Sunday, March 1, 2015

Alonzo M. Fuller House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Alonzo M. Fuller House (1890) Frederick W. