Noyes is to pay around $125,000 for it. About a year ago it was announced Mr. Noves contemplated building on property he owns along the drive, but this plan evidently has been abandoned.
Built Twenty Years Ago.
The Selfridge residence is one of the best known properties on the drive and was built by Mrs. Barbara Armour nearly twenty years ago. After her death it passed to her son, J. Allison Armour, and was bought by Mr. Selfridge in 1899. It was reported he paid $100,000 for it. About three years ago he made Improvements at a cost of between $30,000 and $40,000.
It is an English basement house and contains over twenty rooms. The lease was negotiated by Knott, Chandler & Co.
Chicago Tribune, Septemner 14, 1910
The Harry Gordon Selfridge residence, at 1430 Lake Shore drive, has been purchased by James Deering. It is reported that the purchase price was $107.000 cash. Mr. Deering recently leased the residence for a term of five years at an annual rental of $7,500. He plans, it is said, to make extensive alterations in the house.
For three years the house was occupied under a lease by R. T. Crane Jr., who recently moved into his newly completed house at North avenue and the Lake Shore drive. The Selfridge residence, which is between Burton place and Schiller street, has a lot with a frontage of 50 feet and a depth of 160 feet. It originally was platted by the Catholic Bishop and sold to Porter Palmer for $160 a front foot.
Some years later the property passed into the hands of Orrin W. Potter, who in time sold It to Mrs. Barbara Armour. The house was erected by Mrs. Armour in 1890.
Mr. Selfridge purchased the property in 1808, after Mrs. Armour’s death. Land in that block is thought now to be worth about $1.000 a front foot.
Mr. Selfridge still owns a country residence at Lake Geneva.
Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1927
Wreckers began their work of demolishment last week on another of the old Lake Shore drive residences, which for years have stirred envious glances from passers-by, that a site might be cleared for a tall apartment building, thereby adding another link in the huge wall that is being erected along the eastern edge of Chicago.
The latest old home to pass is that of James Deering, who died at sea in 1925, at 1430 Lake Shore drive, and there will be erected in its place the twenty-four story apartment building mentioned in this department last June. When Mr. Deering was alive this residence was noted for the splendid art collection contained in it.
Present plans call for making the new structure a co-op with one apartment to each floor. From the second to the thirteenth floors the flats will have twelve extra large rooms with six baths. However, the partitions will be plated permitting of rearrangement into other room divisions to accord with the owners’ desires. Above the thirteenth floor the apartments will contain eleven rooms and five baths with provision for the same elasticity of arrangement. –
No Ugly Penthouses.
Inasmuch as this building will occupy a prominent place on Chicago’s show street, its to be unusually attractive. Designed by Robert S. De Golyer, the architecture will be English Gothic. The roof line will be broken by a number of gables and further there will be no unsightly , appendages on the top of the structure to stir the wrath of our artistic citizens. All the penthouses will be hidden behind the gables.
The front elevation will be constructed entirely of Indiana limestone with some ornamentation provided by wrought iron balconies. And more news of importance to those who want to see Chicago the city beautiful of the world, there won’t be any bleak staring walls here. The side and rear limns walls be of a high grade face brick to match the front elevation.
Construction win be of steel on a pile foundation. .
To Have Refreshment Rooms.
Of course, the apartments will be the last word in luxury. The living rooms will be extra large. and each will contain a natural wood burning fireplace. Each apartment will have its library with a bay, either overlooking Lincoln park or the downtown section. Then there will be butlers’ pantries containing German silver sinks, linen rooms, cedar closets, silver vaults and other little conveniences which make being a millionaire such a pleasant sort of occupation. Not the least of these is what is called a refreshment room: just what this is we haven’t the slightest idea.
The number of bathrooms in the apartments constitute another reason, for taking up the profession of being a millionaire. The five or six bathrooms in these apartments will all have six foot tile wainscoting, the color of which will be left to the taste of the owner or tenant, as the case may be. The bedrooms will be divided into suites.
Will Cost $2,000,000.
This development is to take $2,000,000 out of the owners’ pockets, so it’s said, the owners consisting of the 1430 Lake Shore Drive Building corporation, which includes W. C. Bannerman, Frank L. Kidder and other wealthy Chicagoans. W. C. Bannerman & Co. are builders.
In purchasing the site from the Deering estate, Sonnenschein, Berkson, Lautmann & Levinson were attorneys, and Arola B. Glade of W. K. Young & Bros. was broker. The Kirkham-Hayes corporation will have the management of the building.
Chicago Tribune, May 9, 1947
LONDON, May 8— Harry Gordon Selfridge, 90, a Wisconsin farm boy who amassed fortune in Chicago working for Marshall Field & Co. and then conquered the retail trade in London by American methods, died in his sleep today in a modest flat in suburban Putney. He had been Ill of bronchial pneumonia for several days.
The merchant prince who founded Selfridges Ltd. on Oxford street and built it into one of the biggest and most famous trading places in Europe, was said by members of his family to have died without a great fortune. He had retired from active management of the store in 1939, but had been retained by the company as a consultant at a salary of $8,000 a year.
Frequent Visitor In U. S.
Altho Selfridge became a British subject in 1937, he retained a lively interest in his native land and frequently returned to visit friends and business associates. He and his wife, the former Rose Buckingham of Chicago, who died in 1918, opened their estate, Higheliffe Castle on the English channel, during the first world war as a visiting place for members of the American Expeditionary Force.
Writes a Daily Column
With this to back him, he reversed the usual immigrant’s route and went to London to establish his own store. In 1909 he opened the store that revolutionized British trading habits. He hired a staff of 1,000 in the huge building, where for the first time an Englishman could buy “anything from a pin to a phonograf.”
Acutely sensitive to the value of publicity and a believer in advertising. he startled London with such stunts as displaying Bleriot’s airplane in his windows and writing & daily column in the Times over an assumed name, Callisthenes.
Three daughters married European noblemen, becoming Princess Wiasemsky, the Vicomtess Jacques de Sibour and the Vicomtess Louis de Sibour. A son, H. Gordon Selfridge Jr., followed his father’s career at Selfridges for a few years, but later came to New York, where he was associated with an American department store chain.
1Harry Selfridge and several other of Chicago’s millionaires had summer residences in Lake Geneva. The Chicago & Northwestern Railway ran a Millionaire Special during the summer which consisted of six parlor cars and ran every Friday afternoon at 3:45pm.