This beautiful six-flat building in Brockhause and Fischer’s Addition to Chicago is remarkable for its architectural detail as well as its beautiful livable space. It was built in 1911 by owner Harry Robinn at a cost of about $20,000. The architect was A. Levy and the contractor was O. Ostrand. The façade includes six porches, two of which are balconies. The center entrance is arched and the fan light above the door is decorated with a beautiful stained glass address window with a heart motif. On either side of the door are decorative moldings and side light windows. Framing the doorway are Indiana limestone geometric designs based on an outlined square with three rays dropping down from the square. This is repeated twice on both sides. This square design element is repeated on the façade and on the porches. A second design element on the facade is the horizontal banding in yellow brick with five rows at the lower level and three at the third floor. The yellow brick is also used on the porches to create a dentil effect alternating yellow and red brick.
Depending on the daylight and shadows, you might be able to see the beautiful basket weave brick work. Above the door, the brick work forms a rectangle with squares on the corners. The windows are an indication of craftsmanship as they form a modified bay of three windows in one window opening, with decorative moldings similar to the front door. Clearly, the architect took time and care with this building, which is actually the newest on our tour. As you ascend the unique stairs to the front door, take note of the colorful handrail. The front hall features a beautiful mosaic tile floor with a central floral design and fret work border.
In the first home, you notice immediately the stained glass light fixture and mirrored hall tree with brass hardware. Both are original pieces. In the living room the woodwork has been refinished. The crystal chandelier is from the old 95th Restaurant at the Hancock Center. A red brick gas fireplace with beautifully bracketed book shelves dominates the south wall. All the moldings are placed above the windows and doors in a geometric crown design showcasing the care of the craftsman. Just off the living room is a music room which at one time had French doors.
Down the hallway is the large bedroom with refinished woodwork. It has a window facing west that fills it with light. The adjacent bath has been modernized except for the original floor tile. The dining room shows a change of woodwork with a beautiful oak hutch and beamed ceiling. The hutch features stained glass doors for the china cabinets on either side. This geometric design shows the style of the Prairie School which had a pervasive influence on architecture between 1910 and 1920.
In this home, the owner has changed the design of rooms by closing off an entrance to the smaller bedroom and opening the room to the kitchen to create a casual eating area. The original maple floor is refinished and the back windows have new stained glass designed by Harmony Art Glass. You will go out the kitchen door to the back porch overlooking a sculpture garden and then into the unit to the south.
As you enter the second home from the back, you might get lost in the kitchen with untold numbers of things to look at. The floor in this room has been refinished and new cabinets and counters installed. The owners are artists and the artist’s eye for the unique and interesting is evident everywhere.
In the dining room you will see the built-in oak hutch in its original dark color. Above the mirrored backdrop is an architectural artifact that is a prop made of lightweight resin. This room serves a dual purpose as a workshop for a handcrafted furnishings business. The atmosphere of creativity is everywhere and the two parakeets complete the scene with cheerful vocalizing. Down the blue atmospheric hallway you can see the bathroom and then the master bedroom.
In the living room you will see a few unusual things. The central light fixture, while not original to this location, is worth noting for its painted designs. But the most unusual element is the archway between the living room and the alcove. Its origins are unknown, but investigations have shown that it is made of plaster. Perhaps a former tenant in this unit had worked with this material and wanted to showcase his work. It is fitting that the home and workshop of such creative people should have this unique detail. The rest of the woodwork in this room is in the original deep red stain and varnish that was once used throughout the building. It was the fashion of the day to treat one wood in a color to make it appear like another more popular wood - probably mahogany. It was the general decorative appearance that was important. This is true today, but in a different way.
Now ascend to the third floor and enjoy the beautiful open space at the top of the staircase with a grand skylight. Look closely to see where the wall ends and the skylight begins. The residents have given much thought to its decor. The picture frame came from a St. Ignatius parish sale in the late 1960s.
The third home signals at once a creative atmosphere with the combination of interesting designs and the placement of unique objects. Note the stunning use of red on the ceilings as a foil for the crystal chandelier. Both the stained glass and the mahogany finish are original in the built-in bookcases. Off the living room is a small door to the open balcony. You may go out on the balcony to get a good look at the beautiful cornice of the façade with two layers of dentil design. It speaks to the craftsmanship and attention to detail by the architect and builder. Along the long hall you may stop first at the creative work room of the owner. 1/72nd scale airplanes are flying through the air and the atmosphere of creativity abounds. The closet in this room hides the original wall safe. The bathroom boasts the original tub, sink and floor tiles. The dining room has a sense of theater to it with deep persimmon walls and a unique ceiling treatment. For a moment, the beams are lost in a sea of lace. A gothic arched stained glass with painted crown from a church provides one focal point. Featured above the built-in oak hutch is a capital from the Aragon Ballroom in bold colors providing another dramatic interest.
The kitchen showcases a beautiful antique wall cabinet that once stood in an apothecary in Oak Park. It has been modified to provide counter space in this galley kitchen.
The fourth home will be entered through the kitchen, which is the center of interest for this resident. The woodwork is original as is the pantry where cooking utensils and food stuffs vie for space from floor to ceiling. In the kitchen itself, the high ceiling affords even more storage space with pots of every size and shape. Even some of the art work is food related such as old crate labels.
The dining room, like the others, has a built-in hutch that has been stained black. The table is a find from the Annex, a new collectibles shop on Broadway and Glenlake. The hall to the front of the apartment is used as an art gallery with track lighting. In the living room the original dark mahogany stain/varnish covers the woodwork. The opening to the small parlor has the original French doors and the cabinets on either side of the fireplace have the original stained glass.
This building is remarkable in Chicago for its craftsmanship and for the wonderful sharing atmosphere of the residents.