In the late 19th century, Prairie Avenue in Chicago was known as "millionaires' row". George Pullman, William Kimball, and Marshall Field lived on this street in their impressive Victorian style homes. When John J. Glessner commissioned Henry H. Richardson to design a house for his family in 1886, the neighbors did not expect a departure in style from the rest of the street. But the fortress-like house exhibited the distinctive features of the Richardsonian Romanesque style--massive solidarity, rough stone courses, heavy foundation and rounded arches and turrets. In contrast, the south side of the house opens up to an internal courtyard, where generous amounts of sunlight pour into the house. The U-shaped house has walls of granite bonded into brick on the street facade while the courtyard walls are light pink brick with limestone lintels and sills on the windows. The original flooring in the interior was made of white glazed tiles, antique tiles and carpeting. Marble mantels lined the parlor and hall with Francis Bacon-designed furniture placed throughout the house.
Much of the interior had been altered and the house was in danger of demolition in the late 1960s. A group of private citizens raised the funds needed to buy the house and the Chicago Architectural Foundation grew out of the preservation and restoration of the Glessner House. In 1976, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The John J. Glessner House is located at 1800 Prairie Ave. Guided tours are offered Wednesday-Sunday at 1:00pm, 2:00pm, and 3:00pm, a fee is charged Thursday-Sunday only. Visit the house's website or call 312-326-1480 for more information.
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