Monday, February 8, 2016

Booker T. Washington

In honor of Black History Month, we take a moment to reflect back on the life of the great educator, author, and orator Booker T. Washington and his two visits to the Prairie Avenue neighborhood in the early 20th century.  Born into slavery in Virginia in 1856, Washington went on to become the acknowledged leader of the African-American community for a quarter century, until his death in 1915.

In 1881, the 25-year-old Washington was asked to become principal of the newly formed Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.  Originally called the Tuskegee Normal School for Colored Teachers, the school was organized as part of the movement to expand opportunities for higher education in formerly Confederate states.  Within a year, Washington purchased a 100-acre former plantation as the site for the school, and directed the students to construct the first buildings as part of a work-study program.  Washington was a firm believer in the value of higher education as the best road for African-Americans to improve their condition, and he remained at the school for 34 years.  Among the donors he attracted to the school were Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.

Washington achieved national prominence for a speech he presented at the Cotton States and International Exposition on September 18, 1895 in Atlanta, Georgia.  Known as the Atlanta Address, it laid out the foundation for what became known as the Atlanta Compromise, an agreement between African-American leaders and Southern white leaders.  In exchange for the rights of a basic education and due process of law, African-Americans would submit to white political rule.

Second Presbyterian Church

In late December 1901, just six weeks after dedicating their newly rebuilt sanctuary, the congregation of Second Presbyterian Church, 1936 S. Michigan Avenue, invited Booker T. Washington to speak on the importance of education in the African-American community.  The Chicago Tribune gave a detailed account of the speech on December 30, 1901:

Hundreds of people surged around the Second Presbyterian Church, Michigan avenue and Twentieth street, last night, eager to hear the address by Booker T. Washington.  For nearly an hour before the doors opened the sidewalks were packed and when the doors swung open a crush began.

Men and women, white and black, pushed and pulled in an effort to pass through the broad doors at the same time.  Only the diligence of the ushers prevented serious injury to the struggling ones.

“It’s always so in Chicago,” complained one gray-haired man.  “If there’s any one worth hearing you can’t get to him.”

By 7 o’clock there was not one of the 1,500 seats in the church unoccupied.  Then the people began to crowd forward into the aisles until they extended half way down to the pulpit.  In the gallery every inch of available space was filled, while on the stairways leading thereto hundreds of persons stood for an hour waiting for the lecture to begin and then stood another hour listening to the address of the colored orator.  After the address ushers of the church estimated the number turned away at 500.

“’It was an immense crowd,” said Mr. Washington, “and I am sorry there were so many who would not hear me.”

Pleads for Education.

The address of Mr. Washington was a plea for the education of the negro.  He told of the conditions that prevailed in the South at the conclusion of the war, when the black man went out to make his way in the world with no other capital but a pair of strong arms and a brave heart.

Then he related incidents attending the founding of the educational institution over which he presides in Tuskegee, Ala.  The struggles of himself and the first students who came to his school were recounted.  The school grew, however, and as graduate after graduate went out the work became easier.  The graduates spread the fame of the school, and soon it became known over the world.

“A few months ago,” said Mr. Washington, “I sent out 300 letters to prominent men in the South requesting their opinion on the education of the colored man, whether or not it had proven beneficial to him, and if his condition had improved.  With three exceptions every man said education was doing more for the colored man than anything else.  One of the dissenting three said the negro was not so well off as when he was a slave.  The other two were non-committal.

Makes Useful Men.

“We have learned that it is a great thing to teach a man to do some one thing better than anybody else can do it, and so we have sought to make our students skillful artisans.  Wherever we have sent our graduates we have received good reports of them.  We teach them to the good citizens and Christian gentlemen.  No higher aim can be attained by any individual than that.”

Mr. Washington spoke with some pride of the growth of the wealth of his race.  In Virginia he said they own one twenty-sixth of the land and in Georgia, according to the latest tax returns, they possess $14,000,000 worth of property.

