Andrew E. Norman - Edgewater Architect
Vol. XXIII No. 2 - SUMMER 2012
By: LeRoy Blommaert
This is the fifth in a series of articles about architects who designed buildings in Edgewater. The first was J.E.O. Pridmore (Vol. IV, No. 3, Fall/Winter 1992); the second was Julius H. Huber (Vol. XIV, No. 3, Summer 2003); the third was Edmund R. Krause (Vol. XVI, No. 3, Fall 2005); and the fourth was Edward Benson (Vol. XXI, No. 3, Winter 2010).
Andrew E. Norman, like J.E.O. Pridmore, Julius Huber and Edmund Krause, not only designed buildings in Edgewater; he lived in Edgewater as well.
Andrew E. Norman was born March 13, 1860, at Holbecken, Finnshytlan, Vermland, Sweden, the seventh child and fourth son of Jonas Nilsson Norman and Stina Kajsa Ersdotter Norman. His father was a forester. After attending public schools, he was apprenticed at age 16 (1876) at the Finnshytlan Mechanical works to learn the patternmakers trade.
On April 30, 1880, less than a year after his father’s death, he left for the United States, intending, according to one source, to investigate shop techniques and then return. Upon arriving in the United States he took up residence in Brooklyn where he stayed six months and where he was employed as a cabinet maker. From Brooklyn he went to Ishpeming Michigan (the reason for the move unknown). It was there he met his future wife, Ulricka Olson, who had emigrated from Dalsland Sweden. They were married on June 10, 1882. In Ishpeming he became a foreman at a furniture factory in which position he remained at least 3 years. In his spare time he created sculptures, some of which he entered into local competitions. On at least two occasions he won the top prize.
In 1887 at the age of 27, and seven years after emigrating he moved to Chicago, which would be his home for the rest of his life. He and his wife had three children at this time, one having died as an infant. The Chicago City Directory of 1887 lists his occupation as cabinet maker and his residence as 144 Oak Street (currently 361 West Oak). He is shown as boarding at that address, so it is reasonable to conclude that he first came to Chicago alone, and then later sent for his family.
On October 8, 1888, he became a naturalized citizen in Chicago. (On November 10, 1882, in Ishpeming he had filed his intention to do so.) The visit to the United States that ostensibly started out as a temporary one had turned quite permanent.
He learned to carve sculptures from wood at an early age in Sweden and he continued this hobby while in the United States. As was mentioned above, he earned two prizes while in Ishpeming; however, perhaps his greatest achievement was a carving he did for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Carved from a single piece of boxwood on which he worked for over a year, it was displayed at the Swedish pavilion. A photo of it is shown below. It was described by one observer as the eighth wonder of the world. No less an authority than Lorado Taft said the clouds alone made it a masterpiece.
He returned to Sweden for a visit at least twice, the first for three months in 1897, and the second in June 1923 for four months. His 1923 passport application shows that he was 6 feet tall, with blue eyes and brown/grey hair.
As stated above, his first residence was at 144 Oak Street (currently 361 West Oak) in Chicago, where the City Directory of 1887 shows him as boarding. He is not listed in the City Directories again until 1890, when it lists his home as “59th nr RR station.” The City Directories show him living at this address, identified specifically as 627 Foster (current 1729 West Foster) beginning in 1896 and though 1902. For 1903, he is shown as living at 641 Summerdale (current 1736 West Summerdale). The Foster home no longer stands; but the two structures at 1736 Summerdale, one in back of the other, are still there.
The records of the Cook County Recorder of Deeds show that he purchased lots 12, 13 and 14 in Greer’s Re-subdivision of block 1 on the Andersonville subdivision (south of Foster, west of Ashland). He purchased lot 12, January 7, 1888, lot 13, March 6, 1888, and lot 14, November 2, 1889. His first and second purchases were very early in the subdivision’s life, just a few months after the re-subdivision was recorded (September, 1887). We don’t know why he decided to buy these lots, and we don’t know whether there was a house on any of the lots or whether he built one later. Given the short time period, it is more probable that he built a house later. This was still a very sparsely populated area in 1888, although he lived less than a block from the Summerdale station of the Chicago & North Western Railroad, which was just north of Foster Avenue.
