Chicago’s Historic Hyde Park

  • Chicago’s Historic Hyde Park
    Susan O’Connor Davis offers readers a biography of this distinguished neighborhood, from house to home, and from architect to resident.
  • Part1: Lake Park Avenue, at 47th Street

    In its earliest days, 47th Street bore no likeness to the busy commercial thoroughfare it is today. Nor was it a dividing line between communities; rather it was social center of a quiet, well-to-do residential community.
  • Part 2: Hotels, resorts and entertainment: 51st Street and Lake Park Avenue

    The Hyde Park Hotel once commanded the intersection of Hyde Park Boulevard (51st Street) and Lake Avenue, an elegant landmark between two communities.
  • Part 3: The commercial core at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue

    It is no coincidence that the revival of Hyde Park’s commercial core is centered at 53rd and Lake Park Avenue, an intersection that over the years has witnessed growth and decline, tragedy and renewal.
  • Part 4: Leading to land clearance, 55th Street and Lake Avenue

    The dense urban streetscape in the heart of Hyde Park was apparent in this 1955 view looking across Lake Park and west on 55th Street, photographed from the Illinois Central railroad tracks.
  • Part 5: Land clearance: 55th to 57th streets

    The basic characteristics of Lake Park Avenue change dramatically when one heads south of the 55th Street intersection and toward 57th Street. The roadway narrows and there is but one building that remains along the Illinois Central embankment on the east, an old cable car building that is now the headquarters of the Hyde Park Historical Society.
  • Part 6: Thinking across generations

    This image of Paul and Helen Cornell’s rambling Italianate house at 5100 Harper Avenue was taken 1909. The house, with its cupola and archangel weathervane, was demolished and replaced by single-story storefronts. To the left is the recently demolished trio of graystones.
  • Part 8: Genuinely civilized oddballs

    Nested just east of the Illinois Central tracks the buildings on either side of the 1500 block of East 57th Street were constructed in 1891, and used as concession stands during the Columbian Exposition two years later. Designed by architect George Beaumont, these one-story spaces became known as the Artists’ Colony and provided moderately priced spaces for painters, dancers, and writers for decades. They were demolished in 1962.

susanFifteen years ago we purchased the last vacant parcel in Kenwood owned by the University of Chicago. At that time, the overgrown lot was frequented by dog lovers in the warm months, and city plows depositing mounds of snow in the winter.

Urban legend had it that the house that once graced Greenwood Avenue had been torn down in error. A professor renting the house came home one afternoon to find a wrecking crew on site, a neighbor told us. While that may seem improbable, every spring pieces of the house work their way through the warming soil. Bathroom tiles, cabinet hinges, shards of dinner plates - each find reminding us we are not the first to make a life here.

And so began a personal journey to understand the house we all build. Saul Bellow once remarked he could not walk a block here without remembering who had lived here and who had died here. “You have to live with all these extinguished lives,” he said, “and because you’ve encouraged your own sentimentality and nostalgia about a place, perhaps you feel it all the more.”

Susan's Neighborhood Blog

The Land Beneath our Feet

The Land Beneath our Feet

SueBlog2The ground level of the house at the southwest corner of 48th and Greenwood just always seemed too high. Not in the sense of the ridges that once ran diagonally across the landscape of Hyde Park, but specifically and oddly too high just in one place. The driveway at the back of the lot was cracked as the land shifted over time, and the garage had weeds growing from its gutters. That all changed last month as excavation began for a foundation for a shiny new garage. What came up with the backhoe was the lost history of one Kenwood family.

The huge pieces of limestone dredged up were the buried remnants of the house built for Charles Hosmer Morse, a 19th century industrialist. Morse began his career as a salesman in New York and moved up the ladder quickly. He came to Chicago to establish the first branch of an enterprise that became known as Fairbanks, Morse & Company.

Architect Mifflin Bell was awarded the commission to design the Morse residence at the time of the Columbian Exposition. A luxurious twenty-room mansion rose on the lot, and the heavy stone of the exterior demonstrated the dominant influence of East Coast architect H. H. Richardson. Charles and Martha Morse filled their rosewood-paneled rooms with custom-made Arts and Crafts style furniture, Tiffany glass, and paintings by American Impressionist artists.