Union League Club

Washington returned for a second speaking engagement in Chicago in the spring of 1908.  He was entertained at a luncheon at the Union League Club on April 4, 1908, hosted by Charles L. Hutchinson, long-time president of the Art Institute of Chicago.  The other guests at the luncheon were John J. Glessner, Franklin MacVeagh (who would be appointed Secretary of the Treasury the next year), J. B. Forgan, Chauncey Keep, J. C. Grant, Clarence Buckingham, A. C. Bartlett, Dr. L. D. Case, B. H. Carpenter, and Dr. Park.  That evening Washington spoke to a large audience at the First Congregational Church of Oak Park.

The next day, Washington spoke in the morning at the Abraham Lincoln Center, a settlement house at 700 E. Oakwood Boulevard; in the afternoon at the Kenwood Evangelical Church, and in the evening once again at Second Presbyterian Church. 

John J. Glessner

John Glessner recalled meeting Booker T. Washington in a paper he wrote in 1917 for presentation to the Chicago Literary Club.  For reasons that remain unclear, the paper was never read, although Glessner continued reworking it for a decade.  Regarding Washington, Glessner noted:

As for Booker T. Washington, I met him, as many of us have and as all of us might have.  He was an able man, and a good man, deeply interested about his people, and devoted to their advancement.

Dr. Washington’s hope for the development of the race seems ideal to me – to make good, self-respecting laborers first, then good mechanics, and so up to higher levels.  A good workman, a peaceable, orderly man will be respected everywhere. . . The self-respecting man, whatever his color, not too aggressive, who does well and honestly what he does, will deserve and receive respect.  The modern man of color, I am convinced, is to be a great factor in the industrial history of this country.

Glessner wrote the lengthy paper primarily as a personal reminiscence of the many African-Americans he had known through the years, beginning with his childhood in Zanesville, Ohio.  The document shows that he held rather progressive views for his day.  In closing his remarks, he sensitively thought back on the individuals he had known most intimately, whom he recalled with deep affection:

As for the particular friends of whom I have made a meager record here, they have descended into the lonesome valley – and I still hold them in kind remembrance. . . if there wasn’t a high place reserved for them in Paradise, few of us need cherish great expectations of getting there.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Tragic Chapter in Our History

On February 5, 1891, exactly 125 years ago, Frances Glessner noted in her journal a visit to Fort Sheridan to see “Indians” who had recently been brought there from South Dakota.  Who were the indigenous people she saw and why were they there?  The events in South Dakota that precipitated their relocation to the Fort, and their subsequent treatment are dark chapters in our history, but chapters that need to be told as cautious reminders that all too similar incidents are still taking place all over the world.

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation was established in southwest South Dakota in 1889, the same year that South Dakota was granted statehood.  It was occupied in large part by the Lakota, an indigenous people of present day North and South Dakota, who were part of a confederation of seven Sioux tribes.

In late December 1890, a mixed band of Lakota sought refuge at Pine Ridge after fleeing the Standing Rock Agency, where Sitting Bull had been killed on December 15th.  On December 29th, the families were intercepted by a heavily armed detachment of the Seventh Cavalry.  Nearly 300 Lakota were killed, including more than 200 women and children.  The massacre was the result of a misunderstanding that took place when a deaf Lakota did not understand the order to surrender his gun.  It accidentally discharged, and the battle began.  Ironically, the 25 American soldiers that were killed were mostly victims of friendly fire, as few of the Lakota were armed. 

General Nelson A. Miles (1839-1925) played a major role in nearly all of the Army’s campaigns against the indigenous peoples of the Great Plains and was brought back into the field in early 1890 after his promotion to major general, during the last major resistance of the Sioux on the Lakota reservations, known as the Ghost Dance War (it ended in January 1891 with the surrender by Sioux leader Kicking Bear).  Although he believed that the United States should have authority over the Lakota and other tribes, he was outraged at the massacre at Wounded Knee and was highly critical of the commanding officers, Colonel James W. Forsyth.  A few days after the incident, Miles wrote to his wife regarding Wounded Knee, calling it “the most abominable criminal military blunder and a horrible massacre of women and children.”  He later fought for compensation payments to the survivors of the massacre.  (Note: He is also remembered in Chicago as commanding the troops that were mobilized to put down the Pullman strike riots in 1894).