The court documents show that on November 19, 1894, Andrew and his wife borrowed from Carolyn W. Goudy a sum of $4,750.00 payable in five years from that date at 7% interest with payments to be made periodically. Their lots were put up as collateral. Payments were made until May 19, 1898, after which no payments were made. Goudy sued for the money owed ($5,285.17); she prevailed and the court ordered the property to be sold at auction. It was sold May 17, 1899. Whether required by law or by the terms of the court order is not known but the Normans were allowed to stay in the premises for 15 months from the date of sale.
The City Directory of 1904 shows him at 1754 Granville. However, the Recorder of Deeds records do not show a warranty deed issued until September 1909, some five years later, and then it was issued to Gunheilde I. Norman [his oldest child, known as Isabelle]. The house remained in the family until 1989 and the death of Fremont Norman, his son.
One thing that remains a mystery is what happened that caused the Normans to stop paying on the debt they owed: Illness in the family? A failure in a business venture or investment? We perhaps will never know. What we do know it that it took them sometime to recover.
On June 19, 1932, Andrew and Ulricka celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in a ceremony at Ebenezer Swedish Lutheran Church – the church he had designed some 28 years earlier. His six sons and three daughters and numerous grandchildren were among the more than 400 people in attendance. Miss Signe Carlson, a member of the congregation baked the cake. Miss Carlson would later go on to operate several Swedish bakeries on the north side.
The following year he began writing his reminiscences of growing up in Sweden. They were written in Swedish and subsequently translated into English.
Andrew E. Norman died on September 17, 1934, at the age of 74 from a cerebral hemorrhage. He is buried in Rosehill Cemetery. His wife died about 10 years later on July 7, 1944. She is also buried in Rosehill Cemetery.
The American Contractor database that covers the period 1898 through and including 1912 shows that he designed 292 buildings: one in 1898 (5201 N. Ashland in Edgewater), none for the years 1899 through and including 1903, and 10 in 1904. Of the total, 114 were in Edgewater (39%).
It appears that he specialized in single family homes and small apartment buildings. However, he also designed several churches. At least six have been attributed to him, including four outside of Chicago. The Ebenezer Lutheran Church was apparently his only Edgewater Church, but is probably his most notable church, given his personal association with it. He also designed two old peoples homes and one community center – the Viking at 3255-57 N. Sheffield. It still stands although it is no longer a community center.
He also designed several mixed use buildings in Edgewater (commercial on ground floor; apartments on second and third floors). There were at least two in today’s Andersonville and then several on north Clark Street in the 6100, 6200 and 6300 blocks.
They are 5211 (1905), 5316-18 (1910), 6138 (1912), 6201-03 (1909), 6318-22 (1909), 6323-25 (1908), 6326 (1907) and 6328 (1910). The building at 5211 Clark was the first Lind Hardware store on the street. It was demolished for the construction of the second on the same site in 1927, designed by another architect, which is now the home of the Swedish American Museum.
Several buildings designed by Andrew Norman have been shown on the Society’s Fall Home Tours. They include 1718 Rascher and 1736 Gregory (1994 tour), 1409 Norwood (2000), 5240 Glenwood (2003), 1640 Farragut (2007), 1432 Highland (2008) and 6236 Wayne (2010).
One mystery is whether he was the architect for the B.F. Weber Company and the Weber-Kransz Company when they constructed, at one time some 22 houses on the 1700 block of Granville, beginning in May 1903. One of the arguments in favor of this proposition is that he occupied one of them as early as May/June 1904, but didn’t obtain title until 1909, and then in the name of his adult daughter.
