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 our conversation Cornell questioned whether his grandfather was included in the document, and mentioned this three-story yellow brick structure at 5114-5116 South Blackstone, built for a W. Fish in 1893.

Now converted into three apartments, the once attractive structure was for a time the home of John Evans Cornell and his wife Katherine Spear. Cornell was the son of Hyde Park’s founding father, Paul Cornell. Until recently, the former single-family house had a striking front porch with fluted white columns, and a cornice that is still visible in the rear. This image was taken while the structure was undergoing renovation, in hopes of pointing out the importance of landmarking and respectful restoration.

What I did not understand at the time I snapped the shot was the historical significance of the folks who once lived there.

On the south side of the property is Hyde Park’s own version of the Petit Trianon. In 1935 the building at the rear was constructed for John and Katherine’s daughter, Grace Cornell Graff, and her partner and husband Kurt Graff. They were internationally acclaimed modern dancers, and gave lessons and performances in the classically embellished structure that was then known as Graff Studios.