Peter Schuttler Mansion
Life Span: 1864-1913
Location: 1047 W. Adams Street (NE corner of Aberdeen and Adams Streets)
Architect: J. M. Van Osdel
Chicago Tribune, December 31, 1863
We may depart from rule laid down with regard to private dwellings to notice the residence in course of erection for Peter Schuttler, wagon-maker, of this city. He is erecting a Norman villa, on the corner of Adams and Aberdeen streets, which he purposes shall eclipse any residence in the State. It is modeled after ex-Gov. Matteson’s mansion at Springfield, and Mr. S. says his shall cost one-half more than the Governor’s mansion. Mr. Schuttler’s building is faced on all sides with Philadelphia pressed brick, the caps of the doors and windows are of elaborately sculptured Vermont white marble; the doors to be of polished mahogany, the floors of mosaic pattern marble, and the roof of Vermont varigated slate. The building, when completed, will cost about $100,000. There has been about $80,000 expended on the premises this year.
Peter Schuttler Mansion
The Inter Ocean, July 13, 1913
BY MARY DOUGHERTY.
The famous old Schuttler home, for twenty years the reputed rendezvous of ghosts and avenging spirits, the tales of whose nocturnal vigils have furnished amazement and amusement to three generations of Chicagoans, has finally found a purchaser who has no fear of the curse which tradition says has brought to ruin and desolation the once magnificent residence.
What the curse is, or who called it down upon the old mansion, is not known, but the story is that so long as the property remained in the possession of the heirs of Peter Schuttler, the malevolent powers would unrelentingly exact their toll of misfortune from all who might own or occupy it. It is generally believed that the curse was the result of a bitter feud over the option on the property at the time it was acquired by Mr. Schuttler.
Many times during the last decade efforts have been made to sell the property and take the title out of the name of Schuttler., abd more tha once the transfer was about to be effected, when, like the grim emissary of an implacable destiny, some unforeseen circumstance would intervene to prevent the consummation of the deal, and the property, unlike other West Side real estate, has deteriorated in value until the mansion, once the finest in Chicago, was sacrificed at a quarter of its original cost had today is being used as a livery stable.1
Even the casual passerby who may be unfamiliar with the romantic tales that have woven themselves around the history of the old house cannot fail to be impressed with the faded grandeur of the property and the incongruity of the sign that now defaces the massive oak doors, through which in days gone by thronged Chicago’s beaytuy and fashion and proclaims the beautiful old mansion, today the home of “The Palace Livery Stable,” where “horses may be boarded by the day, week or month.”
The tragic death of Peter Schuttler two weeks before completion of the house and the subsequent illness of his wife, which lasted several years, ended, rumor says, in her death by her own hand in the tower-room of the old mansion, are hinted to as among other manifestations of the sinister power of the hate of Peter Schuttler’s enemy.
Shortly after Mrs. Schuttler’s death the Schuttler children deserted the homestead and immediately vaguely weird tales began to circulate. Some claimed that each night the unsatisfied soul of Peter Schuttler returned to the tower-room to commune with that of his wife. They claimed these visits began during the long illness of Mrs. Schuttler, during which she was kept under constant surveillance in the tower by hired nurses and that after her death the children deserted the home rather than endure the uncanny influence of the specters.
For years the old mansions stood deserted in the midst of a wilderness of weeds which overran its once spacious and beautiful lawn. Its windows were broken and dust-begrimed, its steps covered with lichen, its porches weather-stained and full of holes, its barns and outhouses in the rear in ruin. Those who visited that part of town for the first time looked in wonder at the desolate old structure which stood like a dim memory of better days—like a proud old aristocrat fallen upon evil and threadbare times. Especially has it aroused the curiosity of the crowds who traveled on the street cars to the ball games on the Cubs’ grounds. The conductors on the car lines declare that hardly a trip passes that some passenger does not ask the history of the old house and why such a palatial residence had fallen into such decay. Its very appearance holds out sinister suggestions. It has been called the House of Usher of the West Side. It seems the proper stage-setting for any dark and romantic tale such as the wild imagination of a Poe might have conceived. If ever a house looks haunted, it does.
Once long ago the children of the neighborhood found it a vastly interesting playground. They played marbles and ball and spun tops in the yard. They went on exploring expeditions through its wonderful ballrooms and halls and ventured up into the mysterious recesses of its tower. But the boy and girl excursions into this faded wonderland soon came to an end. The children took home to their parents strange tales of hearing uncanny noises in the great vacant chambers and of seeing ghostly forms that frowned and beckoned as they flitted in the twilight up and down the marble staircases or glided in the terror of hobgoblin menace through the shadowy rooms of the tower. Not one specter but two, the children said, and haunted the house—the ghosts of an old man and an old woman, dim, intangible figures that seemed to resent the intrusion of their abode of mystery and silence.
The tales of the children aroused the interest of their elders, who made investigations on their own account. These investigations seemed to corroborate the eerie stories. Scores of persons living in the neighborhood declare that they too have seen the ghostly couple and often at night have seen strange lights flashing from the tower windows or moving mysteriously from room to room. Whether these tales be true or not, certain it is that hundreds of persons believe the old Schuttler mansion is the haunt of visitants from the other world, and thwt the ban of the ancient curse remains effective even to this day.
