Julius H. Huber, Edgewater Architect

Vol. XIV No. 3 - SUMMER 2003

By: LeRoy Blommaert

This is the second in a series about Edgewater architects. The first in the series featured J.E.O. Pridmore (Vol. IV, No. III, Fall-Winter 1992).

Julius Huber can lay claim to being an Edgewater architect because he was an Edgewater resident as well as a designer of Edgewater buildings.

The Man

Julius Herz Huber was born March 23, 1852, in Newark, New Jersey, the son of John Paul and Rosetta (Christa) Huber. He was educated in the public schools and by private tutors and attended the Newark Military Academy. For a year and a half he was apprenticed in the office of a New York City architect, Henry Fernbach. In 1872, at the age of 20, he went to Europe where he studied at the Polytechnic Institute in Munich. In late 1873 he came to Chicago to join his father, who was a practicing architect and had come to Chicago in 1872. It was a time of opportunity for many as Chicago was rebuilding in earnest following the famous fire of 1871, and both father and son would take advantage of that opportunity.

Julius is first listed in the 1874 city directory as a draughtsman (draftsman) in his father’s office. The following year his business address is listed as J. Paul Huber and Son Architects. In 1878 his business address was given both as that of J. Paul Huber and Sons and room #11 City Hall. In 1879 and 1880 he is shown on his own at room #11 City Hall. Beginning in 1881, he was in private practice as a sole practitioner with offices at various locations in the Loop. He remained a sole practitioner until 1899 when he was linked with architect Clarence Hatzfeld under Julius Huber & Co. The business relationship was short lived, ending two years or less later in 1901. He remained in private practice as a sole practitioner at various locations until he retired.

He lived at various locations in Chicago. During the first several years he lived with his parents at various near north side locations. In 1878, the first year he is shown as having employment outside his father’s office, he took up residence on his own. In 1883 he moved to 371 Chestnut (currently 8 E), where he remained for eight years, through 1890. The townhouse still stands, though given over to commercial use. From 1891 through 1895 he is listed as living at 76 Maple (current 13 W). Sometime in either 1895 or 1896 he moved to Edgewater, for in 1896 he is shown as living at 2531 Magnolia (currently 5510). He designed the house for Georgia M. Parker in February 1894, but property records show that he never owned the property.

In October 1898, he designed a home for himself at 2551 Lakewood (currently 5532). He is shown living there 1899 through 1904. In 1905, he moved one block west to 2560 Wayne currently 5539 N. Wayne into another home he designed for himself. Sometime in 1915, 1916, or 1917, he moved to a one bedroom apartment at 2039 Greenleaf in Rogers Park, where he lived the remainder of his life. The reasons for the move are not known. The building is 13 unit building with apartments on Ridge and Greenleaf.

Though he did not live in Edgewater his entire adult life, Julius was an Edgewater resident for nearly 20 years. Interestingly, he designed and lived in three homes in that period, each on a different Lakewood-Balmoral main street and each in the 5500 block of those streets, moving one block west each time. Few individuals have lived in three different houses on three different streets in Lakewood-Balmoral; we dare say that no one has ever lived in three homes he himself designed.

In November 1880, at the age of 28, he married Lucy A. Pitts. They had no children and sadly she died relatively young in March 1905 at the age 51. Julius remained a widower for the rest of his long life. He died October 21, 1939, at the age of 87 and is buried along side his wife at Rosehill Cemetery.

He was a Mason and a Republican. Professionally, he was a founding member of the Illinois Society of Architects (from January 12, 1897), and was made an honorary member in 1929. One of the monthly bulletins of the ISA reveals one of his pleasures - the study of butterflies, a study that he had pursued since his boyhood days in Newark. Not only did he study (and presumably collect) butterflies, but he executed watercolor paintings of them. When he presented his paper to his colleagues in 1933, at the age of 81, he was described as the oldest living architect in Chicago.

His Work

Like most of his colleagues during the same post-fire era, Huber’s experience was varied. He was described in the ISA obituary as an architect for churches, breweries, Brand’s Hall at Clark and Erie streets and residences and apartments. And he did stores and office buildings too.