When Morses’ daughter, Elizabeth, married Dr. Richard Millard Genius in 1905, five hundred guests attended the reception at this house, which her father gave the young couple as a wedding present. This was Elizabeth’s residence until her sudden death in March 1928. Three years later, in November 1931, the house was torn down at the request of a presumably distraught Dr. Genius.

The demolition of the house was a point of contention among the family, some raced to save artifacts from the salvage company before they disappeared. Unfortunately, the storage facility that subsequently housed the heirlooms was broken into and many of the rescued items were lost. The remaining works of art, Tiffany pieces, and period clothing are now housed in the Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida.

The Morse property lay vacant until purchased and subdivided by developers and construction of three smaller-scale homes began in 1936. However the original stone wall, with its decorative wrought iron, remains to remind us of the huge Richardsonian Romanesque mansion that once graced this corner.

The Land Beneath our Feet

The Land Beneath our Feet

The ground level of the house at the southwest corner of 48th and Greenwood just always seemed too high. Not in the sense of the ridges that once ran diagonally across the landscape of Hyde Park, but specifically and oddly too high just in one place. The driveway at the back of the lot was(…)

Lost Hyde Park: Preserving “creatively and constructively”

Lost Hyde Park: Preserving “creatively and constructively”

Respected Hyde Park Alderman Leon Despres had long argued for preservation, believing that while it is not possible to preserve every old building, it was necessary to do all one could to preserve “creatively and constructively.” Despres thought protecting historic urban areas required making some sacrifices, yet was a “sign of a society’s cultural maturity.”(…)

Lost Hyde Park: A first family weighs in

Lost Hyde Park: A first family weighs in

One of the benefits of writing the series of articles for the Herald is the outreach of the paper. We received a call from the great-grandson of Paul Cornell, John Cornell, who currently resides in Florida. Mr. Cornell saw one of the articles and called to find where he could purchase the book, Chicago’s Historic Hyde Park.  In(…)

40 Comments

  1. cynthia winter
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 09:46:20

    reading your book brings back many family memories – all of the stories from my grandparents and assorted relatives. I will share this favorite image – a 1906 postcard from the Chicago Beach Hotel – one of my great aunts worked there as a social director

    Reply

    • Susan Davis
      Feb 25, 2014 @ 13:06:34

      Cynthia, your postcard did not come through, but here are a few others your great aunt would have enjoyed–

      Reply

  2. Ellen
    Feb 21, 2014 @ 20:15:44

    Misset series 3, just found it, Please a book at least I’ll the whole book not just chapters. Thanks

    Reply

  3. Ellen
    Feb 21, 2014 @ 21:35:50

    Just ordered your book. Yea!

    Reply

    • Susan Davis
      Feb 22, 2014 @ 08:25:45

      Thank you Ellen for your enthusiasm about the articles and the neighborhood. I hope you enjoy the book!

      Reply

  4. Walter Trent
    Feb 24, 2014 @ 11:02:06

    Apartment buildings before the 1929 crash could only be formed as cooperatives or rentals since Illinois didn’t enact the condominium form of ownership until 1962. But in order to pay the buildings’ ongoing costs even buildings like The Powhattan rented their apartments per Neil Harris; rentals are not permitted there nowadays. Many rental buildings converted to condos after 1962, and some limit the number that may be rented to preserve the nature of the building and because lenders restrict the number of apartments they want to be rented. One unusual building, the 1924 Jackson Towers, was originally a ‘partial’ cooperative with the duplex units being in the cooperative and other apartments being rented. In mid-1967 it became a condominium. Examples in the Indian Village/Chicago Beach Tract area of cooperative conversions to condominiums were the Narragansett in early 1967 and 5000 East End in late 2010. And conversion from rentals was The Barclay in 1973 and 5000 Cornell in 1979. But The Chippeawa (1972) was originally and remains a cooperative.

    Reply

  5. Craig
    Feb 25, 2014 @ 11:35:48

    Susan:

    Love your articles in the Herald. I had hoped for years that someone would do something like this. Get all the cool history and serve it up in bite-sized chunks for easy digestion. Rich. The before-and-after photos are particularly fun. Thanks, and keep up the fantastic work.

