Joseph T. Ryerson House
by: chicago designslinger
[Joseph T. Ryerson House (1921) David Adler, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
There was a time in Chicago when the name Ryerson meant steel in the same way that the name Field meant retail, and Armour meant meat. Joseph T. Ryerson came to Chicago in 1842 and soon thereafter founded the Joseph T. Ryerson & Son steel processing and wholesale company. However, he is not the Joseph T. Ryerson who built this mansion in 1921 on Chicago's Gold Coast. That honor belongs to grandson Joseph T. Ryerson II (sometimes known as Jr.), who at the time of the house's construction was the president of his grandfather's company.
[Joseph T. Ryerson House, 1406 N. Astor Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Believe it or not, there was already a large single family home standing on this Astor Street plot of land, the Edward J. Martyn residence designed in 1890 by architects Jenney & Mundie. But Joe and Annie Ryerson must not have found William LeBaron Jenney's style conducive to their tastes, so the 30-year-old house was torn down to make way for architect David Adler's homage to late 18th-century Paris. Adler was a master classicist. Trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the designer had a pitch-perfect sense of symmetry and scale no matter which classically-inspired era he chose to design in. In 1947 the Ryersons hosted a party in their 16,000-square-foot, 22-room, Directoire-inspired mansion to raise money for the American Aid to France Fund. In attendance, along with 100 Francophile-friendly Chicagoans, was none other than Maurice Chevalier to lend a helping hand. The Chicago Tribune took their readers through the house as guests "checked their wraps on the ground floor before going up a gently curving staircase to the drawing room, library and dining room" which "is particularly suited to entertaining."
[Joseph T. Ryerson House, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
In 1931 Ryerson called on the architect once again to add an additional story to the house because he needed more space for his gigantic collection of Chicago-related memorabilia. The collection was passed-on to the Chicago Historical Society after Ryerson death in 1947, and in 1949 the house itself was passed-on to new owners. Sixteen years later 1406 Astor Street was back in the headlines, only this time the story wasn't about parties, it was about the controversial proposal to convert the 22-room single family home into an 11-unit, multi-family dwelling. Then in 1985 architect and interior designer John Regas purchased the apartment building for a reported $1.8 million, and began an extensive 15 year restoration of the house, converting it back into a single family home that David Adler and the Ryersons, would be proud of. Regas sold the home in 2006 for $9.2 million, and the new owners added another story along with a brush-covering row of tall, thick, tree/hedges that almost obliterate the house from view during leafy months.