In the early ’40s Peter Schuttler, an impoverished descendant of an aristocratic old family, with his wife and little family, emigrated to America from Wertheim, Germany. He was a wagon-maker, and upon his arrival in the village of Chicago, opened a little shop at the corner now known as Franklin and Lake streets.
For a few years he plodded along in his frugal way, when, in 1846, the Mormon colony at Nauvoo, Ill., was forced to leave the state, and Brigham Young placed an order for the manufacture of a sufficient number of wagons to transport his followers and all their worldly possessions overland to Salt Lake.
Gaining recognition as a manufacturer of durable wagons through the filling of this order, Peter Schuttler was commissioned by Uncle Sam to supply the Army of the North with commissary wagons for the transportation of food and ammunition for the soldiers in the struggle for the preservation of the Union.
These orders alone would have made a wealthy man of any manufacturer fortunate to secured them, but managed with the economic skill of one trained from earliest youth in the school of thrift and frugality the financial returns from the business of Peter Schuttler formed the nucleus of a fortune which was later to mount from thousands to millions of dollars, and made him an important figure in the financial world.
When the Civil war was still in progress the now wealthy wagon-maker conceived the idea of building for himself a mansion that would rival the palaces of his native land.
With this idea in mind he purchased the land fronting 400 feet on Adams street and 250 feet on Aberdeen, which was at that time the center of one of the most exclusive residential sections of the rapidly growing city of Chicago, and within a stone’s throw of the old Plamondon2 and Amberg homesteads.
It is related that when, one day, he left his forge and sought out William Prescott, the then owner of the land, with an offer of purchase, he was received with scant courtesy. The little German’s modest appearance belied his wealth, and the property under consideration being of considerable value, Mr. Prescott thought it a waste of time to negotiate with him.
The German was insistent and finally, in a desperate effort to terminate the interview, the owner pompously announced that his price would be “not one cent less than $17,000, and no notes or checks accepted in full, or part, payment.”
This nettled the prospective buyer, and without further negotiations he departed. Later on in the afternoon Mr. Prescott was surprised to receive another call from his visitor of the morning. This time satisfaction beamed on the face of the little German, and he presented the surprised owner with the entire purchase price in one dollar bills.
This gave rise to the story that one room of the old place was papered with one dollar bills, and occasioned a visit by government inspectors some years ago.
Peter Schuttler’s first step after coming into possession of the coveted property was to surround it with a high ornamental iron fence, the foundation of which was three feet of solid cement. Today this fence stands as straight as the day it was erected and gives no evidence of its half century of exposure to the elements.
Peter Schuttler II House Elevation
287 West Adams
Bauer and Loebnitz, Architects
Elaborate plans were made for the mansion, and even in the face of war, time transportation uncertainties the brick used for the erection of the house were bought on from Philadelphia at a cost of 6 cents brick.
Black walnut, imported especially for this house, was used in the door and window casings, and skilled wood carvers were brought over from Bavarian villages to work out the figures designed by Mr. Schuttler.
The Louis XVI period of decoration was adhered to in the trimming and furnishing of the home. Austrian artists decorated the walls and drawing-rooms of the mansion, and beneath the marvelous canvases wrought by the hands of some of the world’s most famous decorative artists the weary old dray horses of one of Chicago’s large laundries now munch their evening meal of oats and corn, totally oblivious of the exquisite and expensive paintings that form the ceiling of their stalls.
An Italian marble company sent an export with several assistants to install the exquisite Cararra marble mantel that even today adorns the living room. The present owner prizes this more highly than any of the other pieces of bric-a-brac that came into his possession with the purchase of the old place, among which were rare old Sevres vases, expensive marble and copper statuettes.
The white and gold scheme of decoration was followed in the reception and drawing-rooms, and the halls and grand staircase were of purest white marble. The door and window casings of the old fashioned “back parlor” were built of solid rosewood, and today these doors of rarest and most expensive wood serve as partitions between the box stalls that are occupied the private driving horses of the present owner, William T. Luckow.
The entire top floor of the mansion, now used as a storeroom for grain and hay and sets of harness, was once the family ballroom. It was fashioned in white and gold after the old French ballrooms where the courtiers of Louis XVI, were wont to gather. The floor of this room is of highly polished cedar, and as the bales of hay that are now stored in the once festive hall are moved here and there the scent of cedar permeates the air and mingles with the heavy, sweet odor of the dried grass.
The dining room of the mansion is said to have cost of $15,000. The walls are covered with solid mahogany panelings, and richly carved figures give the room an appearance of stately grandeur such as may be seen in the ancient castles of the royalty of Europe. A massive sideboard of mahogany was built into the east wall of this room, standing fourteen feet high. The daylight enters this imposing room through richly colored cathedral glass windows, and in the twilight the dying gleams of the Western sky filter through the stained glass and cast weird lights and shadows over the elegant and fantastic figures carved in the solid mahogany panels.