On January 26, 1891, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Clark Corbin, stationed at Chicago, received a telegram from General Miles which read as follows:
“I expect to reach Chicago some time tomorrow night, with Taming Bear, Short Bull, Two Strike, and others, thirty in all.  I desire that preparations be made to remove them to Fort Sheridan immediately.”

The specific reason for bringing the survivors to Fort Sheridan was the source of some speculation, as noted in the Chicago Tribune on January 27th:
“The announcement that the Indians are to be rounded up at Fort Sheridan will cause considerable surprise, as it had been generally believed that they would be taken on to Washington to have a pow-wow with the Great Father.  The Indians themselves, without doubt, share this belief, otherwise it would have been no easy matter to prevail on them to leave Pine Ridge Agency and come East.  The purpose of the War Department in the matter is not fully understood.

“It is said that it is the intention of Gen. Miles to enlist the Indians in the regular army, subject them to the same discipline as other recruits so as to have them ready for service against hostile Indians in Indian wars which may break out in the future.”

On January 28th, the Chicago Tribune reported that the “delegation of Indian chiefs” had arrived in Chicago.
“On the train were forty-four Indians, and of these thirty are to be quartered at Fort Sheridan.  Those who are to be left so close to Chicago are all Brules, headed by Kicking Bear and Short Bull.  When the train reached the Northwestern Depot at 8:45 last night there was a crowd of sight-seers waiting to catch a glimpse of the Indians. . . Capt. McKibben and Lieut. Maxwell of Fort Sheridan were at the depot with a detail of four non-commissioned officers and six privates to guard the Brules on their way to their new home.”

The remaining fourteen continued on to Washington, D. C. The illustration above, showing the chiefs in the railroad car after pulling into the station, was drawn the Chicago Tribune’s chief cartoonist, Harold R. Heaton. 

Newspaper reports indicated that all remained peaceful at the Fort other than the large number of curious visitors.  On January 29th, the Chicago Tribune reported that:
“Every village boy in Fort Sheridan and about two hundred from Highland Park formed a cordon around the tepees of the Indians, and the sentinel had more trouble in keeping the white man out than he had in keeping the red man in.  The truth of the matter is that the Indians are in no sense prisoners.  Every member of the guard that was mounted at Fort Sheridan yesterday morning had strict orders to allow the Indians to do as they choose. . . The reds, in short, are to have every liberty, provided they go it alone.”

Frances Corbin, the wife of Lieutenant Colonel Corbin, organized an outing for young people to see the “visitors” to the Fort.  In a note to Frances Glessner dated February 3rd, she stated:

“Col. Corbin and I would like to have Mr. Glessner and yourself assist us in caring for a party of young people we are taking out to see the Indians at Ft. Sheridan Thursday afternoon Feb. 5th at two o’clock.”

Frances Glessner responded that she would attend, and was invited to bring along the wife of Charles Eliot, President of Harvard, who was her house guest at the time.  Frances Glessner noted that visit in her journal:
“We had a special train with two Pullman coaches.  Genl. Miles, Captain Maus, and other members of the staff were in the party.  Some ambulances drawn by mules met us at the station at Fort Sheridan – we went up to where the Indians are in camp.  Genl. Miles had them dress in their native costumes, war paint and feathers, and line up for us to look at them.  We shook hands, said ‘how,’ and gave them cigarettes.  We went then in the ambulances to the guard house where there was a huge fire of blazing logs.  Then we drove about the place down to the lake etc. – back to the guard house where we watched the young people dance – then home.”

The visit was covered in detail by the Chicago Tribune the next morning.  It would be the first of many public displays the prisoners would be subject to during their stay at Fort Sheridan.  

On February 14th, fifteen of them were sent to the Y.M.C.A. in Evanston to watch a gymnastics demonstration after which they were taken to the Evanston Club for sandwiches and coffee.  But the real purpose of the outing appears to have been the performance they were summoned to give:

“Afterwards the reds gave a regulation ghost dance, in which there was nothing lacking except the ghost shirts and the antelope-hoof necklaces.  They danced around the banquet hall of the Evanston Club for the pleasure of about 500 invited guests and for the delectation of hundreds of uninvited boys and girls, who peeped through the many windows.”

