Sunday, June 22, 2014

Homes for Egbert and Malcolm Jamieson

By the mid-1880's it was becoming more and more common for Chicago's upper class to abandon the idea of living in a large stone or brick mansion along a fashionable urban boulevard for an alternate frame home in a more rural-looking setting. The homes that J. L. Silsbee was designing for suburban areas at Buena Park and Edgewater, with their seemingly informal planning and artful combination of English cottage and Colonial elements made the architect particularly popular with clients seeking out homes with a more pastoral appearance.               
Postcard from John Chuckman Collection: West on Stratford Pl. near Lake Michigan, Chicago, IL (1913)
It is in this context that the first homes on Stratford Place (at that time called Newport Avenue) were constructed. One of the earliest of these was a Dutch Colonial home for Judge Egbert Jamieson. Jamieson's home was soon followed by the construction of a shingle style home under the direction of Adler & Sullivan for George Harvey. It was built on a lot directly to the west of Jamieson's home. A year after Egbert Jamieson's home was completed, Silsbee was at work on a home for Egbert's brother, Malcom Jamieson. Malcom's home was an English cottage-styled structure and built just east of the judge's residence. The three homes set the tone and appearance of the street for the next couple of decades. A postcard from 1913 captures what thes three homes looked like. Malcom Jamieson's home is in the foreground, Judge Jamieson's is next and the Harvey home is just beyond that. All of these homes are now gone and a history of the street is captured in the blog: Lake View Historical Chronicles.

The initial connection between Silsbee and the Jamieson family is not known but given the dual comissions, it can be assumed that he was somewhat close with at least Judge Jamieson but perhaps with both of the brothers. The Jamiesons were Vermont natives who came to Wisconson and then Chicago at young ages. Malcom was a banker and had his own firm, Morse, Jamieson & Co. Judge Jamieson started out as a typesetter and then lawyer. He was appointed to the Superior Court of Cook County in 1886 and served there four years. After stepping down from the court, he became legal council for the North and West Chicago Street Railway Companies. He also served on the Lincoln Park Comission. Silsbee did work for the street railway companies and was one of the favored architects by the Comission while Jamieson was on it.    
Judge Egbert Jamieson (1840-1912)
Judge Jamieson's home is not unique for Silsbee's work in this period and it is one of four known Dutch Colonial homes that he designed in 1888. There are a handful of unique features of in this particular design though. One is the incorporation of two discrete, almost complete, circle-rooms in the design. One is part of the sweeping front porch that stretches completely across the front of the home and wraps around the east side. From here you would have had a remarkable view of the lake, that was only a block away. Another circular room was situated on the northeast corner of the home and served as the judge's library.
Egbert Jamieson's home in 1892 from publication, Chicago and Its Resources Twenty Years After 1871-1891
Completed a year earlier, the Arthur Orr Residence, still standing in Evanston, IL, has many similar elements. A massive rubble-stone base, clapboard and shingle exterior and massive round porches. All of these elements seem to be neatly organized beneath a sweeping gambrel roof. The roof surface faces the street and has a generally horizontal expression along that facade.
Arthur Orr Residence (1887-88), J. L. Silsbee, architect
Silsbee's design approach a couple years later, for Malcolm's home, is quite different. The long sweeping porch that extends across the front in the judge's home is still present here but in this home, at least from what you can discern by the piece that you can see in the postcard image, the roofline is much more varied and the overall organization and massing more complex. It too has a massive stone base but instead of favoring Colonial detailing, the details on the home are articulated in an English Gothic style. Incidentally, stone mason, John Monaghan, was responsible for the complex stone work on both Jamieson homes, the Orr home, as well as Silsbee's Lincoln Park Conservatory.  
Detail of Malcolm Jamieson Residence from John Chuckman postcard.
The Jamieson homes seem to evidence how Silsbee was at the forefront of residential design in this period and how he influenced residential design executing some of the earliest shingle style and Colonial homes along the shore, north of Chicago. In many ways, these early structures set the tone for structures that followed the few years after. The development of Stratford Place mirrors development that was occurring a block south, on Hawthorn Place and with buildings by Sullivan, Root, Maher, and others, the two streets have a rich history of architectural patronage, particularly in how they exhibit how each firm was executing homes in the shingle style. It is during this period that Silsbee also completed his Herman Hettler residence on that street on Hawthorn Place. As as architects, Silsbee in particular, they had obviously tapped into a particular desires of affluent clientele for a particular kind of home; one with a decidedly horizontal and weighty expression and one that was constructed with an eye to using wood construction in an inventive manner.
Herman Hettler Residence on Hawthorn Place (1892), J. L. Silsbee, architect
The number of Silsbee works in this area is evidence of how he was influencing the appearance of these suburban-looking dwellings. His work on similar designs for a large number of homes in nearby Buena Park and in the Edgewater suburb shows how popular his brand of shingle style dwelling was at the time. Silsbee's influence on the residential character of these early neighborhoods also comes from the fact that some of the architects that were executing works, were once in Silsbee's office. Sullivan's office had just taken on Frank Lloyd Wright and George Elmslie when design on the Harvey home was starting. A more profound influence can be seen in George Maher's work. Maher's Albert Towers home, commissioned in 1893, was constructed directly across the street from Malcolm Jamieson's home on Stratford. Maher was in Silsbee's office when Judge Jamieson's and Arthur Orr's homes were planned. He would have experienced, first-hand, the design of homes like these. It is no a surprise that Maher executes a design that, with its massive stone base, huge rounded porch and large gambrel roof, provides precisely the same domestic impression as Silsbee's work in the area.          

