24 March, 2014

A Mystery Somewhat Solved


In a previous post I had written at length about the fence and gates that were installed at Edith Rockefeller McCormick's residence at 1000 Lake Shore Drive - wondering what ever happened to them, as I knew for certain that they had not been sold for scrap during WWII. (The fence and gates remain in photos taken of the house just prior to its demolition in the early 1950s.)

I'm pleased to report that the mystery has been partially solved in that we now know what became of the fence when the house was razed.


Edith Rockefeller McCormick's original plat of property was purchased by a syndicate and split into two developments; 1000 Lake Shore Drive on the north, and 1000 Lake Shore Plaza (130 East Oak St.) on the south. A friend of mine has been researching one of these properties, and as she knew my connection to Edith the topic of the fence and gates arose in our discourse.


Had I pressed one month further in my initial sleuthing, I would have discovered that in June of 1953 Harold L. Perlman, head of the syndicate involved in the development of the property purchased the fence and donated it to the Board of Jewish Education for installation at the Morris Perlman Boys Camp on Clear Lake near Buchanan MI.


A few questions, however, do remain. When Gen. Joseph Torrance purchased the great gates by Ambrüster Bros. (for $20,000) from Germany's exhibition in the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building at the World's Columbian Exposition, he enlisted Winslow Bros. to create and install the accompanying iron fence. Were both gates and fence donated but Perlman to the boys camp? The camp closed in the 1970s - do either remain?

Next stop, Buchanan MI.

15 March, 2014

Before and After


This afternoon I was doing my periodic maintenance of the Villa Turicum website; adding new photos, and replacing others with those of a better quality. The collection of material I now have has grown to the point that I can now make quick comparisons to the "before" and "after" of Villa Turicum's life.

In particular, I was adding a few pictures to the Ruin page of the website - always a somber task. Below are two images of the central gallery of the house. The first was taken during what I consider to be Villa Turicum's heyday; 1930. The house was about 15 years old at that point, and it had mellowed beautifully. Edith Rockefeller McCormick was still alive, although she would lose her battle with cancer in 1932. Villa Turicum itself would soon begin its own demise.

The second image is from 1955, a year before the house was razed. The contrast of the two pictures is quite telling.






10 February, 2014

A Treasure Rediscovered

This is the Pompeian Room at Villa Turicum, not long after its completion in 1912. (Charles A. Platt received the commission in 1908 - his plans being favored over those of another architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.) The room derives its name from many elements within; the oil painted walls, a marble fountain, and four columns from that era which reportedly cost $40,000 apiece at the time.


As Villa Turicum was being built, the McCormicks began to seek art, furniture, and other objects worthy of placement within their new country estate at Lake Forest. In April of 1909, Harold McCormick enlisted architect Charles Platt to obtain a 3rd century A.D. Roman marble sarcophagus at auction - from the estate of financier Henry W. Poor. (The piece had been obtained for Poor by his architect; Stanford White, for Poor's Gramercy Park townhouse in New York.)


The piece was described as thus: A Marble Strigillated Lion Sarcophagus, Roman Imperial, 3rd Century A.D.



The sarcophagus was of rectangular form with rounded ends; one end boldly carved in relief with a lion attacking a boar, the other end with a lion attacking an antelope, a tree behind each scene. It measured 24 1/2 by 76 by 25 1/2 in. (62.2 by 193 by 64.8 cm.)


The piece would remain at Villa Turicum for 25 years, until the auction of January 1934 when the contents of Edith Rockefeller McCormick's two homes (she divorced Harold in 1921, and retained 1000 Lake Shore Dr. in Chicago and Villa Turicum) would head to auction. Edith's death from cancer a week shy of her 60th birthday 1932 would not bode well for her treasures. The Great Depression was still in full force, and priceless items sold for pennies on the dollar.

I discovered the sarcophagus two years ago, when it surfaced again after residing with a family in Europe for 78 years. On the afternoon of December 6th, 2012 one of Edith Rockefeller McCormick's treasures returned to the auction block with a pre-auction estimate of 80,000-120,000 USD.

It sold for $182,500, an amount much more befitting it's value.

02 February, 2014

06 January, 2014

Becoming a Ruin

Not quite yet - Villa Turicum was "mothballed" for some considerable years after Edith Rockefeller McCormick's death in 1932, and languished waiting for a buyer.

This is a photograph I recently acquired from the mid to late 1940s. I will be adding it to a page on the Villa Turicum website soon.

20 December, 2013

Society Women Vie for Dictator's Scepter

I have many (if not all), of the news clippings about Edith Rockefeller McCormick that were written in the 1920s and 30s and saved by her protégé Edwin Krenn. This one comes to us from a Central Press article that was written and distributed in the fall of 1933. If I hadn't researched some of these ladies myself or known them through the recollection of writers (such as Arthur Meeker Jr.'s Chicago With Love),  I'd presume much of the following came from a piece of bubbly fiction:

CHICAGO, Oct. 9 - Chicago, used to seeing a battle royal for the crown of gangdom, now is observing a contest, clever and brilliantly fought, for the scepter of social dictator.

Three women are eager to seize the scepter. It has lain idle since the death of Mrs. Edith Rockefeller McCormick.