On February 28th, ten prisoners were taken to the Grand Opera-House to see a minstrel show provided by a visiting troupe from Cleveland.  One wonders whether the other members of the audience felt the “real show” was on stage or in the private boxes, where the delegation was seated.

On March 14th, the Chicago Tribune announced the fate of the 27 Oglala and Brule braves and the three squaws:

“They will go abroad to hobnob with the nobility of Europe.  This unexpected change of affairs was brought about by Col. W. F. Cody, better known as ‘Buffalo Bill.’  The Colonel, desiring to secure more red men for his European tour this summer, first obtained the consent of Secretary Blaine and the Department of the Interior and then went to Fort Sheridan to learn how the Indians felt about the matter. . . The Indians did not need much persuasion, and readily accepted ‘Buffalo Bill’s’ offer to accompany him across the ‘great river.’”

That announcement was met with disdain by those who were fighting for the rights of the prisoners, including Miss Mary C. Collins, who had served as a Congregational missionary among the Sioux Indians for sixteen years.  The Chicago Tribune noted her speech before the Congregational Club on March 16th:

“I understand that Buffalo Bill has arranged to take a band of the prisoners out here at Fort Sheridan around with his show this season.  It is an outrage to our Christian civilization.  If they are guilty, let them be punished, and if not, send them back to the reservation.  I appeal to you gentlemen here tonight whether you will let them be sent out as curiosities. 

“Continuing, she told how she had gone out to Fort Sheridan, and how the Indians had said they would be hung when they were sent back to the reservation unless they went with Buffalo Bill to Europe.  And the authorities at the fort allowed the prisoners to be taken out to neighboring towns and put on exhibition.”

Before adjourning for the evening, the club passed a resolution which was to be communicated to the President of the United States, which stated, in part:

“Whereas, Such treatment of these prisoners of war is a travesty of justice, and would result in the demoralization to the whole Indian people as far as known, and particularly to the Dakota tribes to which they are related; and

“Whereas, This treatment of these or any Indians is utterly opposed to the judgment of our missionaries, who are laboring for this race, and is repugnant to the higher instincts of the Christian people of the land.  Therefore be it

“Resolved, That it is the sense of the Congregational Club that the order granting this permission should be countermanded and our country saved this disgrace.”

The well intentioned resolution had no effect.  A special dispatch from Washington D.C. on March 19th noted that the Secretary of War gave his approval for the prisoners at Fort Sheridan to join the Wild West show.   

Monday, January 25, 2016

A ewer and basin by Gien

In October 1875, John and Frances Glessner attended the Interstate Industrial Exposition, located in a cavernous W. W. Boyington designed building on the present site of the Art Institute of Chicago.  It was here that the Glessners saw a collection of artistically designed furniture organized by Peter B. Wight and William Le Baron Jenney, much of it carved by Isaac Scott.  The long collaboration between the Glessners and Scott that began at the exposition is well-known.  Often overlooked, however, is the fact that the Glessners acquired one of their favorite pieces of faience earthenware at the exposition.

The Glessners purchased several photographs of the furniture they saw at the exposition, including a sideboard designed by architect Asa Lyon and carved by Isaac Scott (shown above).  Prominently displayed at the center of the main shelf is a stately ewer and basin which the Glessners acquired soon after and placed at the center of the mantelpiece in their Washington Street parlor (shown below). 

The piece was manufactured by the French firm of Gien, considered one of the finest faience manufacturers in the 19th century.  The company dates back to 1821 when Thomas Edme Hulm (or Thomas Hall) left his factory at Montereau, which had been operated by his family for nearly half a century, and purchased the property of the old convent of Minimes.  It was here that he opened his new factory to produce faience using English methods. 

The earliest pieces were more utilitarian in nature such as crockery, but later he began producing decorative pieces and dinner services, often copying older objects that combined both old and new decoration inspired by other manufacturers in Europe as well as pieces from the Far East. 

Photo by Susan Einstein for the
Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Glessners’ piece is a close copy of Rouen ware produced in the late 17th and early 18th centuries which made Rouen a major center of French pottery.  A ewer that is very similar to the Glessners’ piece was exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2012-2013 as part of their exhibit “Daily Pleasures: French Ceramics from the MaryLou Boone Collection.” Shown above, the piece was made about 1700 and is virtually identical in shape including the applied handle, although some freedom was taken in creating the decorative designs on the Glessners’ ewer. 

