Perry H. Smith, Jr. House
by: chicago designslinger
[Perry H. Smith, Jr. House (1887) Cobb & Frost, architects (1991) addition and restoration, Hammond, Beeby & Babka, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
On November 7, 1930 a letter arrived at 1400 N. Astor Street instructing the home's owner James Offield to pay a large sum of money to guarantee the safety of his daughter, who the writers threatened to kidnap unless Offield ponied-up the cash. Young Betty Offield's mother Dorothy was the daughter of chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr., so the real target was Grandpa who was one of the country's wealthiest citizens at the time. Nothing ever came of it, and in 1932 Betty's parents sent out an engagement announcement announcing their daughter's betrothal to James Hunt. The young debutante was now in line to inherit 1/10th of her recently deceased grandfather's multi-million dollar estate. But we're getting ahead of ourselves, the story of 1400 begins decades earlier with Mr. Perry H. Smith, Jr. the man who actually built the house on the northwest corner of Schiller and Astor Streets.
[Perry H. Smith, Jr. House, 1400 N. Astor Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Perry H. Smith, Sr. had made a ton of money in railroads and real estate. He died in 1885 and left his widow, 3 sons and a daughter, over $2 million which was a lot of cash back in those days. In 1887, Perry Junior went to the offices of Henry Ives Cobb and Charles Frost and asked them to design a house for he and his family on a largely vacant, newly emerging Astor Street. Potter Palmer had recently constructed one the the largest houses in Chicago around the corner, and Smith was ready to follow Palmer into the Astor Street wilderness. In 1891, Perry's wife Emma, a member of Chicago's mighty McCormick clan, became ill and they decided that she needed to seek a cure in Europe and so the Smith's sold the house. The red brick mansion went through a number of owners before the Offield/Wrigley purchase, including Louise de Koven Bowen who purchased the house for her daughter in 1913. Mrs. Bowen lived just up the street at 1430, in one of Astor's larger abodes.
[Perry H. Smith, Jr. House, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Dorothy Wrigley Offield lived in her Astor Street home until her death in 1979 at age 92. Betty had died three years earlier in Pasadena, CA. The house went up for auction in 1983, and the gavel came down with a winning bid of $600,000. In 1991, architects Hammond Beeby & Babka did a very sensitive addition at the rear of the 15,000 square foot house, including the brick-wrapped turret that compliments Cobb & Frost's design so well that you'd never guess it was new.