At the moment, Mrs. Howard Linn seems to have the odds. Mrs. Linn, whose portraits by Boutet de Monville and Frank B. Hoffman are internationally famous, flashed into the social spotlight as the unofficial hostess for the Republican and Democratic conventions. Her parties were the talk of the social town.

Mrs. Howard Linn (née Lucy McCormick Blair), sans white hair.


This striking, white-haired, brown eyed young woman has advanced to her present position on the theory that it takes either an amusing program of an amusing guest of honor, together with perfection in catering, to make a party worthwhile.

But Mrs. Linn has to reckon with Mrs. Charles Barney Goodspeed and Mrs. John Alden Carpenter.

Mrs. Goodspeed, wife of the trustee of the University of Chicago, and a conservative among the registerites, created a furor this summer when she finally bobbed her hair. Her picture is in the paper often.


Charles Barney Goodspeed, Mrs. Charles [Bobsy] Goodspeed, Gertrude Stein, Fanny Butcher, Richard Drummond Bokum, Alice Roullier, Alice B. Toklas, and Thornton Wilder. That's Bobsy up on the wall. (Photo:Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)  

When Mrs. Goodspeed is in town she presides as president of the Arts Club. When she is out of town she is apt to be doing almost anything in the line of adventure -- from invading the Gobi desert to roughing it in Arizona. 

Among the last of the parties of the brand which the "Tumultuous Twenties" produced was her party for 1000 guests at one of the most exclusive Lake Shore Hotels. 

For the most part, however, Mrs. Goodspeed's address is likely to be Cape Cod, Long Island, China, Japan, the South Sea Islands, or any other part of the world.

Mrs. Ellen Waller Borden Carpenter, who married John Alden Carpenter recently in the Cambridge, Mass., home of her uncle and aunt, the Kingsley Porters, most closely approximates the former day picture of a social leader.

During a former marriage to the then fabulously wealthy John Borden, her stone chateau, which faces the McCormick house, was a society stronghold. She and Mrs. McCormick were close friends. 


The Borden family mansion at 130 E. Bellevue Pl. (originally 89 Bellevue) at Lake Shore Dr., designed by Richard Morris Hunt (1884). Ellen Waller Borden would receive it as part of  her divorce from John Borden in 1924. It was located directly across Bellevue Pl. from Edith Rockefeller McCormick's 1000 Lake Shore Dr.


Well liked and admired as one of the most gracious figures of society, Mrs. Carpenter's drawing room has continued as the center of philanthropic plans since the marriage of, "Chicago's best known widow and most prominent widower."

If Mrs. Linn has an advantage over Mrs. Goodspeed and Mrs. Carpenter, it may be because of her resourcefulness and her "pioneering." She has so far defied precedent that she has entirely given up a town residence and has established the Linn menage in the most northerly of suburbs - Lake Bluff.  Further, she has now hit upon a unique plan to benefit her pet charity - Olivet Institute - by arranging a treasure hunt around the world's fair and the city. Each guest must pay an admission charge. 

At heart, though, Chicago still reveres the mightiest social dowager it ever had, the late Mrs. Potter Palmer. Her castellated pile on Lake Shore Drive was the palace from which the queen issued undisputed orders.

Then, later, there arose the dynasty of Mrs. Edith Rockefeller McCormick, with her Napoleonic gold service and her patronage of the arts and the opera. 

No "outsider" has a chance for the throne. All contenders, past and present, have been of Chicago blood royal.

01 December, 2013

The Last Days of 1000 Lake Shore Drive


The secondary gates and iron fence of 1000 Lake Shore Drive would be created by Winslow Brothers (an artistic iron works company) in addition to the main gates, which were originally a part of the World's Colombian Exposition of 1893.

I find it telling that the demise of Edith's two residences should fall so close to one another. It was definitely a sign of the times; post World War II ushered in an era that didn't favor large homes or estates (taxes were prohibitive), and everyone wanted something new anyway. Historic preservation was in it's infancy in the United States, and these two iconic estates were but part of thousands that would not escape demolition.
1000 Lake Shore Drive in 1952

Perhaps had they somehow held on into the late 1970's (and most definitely the 1980's) we would see an all together different landscape in Chicago and on the North Shore. These pictures were taken at the end of 1952 prior to 1000 Lake Shore falling victim to the wrecking ball. Villa Turicum would hold on for just a few more years, until it would suffer the same fate in 1956-57.

Photographer Mildred Meade took this photo while standing in the Oak Street/Lake Shore Dr. intersection in December of 1952. According to The Submerged and Shore Lands Legislative Investigating Committee of 1911, "The residence of Harold McCormick occupies the territory bounded on the east by the Lake Shore Drive, 20 feet west of the Lake Shore drive on Oak st. and 100 feet west from the Lake Shore drive on Bellevue Place."

The Southern face of 1000 Lake Shore Drive. The residence was designed by Solon Spencer Beman, and built in the 1880s by Nathaniel S. Jones, a successful grain merchant. It is quite evident in this photo that the structure remains sound.

This photo was taken from the Drake Hotel across the street. I am guessing that Mildred Meade was given access to an area of the Hotel that would give her this vantage point, as she is obviously on the second or third floor.

The Bellevue Place exterior of the mansion.

Once again, the Southern exterior of the mansion and the neglected grounds. Here is an earlier post in which you can view the estate in it's prime. (CLICK HERE)