The period between 1855 and 1900 is generally considered to be the pinnacle of faience production in Gien.  Their pieces became known around the world as the firm won many awards at international exhibitions in 1855, 1867, 1878, 1889, and 1900. 

The mark on the underside of the basin, consisting of three crenelated towers with a ribbon beneath bearing the name GIEN, indicates that the piece was produced in the first half of the 1870s.  The three towers design was introduced as a mark for the firm in 1856, and in the Glessners’ piece, it also features prominently in the decoration.  The three towers motif is painted into a medallion beneath the lip of the ewer, and also serves as the central motif in the basin.  

Additional decoration includes a royonnant design inside the basin and a variety of richly detailed floral decorations and foliate scrolls across the body of both the ewer and basin.  The heavy lip of the ewer is decorated with a twisted rope design.  

One of the most unusual features of the piece is the pair of grotesque masks forming handles for the basin, which sits atop four pyramidal peg feet. 

During the decades that the Glessners lived on Prairie Avenue, the ewer and basin appear to have always been on display on the south bookcase in the library near the doorway to the cork alcove, as shown in the photo below, taken in 1923.  Today, the piece is displayed on a side table in the courtyard bedroom.

In 1986, the Gien Museum opened in an old clay body cave dating back to the 16th century.  Telling the story of Gien from 1821 to the present, it consists of two large rooms showing both popular and artistic faience, along with special pieces created for the various World’s Fairs.  Click here for more information on the museum, located in Gien, France, 78, Place de la Victoire. 

Gien is still produced today and is considered among the highest quality earthenware in France.

Monday, January 18, 2016

John J. Glessner and the CSO

On January 21, 1936, the Chicago Tribune reported the death of two men well known in their circles – King George V of England and John Jacob Glessner.  Glessner had died the previous day in his beloved Prairie Avenue home just six days before his 93rd birthday.   In the weeks that followed, tributes were written and published by a number of organizations in which he was prominently involved, including International Harvester which he had helped to found in 1902, and Rush Medical College, where he served as president emeritus. 

One of the most heartfelt tributes came from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra which had been at the center of John Glessner’s life for 45 years.   The full-page tribute was written by Charles H. Hamill, president of The Orchestral Association, and placed opposite the program page for the concerts of January 23 and 24, 1936.  In remembrance of the 80th anniversary of John Glessner’s passing, we reprint Hamill’s beautiful tribute in its entirety.

John J. Glessner

On the 20th of January, 1936, came the end of the long and useful life of John J. Glessner.  To no one man has The Orchestral Association been more beholden.  He was one of the small group of men who in the Association’s first years of struggle were loyal in their support and generous in their gifts.  The depression following 1893 made the early years a time of great difficulty for both the Association and its friends, but Mr. Glessner never flinched.  During those years before Orchestra Hall was built he contributed over $12,000 and then was one of the largest contributors to the building and the later reduction of the mortgage.  Only last year he made his latest gift, bringing his total to nearly forty-five thousand dollars.  But it was not only by his contributions he showed his interest.  Since 1898 he has served as a Trustee and by his constant attendance on meetings and his sound judgment has brought much needed help to his associates.  Modest to the point of self-effacement, he was clean of thought, and, when occasion required, vigorous in expression, and always with the Association’s welfare vividly in mind.

He and his devoted wife while she lived were always in their box to delight in the music their generosity made possible, and in their hospitable home men of the Orchestra and their musical friends found frequent and charming entertainment.  The loss to the Association of his wise counsel and the loss to his fellow Trustees of his fine companionship find their only comfort in the reflection that he has been discharged from the pains and penalties of extreme old age.

Charles H. Hamill,

The tone poem “Death and Transfiguration” by Richard Strauss was played in Glessner’s memory at the concert on Tuesday February 11, 1936, conducted by the Glessners’ dear friend, Frederick Stock.  In the program for January 7 and 8, 1937, The Orchestral Association gratefully acknowledged the receipt of a $50,000 bequest under the will of John J. Glessner. 