In the Chicago survey of buildings of architectural or historical significance, he has eight listings: 6640 Ashland a three-flat (1916), 14 E. Chestnut, a townhouse (1895) (since demolished), 621-627,a four-unit row house (1887), 631 W. Fullerton, a townhouse (1889), 5222 N. Lakewood, a residence (1898-1901), 163-173 W. North Ave., a multi-unit (1886), 1054 W. Oakdale, a residence (1886) and 4519 N. Virginia, a residence, (1916)

He has at least one individual listing on the National Register of Historic Places: a duplex at 14-16 E. Pearson.

One of his homes on the south side, 3221 S. Calumet (1885), is operated as of this writing as a bed and breakfast establishment.

The publication Industrial Chicago (1891) indicated that his firm made a specialty of “designing and superintending the erection of coal sheds, docks, and coal-handling machinery” - not the most interesting of endeavors to us today, but no doubt profitable for him at the time.

What is most interesting to us as Edgewater aficionados is what he did in Edgewater. Mention has already been made of the three homes he designed and lived in: 5510 N. Magnolia, 5532 N. Lakewood and 5539 N. Wayne. Of the three, the first home he designed for himself at 5532 N. Lakewood, is the most interesting being set horizontally on a double lot. The current owner has Huber’s original plans, the only ones extant to our knowledge. There is a mystery surrounding his designing the third house at 5539 and his subsequent move into it, as the house is more modest. The permit was taken out in November 1904 and he did not move there until sometime in 1905 after his wife died. One reason may be that he designed the house for the needs of his wife, as there are two bedrooms on the first floor - a highly unusual feature in houses of this era - and that he had already sold his Lakewood home shortly before his wife died.

The three mentioned homes were not the only homes he designed in Edgewater. He designed at least 12 more, all but one also in Lakewood Balmoral (Cochran’s third addition to Edgewater). Like Joseph Lyman Silsbee and George Washington Maher, and later Niels Buck, Murphy and Camp, Church and Jobson and Boostrom and Olson, Julius Huber was a John Lewis Cochran architect - at least for a time. That time was 1893 and 1894, years when Cochran was also securing the services of the future prairie school architect, George Washington Maher. Thus Julius Huber was one of the first architects Cochran employed, Joseph Lyman Silsbee being the very first.

The first five houses built in Lakewood Balmoral were built by Cochran, all on Magnolia, with the permits issued in the late fall of 1891. No permits were issued to Cochran again until the spring of 1893, when permits for three more houses were issued, followed by five in the fall of 1893, and then five more in the fall of 1894. All were on Lakewood. No architect has been established for the first two groups of houses. However, it is clear from sources other than the permits themselves that the architect for the third and fourth groups was Julius Huber. All the houses were in the prevalent Queen Anne style, with five being set long and narrow on the lot and featuring an angular front bay with an interesting cap not seen elsewhere.

He designed a home on Norwood for a client about the same time, but it is not clear that it was ever built. He also executed a design for a store at 5534 Broadway in 1905; that store was built and still stands, though modified.

As the tastes of clients changed, Julius Huber changed with them. The house he designed for himself at 5539 Wayne was executed in a modified Tudor style and the house he designed in 1910 at 5434 N. Wayne (when he was 58 years old) is executed in a modified prairie school/arts and craftsman style, with some very interesting and unusual exterior ornamental features. This later house is quite a departure from the earlier Queen Anne homes that he designed for Cochran and a few other clients, as well as the earlier townhouse commissions he received in the 1880’s, executed in stone and brick and terra cotta. Two other known later commissions (both 1916) also reflected his facility with the prairie school/arts and crafts style. The three flat at 6640 N. Ashland is unusual in its application of this style to a building type not usually so characterized, and the one story house he designed at 4519 N. Virginia is an outstanding example of the school home with its strong horizontal emphasis. In this ability to adapt he was not alone; many, if not most, of his contemporaries did the same. They had to, if they wanted to continue to be employed. Unlike Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, George Washington Maher and some other of the prairie school, but like most of his contemporaries, Julius Huber was not about developing a unique American architecture; rather his goal was designing attractive buildings for his clients. In that he largely succeeded.

Sources: city directories, death certificates, property records, “Economist,” “Bulletins of the Illinois Society of Architects,” “Industrial Chicago,” “Blue Book of Current Biography” (1915)