The Architecture of the Prairie Avenue Districtrepresents every major building period in the history of Chicago, from the 1830s Greek Revival Clarke House to modern townhouse and condominium developments. Many of Chicago’s mostImportant Architectsdesigned buildings here, including surviving examples by Daniel Burnham, Cobb & Frost, Solon S. Beman, Howard Van Doren Shaw, and Alfred Alschuler. Henry Hobson Richardson, a Boston architect, designed the Glessner House, considered one of the most significant residential designs of the 19th century. A variety of Architectural Toursare available throughout the year, showcasing both the neighborhood as a whole, and specific buildings that have been preserved as house museums. More than two dozen buildings and sites, including mansions, industrial buildings, Motor Row showrooms, and more, can be seen by walking through the area. Click here for a listing of Landmarks and other Important Buildings.
This Boston architect achieved a national reputation based on his interpretation of the Romanesque style. Round arches and lintels in rock-faced masonry, often emphasized with contrasting stone, as well as round or polygonal turrets and projecting bays were trademark features of what became known as the “Richardsonian” Romanesque style. His only surviving Chicago commission is the landmark Glessner House at 1800 S. Prairie Avenue.
Daniel H. Burnham
Burnham looms as one of the great figures in Chicago history. In 1890, he was appointed supervising architect for the World’s Columbian Exposition, and assembled a group of architect to create the legendary White City. In 1909, Burnham completed his monumental Plan of Chicago, one of several master plans created for major cities across the U.S. He resided at 2100 S. Prairie Avenue from 1876 to 1881 in a house he and partner John W. Root designed for John B. Sherman, president of the Chicago Union Stock yards. In 1902, Burnham was hired to significantly enlarge and remodel the Marshall Field Jr. house at 1919 S. Prairie Avenue.
Solon S. Beman
Beman arrived in Chicago at the age of 26 in 1879 to undertake the massive project of designing the Town of Pullman, which ultimately included more than 1,300 houses, a factory, water tower, theater, church, hotel, market and schools. He later designed large additions to Pullman’s home at 1729 S. Prairie, as well as his impressive monument at Graceland Cemetery, in addition to the Fine Arts Building and numerous Christian Science churches. Local commissions include the Kimball mansion at 1801 S. Prairie Avenue and the original design for the house at 1919 S. Prairie Avenue (later remodeled by Daniel H. Burnham).
Alfred S. Alschuler
Alschuler was a versatile architect who designed warehouses, department stores, industrial buildings, synagogues, and offices during a career that spanned more than 40 years. His building for the London Guarantee & Accident Company anchors the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, and his K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Temple is a landmark of the Hyde Park neighborhood. Local buildings include the Atwell Building at 221 E. Cullerton Street (now Prairie Avenue Lofts) and the Columbian Colortype Building at 320 E. 21st Street (now Chess Lofts).
Henry Ives Cobb
Cobb was an important Chicago architect in the late 19th century. His surviving buildings throughout the city include the Newberry Library, several early Gothic-Revival style buildings on the University of Chicago campus, and numerous structures on the Lake Forest College campus. Two of the seven surviving mansions on Prairie Avenue were designed by Cobb in partnership with Charles S. Frost – the Coleman house at 1811 S. Prairie and the Rees house at 2110 S. Prairie.
Howard Van Doren Shaw
One of Chicago’s most prolific architects in the first decades of the 20th century, Shaw was born and raised at 2124 S. Calumet, where he also set up his first architectural office. His commissions include numerous homes for some of Chicago’s most famous residents, and Market Square in Lake Forest. Among his most significant designs are the R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company plant at 350 E. Cermak Road, the Ginn & Company plant at 2203 S. King Drive, and the magnificent arts and crafts sanctuary of the Second Presbyterian Church at 1936 S. Michigan Avenue.
Special Thanks to Bill Tyre, Executive Director of Glessner House, for his generous support with historical content.