BELOW:  Two photos showing one of the Glessners’ great-great-great granddaughters exploring their box at Symphony Center during Glessner House Museum’s 125th Anniversary Gala on September 13, 2012.  (Photos by Tim Walters)

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Death of John Wellborn Root -- January 15, 1891

January 15, 2016 will mark the 125th anniversary of the death of one of Chicago’s greatest architects – John Wellborn Root.  His unexpected passing sent shock waves through the city and the architectural community.  Not only had Root just turned 41 years old five days earlier, but he and partner Daniel H. Burnham were in the early stages of planning the World’s Columbian Exposition – by far the largest and most important project their firm had ever undertaken.

The tragic story of Root’s death has oft been retold.  As recounted in the death notice published in the Chicago Tribune on Friday January 16th:

“Chicago will be shocked at the news of the untimely death of John W. Root, easily its most distinguished designing architect, if indeed he had his superior in the whole country.  In the prime of his life, his vigor, and his usefulness; in the midst of his invaluable services to the World’s Columbian Exposition, he seemed to be the man of all others who would be sure to continue for many a day one of its most esteemed and beloved citizens.  In the flower of his days pneumonia has suddenly ended his life, as it has during late years ended the lives of so many men young and strong like him.  Less than a week ago he was in the best of health.  Saturday he took a Turkish bath and later at his own house thoughtlessly stepped into the street to hand a friend to her carriage, becoming slightly chilled in so doing.  During Sunday he received at his hospitable home a visit from the Eastern architects visiting the scene of the World’s Fair, and that night he was seized with a severe chill, which proved the beginning of a fatal illness.  Even as late as noon of that day of his death he seemed in a fair way of recovery, but death came suddenly last evening.”

Daniel Burnham, an intimate friend and business partner of nearly 20 years, paced the floor of Root’s house, waiting for each update from the doctor.  When the end came, Burnham is supposed to have responded “Damn, damn, damn!”  considering not only life without his talented partner, but how he would proceed alone with the monumental task of planning and executing the World’s Fair.  Root had been appointed as the “consulting architect” for the Fair, which gave him supervision over all architectural related matters.  Lyman Gage, one of the directors of the Fair, noted that “In general it may be said that there is no man in any profession whose place cannot be filled.  But it really seems to me that John Root was an exception.”

The funeral took place on Sunday January 18th from the family home at 56 Astor Street (now 1310 N. Astor Street.)  Root had designed the house in 1888, one of a series of four charming Queen Anne row houses for James L. Houghteling.  

Following the service, conducted by Bishop Cheney, the casket was sealed and the remains taken to Graceland Cemetery for internment.  Pall bearers included Burnham, Art Institute president Charles L. Hutchinson, and William Pretyman, a talented English designer and close friend of Root (who would later execute the hand-painted wallcovering in the Glessner parlor).


Burnham and Root were responsible for the design and remodeling of more than a dozen residences on and around Prairie Avenue.   Their first commission on the street in 1873, the residence for John B. Sherman, president of the Chicago Union Stockyards, was the second commission ever received by the new firm.   (Burnham met and married Sherman’s daughter Margaret during construction and the couple moved into the house upon its completion).

In 1880, Root married Mary Louise Walker, a daughter of James M. Walker of 1720 S. Prairie Avenue.   The newly married couple took up residence with the Walkers, but Mary Root died a month later at the age of 21. 


The Glessners were long-time friends of Daniel Burnham and would have known Root through that friendship.  Frances Glessner and Root’s wife were both members of The Fortnightly.  She sent flowers and a note of condolence to Root’s widow, which were acknowledged with the following note on March 18th:

“Dear Mrs. Glessner
I thank you from my heart for the beautiful roses, and above all for the sweet sympathy which I know accompanied them.  I shall never forget that you thought of me when I most needed help.
Always faithfully yours,
Dora Louise Root”

John Root and John Glessner were also fellow members of the Chicago Literary Club.  At the time of Root’s death, the Club occupied rooms on the third floor of the Art Institute, a Burnham and Root designed building at the southwest corner of Michigan and Van Buren.  At the meeting of the Club on February 16, 1891, the following resolution was read, which sums up in a few words Root’s importance to the architectural community, as well as his value as a friend and Club member.