In 1903 he was living in the Summerdale district, in what we now call West Andersonville. Why would he move his family into another house, quite some distance away (almost in Rogers Park) unless he had some relationship with the developer, who like all developers was interested in selling houses not renting them? Another argument in favor of the proposition is that in July 1904, he was shown as the architect for Mr. Weber’s construction of a series of storefronts with apartments above at 4234-4240 N. Clark (current 6137-6145). This mixed use building still stands at the northeast corner of Clark and Hood and is currently best known as the location of Midas TVs. An addition was constructed at the south end in 1907, for which he was also shown as architect. As to whether he was Bernard Weber’s architect for the houses, we will never know for sure
Although Andrew Norman lived at 1754 Granville from 1904 until his death some 30 years later, he moved his business office several times during his career. The following issues of the City Directory show the changes: 1896, 5100 block of Clark; 1904, 1744 Foster; 1905, 5146 Clark; 1906, 5148 Clark; 1908, 1560 Devon; 1917, 1526 Devon; 1923, 4740 Sheridan; 1928, 7200 N. Clark; and 1928-29, 6351 N. Clark. The 1930 telephone directory shows the office at 6353 N. Clark. His occupation was shown as architect for all the years except for 1896, when his occupation was given as carpenter.
Unlike the architects who have lived in Edgewater that we have previously written about – J.E.O. Pridmore, Julius Huber and Edmund R. Kraus – Andrew E. Norman appears not to have had many, if any, wealthy clients. Consequently, we do not see much grand architecture in his portfolio. However, he was far and away the most prolific of the five when it comes to Edgewater buildings.
Sources: Ernest Wilhelm Olson, The Swedish Element in Illinois, 1917; Chicago City Directories; Economist; American Contractor; Cook County Recorder of Deeds Tract Books; 1920 Federal Census, Illinois and Cook County Vital Records; conversation with great granddaughter Chris Kale Corcoran; and monograph by her on Andrew E. Norman.
By: By LeRoy Blommaert
In the article on Andrew E. Norman that appeared in the Vol. 23 no. 2 issue of the Scrapbook, we speculated whether he was the architect for the houses in the 1700 block of Granville that the B.F. Weber and Weber-Kransz Companies constructed in 1903, one of which he moved to in either 1903 or 1904. We concluded that he probably was, but that we couldn’t find any documentary evidence for that conclusion.
Shortly after publication of the article, an on-line article was brought to our attention by Chris Corcoran, A.E. Norman’s great granddaughter. It was written by Algot E. Strand in the Svenska Nyheter, a weekly Swedish newspaper, and it was all about Andrew E. Norman. The date it appeared was April 26, 1904 – just under a year after the permits were issued for these Granville houses. In that article, Mr. Strand wrote:
Last year Mr. Norman sold his house in Summerdale and moved to … Rogers Park. He became the architect for the large real estate firm, Weber & Craute… Annually, this firm builds hundreds of houses to sell, making it practical to employ an architect to do work exclusively for the firm…
There is no record of a Weber-Craute Company. Could there have been an error in translation and what was written in the original Swedish was Weber-Kransz? An examination of the article in the Swedish language at the Chicago History Museum reveals that the name in the article was “Weber & Crantz” – still not correct, but close enough to dispel any doubt that it was the Weber-Kransz Company.
On the basis of this article, we assert with a high degree of confidence that A.E. Norman was also the architect for some 45 houses constructed by the B.F. Weber Company on the 1400 and 1500 blocks of Hood in late 1903. The permits for these houses were issued in September 1903.
Less certain, but still probable, is that A.E. Norman was also the architect for some nine houses in the 1400 block of Glenlake and seven houses in the 1400 and 1500 blocks of Hood that were built by the B.F. Weber Company, and for which permits were issued in 1908. Since the permits for these houses were issued after the April 1904 article, the case for them is less compelling, as we don’t know whether B.F. Weber continued to employ A.E. Norman as his architect into 1908. However, we do know that he commissioned him to design an addition to his mixed use building in the 6100 block of north Clark St. That was in 1907.
The 1904 Chicago City Directory lists Algot E. Strand as a reporter with a home address of 3244 N. Clark (4913 currently), so it’s possible that he knew Andrew Norman, as the distance between his and the Norman home in 1903 was not that great – a few blocks.
Mr. Strand also sheds light on what it was that caused the Normans to stop payment on the loans they had taken out. He writes: “A badly chosen place for a large woodwork plant, which he had built, ruined him financially, however. Known to be honest and able, he soon obtained credit for needed material, enabling him to start anew.”