Albert Towers Residence (1893-94), G. W. Maher, architect

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Home for John R. French

In 1876, Joseph Silsbee was hired by three fellow Syracuse University Professors to design their homes on Syracuse’s University Hill. A newspaper article lauded the construction of these three homes and saw them as evidence of the substantial growth of the University.  One of these homes was for mathematics professor and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, John R. French. It was located on what is now South Crouse Avenue, directly opposite Marshall Street. It backed up to another of these three homes, that of Dr. Charles Bennett. It appears that all three homes were occupied by the end of 1877 and French’s was the last one to be completed.   
Dr. John R. French (1825-1897)

The French home would have been one of Silsbee’s earliest commissions in the city. No homes by Silsbee from this period are intact and there is relatively little photographic evidence of what they looked like. I hadn’t been able to locate a photograph of the French home but when I found that the location was at the end of the same street that Syracuse’s Good Shepherd Hospital was, I began scouring through images of the hospital in the hopes of finding one that had the house in it. I eventually found one postcard that shows the home. Unfortunately, the structure is obscured by an automobile.
You can’t get a good indication of any details on the home but the overall massing, with a hipped roof that is more than a story tall and at least one squared bay topped with a gable, suggests that it was a substantial structure. It was frame construction and an early example of Silsbee's work in the Queen Anne Style. Perhaps more images will surface in the future.   

Monday, December 9, 2013

Farm House for State Institute for Feeble-minded Children

From 1876 through at least 1883, Joseph Silsbee had a working relationship with the New York State Institute for Feeble-minded Children. He was the institution’s architect, planning several structures and additions and providing consultation on future plans and building maintenance.

The practice of farming by inmates of the institution was carried on almost since its inception. Farms located on the asylum grounds in Syracuse provided inexpensive food for inmates as well as some surplus for sale to locals. Farming activities were also thought to be beneficial for inmates as an educational and reformative act.

In 1881, the Asylum purchased eighty-seven acres of land near Fairmount, approximately four miles from the main Asylum. They intended to create a larger farm, increasing the surplus and creating a revenue stream for the institution.
From the Immigration to the United States digital collection,
Open Collections Program, Harvard University Library

On that property, under Silsbee’s direction, farm buildings were improved and a new farm-house was “plainly and substantially built” for the farm workers. It was built for forty workers and had eating and gathering spaces. It is a simple two-story structure with large central dormer and a symmetrical arrangement. Some of the subsequently built institutional residential school buildings still stand but the lone remainder of the state farm is the original farm house that still stands.