On the southeast corner of the house a giant tower stands iut against the sky; giving the old place its castlelike appearance. This tower contains a large room, which is lighted on all four sides by long French windows the panes of which may in some measure explain the tales of ghostly visitation to the old tower.
For several years Mrs. Schuttler, the widow of Peter Schuttler, was an invalid. Owing to the pleasant location of the tower-room and its adaptability to the requirements of a sick chamber, she was confined there for several years. Some said she committed suicide while temporarily insane. This latter rumor is denied by relatives of the Schuttler family, but that she was confined in the tower-room for several years owing to ill health is admitted.
Immediately after her death the apparitions, it is said, began to appear in the tower rooms. Many old settlers and not a few of the last generation will readily assure you that often at night they have watched the phantoms flit to and fro past the long French windows and down the marble stairway which can be seen through the side windows, disappearing at daybreak.
At one time interest in the ghost stories was so wide that travelers were urged to include a trip to Chicago’s “haunted house” on their sight-seeing itinerary.
John Wheeler, ex-police inspector, and at that time in charge of the Desplaines street district, tells a story of having to send a wagon load of bluecoats to disperse the crowds that had gathered to watch the ghosts at their midnight vigil.
Inspector Wheeler said:
It was on the night of Dec. 31, 1899, every on was out ringing in the new century, and excitement was general. About midnight a riot call came in from the office patrolling this beat on Adams street. Knowing it was an unusually exciting night, I thought I’d best to drive out there myself and direct the movements of my subordinates.
When we reached the corner of Morgan street we could drive no farther. Being familiar with the history of the Schuttler home, I knew what the attraction was, so I jumped out of my buggy and elbowed my way through the crowd. Sure enough, there were strange lights coming and going in the tower windows, and for the first time in my life I really believed in ghosts. After some difficulty we dispersed the crowd, but for weeks afterwards ghost stories were in order at the station.
George Scannel, 5030 Kenmore avenue, tells of an interesting “ghost hunting” party which was held some years ago at the old place, and of which he was the sponsor.
Mr. Scannel said:
At that time we lived in the neighborhood of the old Schuttler place and all our lives had heard the ghost stories. One night, a few years after Mrs. Schuttler’s death, I went to the old place and interviewed the care taker, a gentle, housewifely old soul. I told her of my plan and assured her that we would do no harm, and I would pay her handsomely if she would let me bring a few of my friends that evening to investigate the haunts of the ghostly visitors.
She seemed rather amused, and though she refused all offers of money she promised to play the role of hostess to my party.
She entered into my plan with all the enthusiasm of a youngster, though she was a woman past 40, and suggested that the scene of our festivities be in the ballroom, which was adjacent to the tower-room. We accepted the suggestion and arranged a long old table, which we found in a corner of the attic, as a card table. We played cinch and old maid and several other staid games ti steady our nerves, and things were going along very smoothly when out of a corner crept a little mouse, attracted, I suppose, by the unusual noise in the attic.
With a wild, unearthly scream one of the young ladies who came to see the ghosts collapsed and had to be removed to the floor below. By this time all the rodents that had slept undisturbed for years in the gloom of the old place began scurrying about, and the rest of the feminine guests succumbed.
I don’t know whether I really saw any ghosts or not, but Jimmie Tynan and I had enough excitement that night to satisfy any ‘ghost’ party, and we never planned another.
Peter Schuttler Mansion
Chicago Tribune, January 17, 1865
DEATH OF PETER SCHUTTLER.—One by one our ancient landmarks are being removed. Yesterday morning, Peter Schuttler, who for a quarter of a century has been identified with the business of Chicago, died at his residence, on West Monroe street, between Morgan and Aberdeen, after an illness of but five days, aged about fifty years. Mr. Schuttler was a native of Baden, Germany. He came to Chicago from Cleveland in 1840, and purchased the corner on which his present establishment now stands, and at once set up a small jobbing shop. Strictly attentive to his business, steady and upright, he has gradually extended his manufactures until at the time of his death, his was one of the most extensive establishments in the Northwest. The progress of his business may justly be esteemed as an index of the growth of our city, with which Mr. Schuttler has been so closely identified. He had nearly completed his new residence, (the scene of his decease) the most magnificent building in Chicago. Mr. Schuttler leaves a wife and two children, (two of whom have attained their majorities.)
Peter Schuttler Mansion
1047 West Adams Street
Robinson Fire Map
1 The Schuttler mansion was sold in November, 1912 and turned into a livery stable. The treasures of the mansion were stripped at this time.
2 Andrew Plamondon was founder of the Plamondon Manufacturing Company, a nationally-established machine manufacturer. His son Charles, celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary on the Lusitania. Both Charles and his wife Mary were lost in the sinking on May 6, 1915. Their daughter, Charlotte and niece Emily survived the Iroquois Theater fire of Chicago in 1903. More than 600 people were killed, but they were fortunate to suffer only slight smoke inhalation.
Charles’ cousin Edwin K. Plamondon, the department manager of the Western Electric Company, was on board the excursion ship SS Eastland in July 1915 with his wife Susan Byrne Plamondon and his daughters Marie and Irene, when the boat capsized and killed 800 people. Susan was among the lost.