    Craig

    Reply

  6. Susan Davis
    Feb 25, 2014 @ 12:59:11

    Thanks Walter, I did not know that about Jackson Towers, which is the only building you mentioned that is not located in the part of Hyde Park known as “Indian Village.” Here is an image of the area before landfill made that part of Hyde Park–

    Reply

  7. Raytus
    Feb 25, 2014 @ 14:05:02

    Is that square area east of the CBH their beach?

    Reply

    • Susan Davis
      Feb 26, 2014 @ 08:38:35

      The bathing beach was on the north side of the hotel. That “square” seems to hold tennis courts.

      Reply

      • Susan Davis
        Feb 26, 2014 @ 08:41:09

        Here is an early image of the beach-

        Reply

  8. Raytus
    Feb 25, 2014 @ 14:13:06

    Ms. Davis – do you have any pictures of the buildings which used to occupy 1700 East 56th Street, or any of that building going up?

    Reply

    • Susan Davis
      Feb 26, 2014 @ 09:02:13

      I do not have one of the Windermere under construction, but do have one taken shortly after completion. Apologies for the quality, it it a photocopy, but the original and others are at he Chicago History Museum.

      Reply

  9. Raytus
    Feb 26, 2014 @ 12:49:03

    1700 East 56th is a the high rise which occupies the walk-ups to the right of the Windemere in this photo.

    Reply

  10. Susan Davis
    Feb 26, 2014 @ 15:16:35

    Aha! Thank you, for you have found a typo in the book. I had the address for the highrise listed as 1799 when it is in fact 1700 East 56th.

    Reply

  11. Raytus
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 09:42:17

    That’s the assessment, not the address. :)

    The Herald should have a link to your blog under their blog menu.

    Reply

  12. Susan Davis
    Mar 19, 2014 @ 12:37:15

    As soon as the ground thaws, the greystones are gone-

    http://hpherald.com/2014/03/19/days-numbered-for-harper-greystones/

    Reply

    • Linda Tucker
      Apr 09, 2014 @ 17:22:39

      damn shame. Always like those greystone facades.

      Reply

  13. jerald miller
    Mar 21, 2014 @ 16:51:08

    MAC Properties demolishes three historic greystones on Harper Avenue to make way for a parking lot.
    http://hpherald.com/2014/03/21/theyre-history/

    Reply

  14. Liz
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 10:31:32

    Hi Susan! I’m on Dorchester at 51st and am curious about the history of the townhomes and coach houses along the east side of the street. Can you help guide my search? Thank you!

    Reply

  15. Susan Davis
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 14:23:25

    Hi Liz-

    That is a wonderful block! Send along a few addresses and I will look to see what I have, and give you a few places to look on your own–

    Reply

  16. Linda Tucker
    Apr 09, 2014 @ 17:23:30

    “liked”

    Reply

  17. Ellen
    May 16, 2014 @ 14:22:10

    Ms. Davis, enjoying your book very much. Would you happen to have a picture of Eugene K. Butler
    home,built before 1890 and torn down in the 1940′s. The address was 4850 S. Greenwood, any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    Reply

    • Susan Davis
      May 17, 2014 @ 10:23:26

      Hi Ellen,

      I do recall an image of that house from the Chicago History Museum, and I may have even purchased a negative that I found on-line. Let me dig around and I will post it on the website here. It was a two and a half story stone house…and the sidewalk leading from the street toward the front door is still there-

      What is your connection to the house?

      Reply

  18. Ellen
    May 22, 2014 @ 17:03:22

    Hi Ms. Davis, I have no direct connection to this house, however I do have scrapbook of the early Hype
    Park and Kenwood homes. I would greatly appreciate your posting it on the website.
    Thank You for your help

    Reply

  19. Susan Davis
    May 23, 2014 @ 08:47:19

    These four images of the house that stood on the northwest corner of Greenwood and 49th Street are available at the Chicago History Museum. Sorry these are just photocopies, but originals are in the street file under Greenwood.

    Reply

    • Ellen
      Jun 12, 2014 @ 18:21:53

      Thanks Ms. Davis, will contact the Museum, thanks again.

