The house had originally been built for Charles W. Brega in the late 1880s. The architect was Solon S. Beman, architect of the Town of
Lightner acquired the house from the Smith family in 1933 and immediately began converting the building into his museum. The rooms were filled with fine objects from leading families – Potter Palmer, Edith Rockefeller McCormick, Victor Lawson, John Farwell, and many more. Stained glass (including panels from the Chicago Board of Trade) filled the windows, furniture was crammed into every space, and countless curio cabinets were filled to overflowing with art glass and more. The rooms were given themes and names – the Music Room, the Gold Room, the Textile Room, the Curio Room, the Egyptian Room, the
Several objects from Prairie Avenue homes made their way into the museum including paneled doors from the Pullman house, a gold-plated chandelier from the Buckingham house, brass andirons from the Armour house, and a dining room – complete with glassware, china, paneling, furniture, and all – from the residence of Isabella Blackstone.
As the collection grew, Lightner acquired the adjacent properties. To the north he constructed a building to house his publishing business. To the south, he planned a huge modern addition to the museum that would connect to the nearby Kohl mansion. At the close of World War II however, due to ill health, Lightner made the decision to move to
Next week: The Lightner Museum opens in