“In the death of JOHN WELLBORN ROOT the Literary Club has lost a valued member and Chicago has lost a gifted man.

“Everybody knew him as an architect and artist.  Our city is full of his work; his great buildings tower above our business streets, monuments of the strength and breadth of his genius; and quiet homes along our residence streets bear witness to his grace and refinement.  All of us and all of the members of his chosen profession knew his ability as a writer.  But the full scope and range of his versatile nature were less well known.  Only a few knew him as a musician, and yet he had rare musical gifts.  Many surpassed him in mere brilliance of execution, but he had few equals in interpreting the spirit of the great composers.  To hear him play from memory Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words” was a revelation.  It stirred the deepest emotions.

“He died at the age of 41, young even for his years, doing the best work of his life, and giving promise of still greater development; like all true artists, dissatisfied with what he had accomplished, and hoping yet to do something great.

“As our fellow member and our friend has gone from us, and we shall never see another design from his hand, it is a pleasure to remember that this home of our club is all his work, the building, which was perhaps his most artistic creation, and the decoration and arrangement of these rooms, to which he gave much loving thought and much of his precious time.

“We shall remember him not only as a great architect and a versatile genius; but as a modest gentleman, a delightful companion, and a faithful friend.

Bryan Lathrop,
William L. B. Jenney,
Irving K. Pond,

NOTE:  Among those who gathered in Chicago in January 1891 for the planning of the World’s Columbian Exposition was landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who planned and supervised the landscape design for the fairgrounds.  Frances Glessner noted in her journal on January 12th, “At dinner time Mr. Olmsted came with his satchel to stay with us.”  He remained with the Glessners until January 18th, leaving Chicago after Root’s funeral. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Bit of Chicago History in Rockford, Illinois

In 1993, Jim Vitale opened the Cliffbreakers Restaurant in Rockford, Illinois.  Four years later, he opened the adjacent hotel.  One of the distinguishing features of the establishment was Vitale’s extensive collection of antiques and architectural fragments from around the world, including several from Chicago.  Although Vitale sold the business in 2006, and some of the pieces have been sold off, many remain, making it worth a visit for those interested in seeing pieces of Chicago’s history.  Below is a summary of the pieces with a Chicago connection.  The descriptions are taken directly from a brochure acquired at the hotel in 2009 (no longer available).

Crane Company Building
836 S. Michigan Avenue
Holabird & Roche, architects

“These massive 10-foot bronze doors weight 750 pounds each and were the original entry doors to the famous Crane building in Chicago.”

Corn Exchange Bank Building (demolished)
122-136 S. LaSalle Street
Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, architects

“This magnificent window was discovered above a plaster ceiling during the demolition of the Chicago Corn Exchange at LaSalle and Adams Streets.  It contains over 7,000 pieces of leaded glass.  An amazing stroke of luck for Cliffbreakers!”

Germania Club
108 W. Germania Place (at Clark St.)
Addison & Fiedler, architects

“These massive oak beams on the ceiling of the lobby, the hanging bronze light fixtures, along with the balcony railing and registration desk came from the old Germania Club in Chicago.  This was a private men’s club until its closing in the late 50s.  The 50-foot carved oak grand wall with leaded windows was the original entry to the Club.”

Continental Bank (demolished)
208 S. LaSalle Street
Burnham & Root, architects

 “These two canvasses flanking either side of the lobby are 8 feet high and 27 feet long.  They were painted by American artist George Marshall for the famous Continental Bank of Chicago, at the turn of the century.  One features pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock; the second, a hillside view of Florence in the springtime.”

Standard Club
320 S. Plymouth Court
Albert Kahn, architect

“These magnificent bronze chandeliers once hung in the Standard Club in Chicago.”

Edith Rockefeller McCormick Mansion (demolished)
1000 N. Lake Shore Drive
Solon S. Beman, architect
Note:  The house was built for Nathaniel S. Jones and purchased by John D. Rockefeller in 1895 and presented to his daughter as a gift

“A pair of glazed terra cotta lions in superior condition.  From the original McCormick Mansion torn down in 1953.”  (The lions have recently been painted white, the earlier photo dates from 2009).

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