Monday, July 1, 2013

The House at 1836 Calumet Avenue, concluded

In last week’s installment, we looked at the life and career of prominent Chicago attorney Norman Williams and the home he built for his family at 1836 Calumet Avenue.  After Williams died in 1899, his widow continued to occupy the old family homestead until 1907 when she moved to Washington, D.C. and built a new home on fashionable Scott Circle.  This week we will look at the later history of the Williams’ Calumet Avenue home. 

In 1907, the house was purchased by Charles S. Holt, a Chicago attorney and long-time partner of Norman Williams.  When Williams died in 1899, Holt was quoted as saying the following about his friend in the Chicago Tribune:
“I cannot talk about him now.  We were most intimately associated for twenty-three years.  No man ever had more friends or was more loyal to them.  His whole nature was genial and sweet and he delighted in sacrificing himself for those he loved.  Above all his mental power and professional success he will live in the memory of those that knew him as a man of great and affectionate love.”

Charles S. Holt moved into the house with his wife Camilla McPherson Holt, their two daughters Isabella McPherson Holt and Marian Hubbard Holt, and their son Charles McPherson Holt.  Holt was born in Chicago in 1855 and was prominent in numerous professional and social clubs including the Union League, Chicago, University, Onwentsia, South Shore, Chicago Literary, and Chicago Law.  He was also an active member at Second Presbyterian Church and served as the president of the Presbyterian Brotherhood of America, was a director of McCormick Theological Seminary, and once served as the vice moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly.  He was a trustee of both the Chicago Orphan Asylum and Williams College. 

Holt sold the house in 1918 and moved to 60 Cedar Street where he died on December 13, 1918 at the age of 63.  His funeral was held at Second Presbyterian Church.

By 1921, the next owner of the house had leased it to the Pestalozzi Froebel Teachers College for use as a dormitory.  A booklet about the College from the 1921-1922 school year provides interesting information about the College, founded in 1896 and incorporated in 1913 as the Pestalozzi Froebel Kindergarten Training School.  Offering a two-year course of training in three departments – Kindergarten, Primary, and Playleaders and Community Service – the school was named after two influential European educators.  Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) was a Swiss educational reformer credited with eliminating illiteracy in Switzerland and whose motto was “The hands as much as the head and heart.”  His student, Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) was a German educator who laid the foundation for modern education and created the concept of kindergarten.  His name is best remembered today for the “Froebel Gifts” he developed, including the Froebel blocks made famous through their association with Frank Lloyd Wright. 

The Pestalozzi Froebel Teachers College had its office and class rooms on the 7th floor of the Arcade Building at 618 South Michigan Avenue, designed in 1913 by architect William Carbys Zimmerman.  (Now owned by Columbia College Chicago, the building recently received a new façade which interprets the original terra cotta, removed in 1958).  The 1921-1922 booklet states the advantage of completing the Teachers’ Training Course:
“It is always a good investment for a young woman to take a teachers’ training course.  It not only secures her a desirable means of support, but it extends her general culture and rounds out her education.  This is especially true of the Kindergarten, Primary and Playground training courses.  They provide all that is required for a professional, certified teacher, and at the same time develop a young woman in the most desirable way along cultural and social lines.”
The booklet goes on to state that the Kindergarten is now part of the public school system in the majority of cities in the country and that salaried positions are available from $125 to $200 per month.

About the college dormitory, the booklet goes on to state:
“The College building and the Dormitory, which is conveniently near, both overlook Lake Michigan.  The Dormitory neighborhood is one of the most interesting and historic in Chicago.  In the same block are such well known Chicago land marks as the W. W. Kimball, Mrs. Marshall Field, and the Pullman homes.  At the corner stands the historic Fort Dearborn statue, beyond which the new Field Museum juts into the lake.  Students walk to the College on Michigan Boulevard along the lake front, or take the cars on Eighteenth Street.

“The Dormitory faces the lake, and the rooms are arranged so that most of them overlook the water.  On the second floor the larger rooms for three students open into baths with showers; also an additional alcove with stationary basin, hot and cold water.  These rooms are connected with a sun parlor and a balcony overlooking the lake.  On the third floor the larger rooms for three students open into raised alcoves overlooking the water.  They also have roomy closets.

“The building is heated by a hot water system, supplemented by hot air, and is lighted with electricity.  The dining room opens into a sun parlor that commands a wide view of the lake.  The rooms are furnished with comfortable single metal beds, mattresses, pillows, curtains, study tables, chairs, chiffoniers and dressers.”

Residents were expected to provide their own bed linens and towels, as well as dresser scarves, laundry bags, a waste paper basket and a rug.  Recommended clothing included one simple evening dress, sensible skirts “that do not interfere with free movement,” a rain coat and umbrella, and sensible shoes.  “Extravagant” dress was discouraged.  Each resident was expected to assist with chores in the dormitory following the spirit that “Self activity ought always to be co-ordinated with an activity the result of which is consecrated to others.” 

Rates for board and room for the school year were $360-$400 on the third floor and $450-$500 on the second floor.  This included daily breakfast and dinner, and mid-day meals on the weekends and holidays.

It is not known exactly how long the house was used as a dormitory, but in March 1935, the building was demolished along with the three neighboring houses at 1830, 1832 and 1840 Calumet Avenue.  This was during the widespread destruction of the neighborhood in the 1930s during which time more than one-third of all the houses were razed. Today, the site of the house is occupied by a National Guard Armory which covers an entire block and extends all the way south to Cullerton Street. 

NOTE:  The Pestalozzi Froebel Teachers College survived until 1971, when its assets were purchased by the National College of Education, now known as National-Louis University.  Interestingly, that institution, founded in 1886 as the Chicago Kindergarten Training School, also has a connection to Prairie Avenue.  Its co-founder, Mrs. Rumah Arvilla Crouse, resided at 2231 Prairie Avenue from 1886 until 1914.  The other co-founder, Miss Elizabeth Harrison, also resided at that address from 1886 to 1896.  From 1913 until the mid-1920s, the school was headquartered in the former Sidney A. Kent house at 2944 S. Michigan Avenue, designed by Burnham & Root in 1883, and today, one of the last surviving mansions along that once prominent residential thoroughfare.

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