      Reply

    • Ellen
      Jul 25, 2014 @ 13:59:36

      Ms. Davis, I contacted the Chicago History Museum and they informed me that they had no photo
      of this home! Could you advise me is their another source to go too, I would like very much to
      purchase it.
      Thank you

      Reply

      • Susan Davis
        Jul 29, 2014 @ 11:46:20

        It was definately from the History Museum- try this:

        1997.18
        Cityscapes
        Box 2 Folder 12

        You will really enjoy everything that is under the cityscapes file-

        Reply

        • Ellen
          Aug 15, 2014 @ 18:58:24

          Thanks Ms. Davis, will do.

          Reply

          • Ellen
            Aug 26, 2014 @ 20:27:01

            No luck once again! I can only surmise that I need to be in Chicago at my age I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to go home again!

    • Helen
      Sep 07, 2014 @ 19:54:33

      Thank you very much for posting these photos. I have been searching for images of this house for the past 5 years. Looking through your book at a friend’s home this past weekend reignited my interest once again, and I was handsomely rewarded! If you have any other leads on this house, I would appreciate hearing about those as well.

      Reply

  20. Meri J.
    Jun 12, 2014 @ 13:08:31

    Do you know any of the history related to the property immediately adjacent (south) to the JCC, 5200 S. Hyde Park Blvd. ? I believe the address is 5248 S. Hyde Park. Blvd. Have searched every source with no success. Even the JCC since their parking lot is immediately behind it. It does not appear to have a PIN #

    Reply

    • Susan Davis
      Jun 28, 2014 @ 09:36:44

      Is this the property? It is marked to be demolished……

      Reply

      • FG
        Jun 30, 2014 @ 14:43:32

        Who owns it now? It’s quite a handsome building, though perhaps not right for a condo conversion due to lack of parking (and perhaps right of first refusal by surrounding property owners).

        Reply

  21. Susan Davis
    Jun 28, 2014 @ 09:45:43

    The Sanborn map 1895 at the Chicago History Museum will let you know what was on the property initially. It appears the lot was just to the south of where the house on p 61 of the book appears, and is visible to the left in that image.

    Reply

  22. Meri J.
    Jul 23, 2014 @ 17:59:08

    Yes. That is a picture of it. Drove around the back of the property. The JCC appears to have possession of what would have been the parking lot for this building. The actual address is 5232 S.Hyde Park Blvd. I don’t know if the big red X means that it is a dangerous building, signaling a warning for fire fighters, or that it will be demolished. There were some funds set aside after the fire fighters dying on 75th street when going into an unsafe building. Many buildings were marked with a big red X to warn firefighters.The funds ran out and the red X’s remain. Don’t know if this building is one of those. Called JCC. No one seems to know about ownership. May not have asked the right person.

    Reply

    • Susan Davis
      Jul 29, 2014 @ 11:48:13

      The red X does signify that firefighters should be aware it is structurally unsound. Am told that it is owned by Diane Silverman’s (Urban Search) son, but that could be right or wrong.

      Reply

      • Walter Trent
        Aug 03, 2014 @ 21:38:36

        The Boarded up Townhouse at 5232 South Hyde Park Blvd. North of East Park Towers at 53rd Street (PIN 20-12-108-033-0000) had been occupied for years up to l0/07 as a 6 family rental at which time Joshau Silverman, the younger son of Diana and Louis Silverman of Urban Search Real Estate, bought it from the owner’s estate for $l,l000,000 with the intention to renovate the interior from a $3 million bank mortgage. The building dates back to 1906 or 1911 or 1915. For decades it was owned and occupied by the Eisendraths. The property was foreclosed on 8/6/12. The rear parking (PIN 20-12-108-018-0000) lot was bought by Congregation Rodfei Zedex on 10/21/98, price unknown; there is no access to the building from South Cornell (#5235). In the latter years two of the
        renters were Andre Patner of WFMT and another Chicago Print Journalist
        Don Terry. The Eiendraths were members of an old Chicago German Jewish family. They did not put money into the property and many of the tenants were
        there for decades at a stretch with rents rarely being raised.

        the SouthCornell (#5235) side.

        Reply

        • FG
          Aug 08, 2014 @ 14:28:51

          There was an Eisendrath living there until she died, as I understand it, sometime in the late 90′s iirc.

          Reply

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