EDITH ROCKEFELLER McCORMICK HOUSE
Although it was commonly referred to as the Mrs. Edith Rockefeller McCormick residence, this house located at 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive was built in 1883 for Nathaniel Jones, a prosperous member of the Board of Trade. He was described as “one of the wealthiest and most successful businessmen in Chicago.” It was later sold to Joseph T. Torrence, a pioneer in the development of belt-line railroads in the Chicago area.
The house was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Harold McCormick in 1896. Harold was the son of Cyrus McCormick who gained his wealth by developing and patenting the grain reaper, and later becoming part of the International Harvester Company of which Harold served as Chairman of the Board. Edith was the youngest daughter of oil magnate J.D. Rockefeller. She was a major competitor with Mrs. Potter Palmer for the title of Queen of the city’s social scene. It was rumored (a rumor denied by Mrs. McCormick) that the house was purchased by her father and given to the McCormicks as a wedding gift. Mrs. McCormick continued to occupy the .house on and off after she and Harold divorce in 1921, finally moving into the Drake Hotel in 1930 for the sake of economy.
This Romanesque Revival gray granite mansion containing 41 rooms was designed for Nathaniel Jones by Solon S. Beman. Beman was born in Brooklyn, NY and began his architectural training in 1870 at the age of 17 by working for Richard Upjohn in NY where he helped to design the Connecticut State Capital Building. He began his own practice in 1877 and in 1879 came to Chicago after receiving the commission from George Pullman to design the Town of Pullman.
The Pullman project was quite a plumb to give to a 26 year old just starting his practice. It’s possible that the ever prudent George Pullman chose Beman because he was less expensive than a more well-known architect would have been. It worked out well for both men because Beman was a talented individual and capitalized on the opportunity. He is responsible for most of the buildings in Pullman including the Arcade Buildings and the Florence Hotel. He was also responsible for the Grand Central Station and The Pullman Building in downtown Chicago, and the Mines and Mining Building at the Columbian Exposition. His Fine Arts Building on Michigan Avenue immediately north of the Auditorium Building recently received a facelift and looks lovelier than ever.
The Rockefeller-McCormick house remained until 1955 when it was taken down and replaced with an apartment building. There is an interesting postscript to the Rockefeller-McCormick saga. In 1907, at the request of Mr. McCormick, design drawings for a new McCormick home in Lake Forest were prepared by Frank Lloyd Wright. The drawings for this extraordinarily large Prairie House built over a ravine appeared in the famous 1910 Wasmuth Portfolio of Wright’s work. According to Mr. Wright the program included a room specifically designed to accommodate Mrs. McCormick’s 250 hats. Much to Harold’s chagrin Edith arrived for the presentation of the drawings an hour late and without even looking at the plans she deemed the house unsuitable for Lake Forest.
WILLIAM BORDEN HOUSE
William Borden was an attorney and a mining engineer who gained his wealth as a business partner with Marshal Field and Levi Leiter in a successful mining venture in Colorado. His daughter Mary, a novelist of some renown was born in this house. John Borden, his son, was a year old when the family moved in. John was a well know adventurer and led several exploratory expeditions of the Bering Sea north of the Arctic Circle. His third son, William, renounced the family fortune to become a missionary but died in Egypt at the age of 25 while still in training. The house was later owned by William Borden’s granddaughter Ellen who was married to Adlai Stevenson II.
Borden selected as his architect Richard Morris Hunt of New York. Hunt was one of the early “Starchitects” coming from a wealthy, talented, and politically connected family. After graduating from the Boson Latin School he studied in Europe while traveling with his family and he later attended the influential Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the first American to do so. Richard Hunt’s list of clients were the Who’s Who of America’s wealthy families, including the Vanderbilts, Astors, and Marshall Fields. His work includes the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, NC, the Breakers (also for the Vanderbilts) in Newport, RI, the prominent Administration Building at the 1892 Columbian Exposition, and the pedestal on which stands the Statue of Liberty. Hunt formed the first school of architecture in the United States and co-founded the AIA.
IMAGE – BORDEN HOUSE
The Borden house, built in 1884 immediately across the Bellvue Place from the Rockefeller-McCormick house, is modeled after the French Renaissance Chateau or Chateauesque style. It was built using smooth-faced gray limestone with a slate roof. The house remained in the Borden family for most of its life and was demolished in the early 1960’s.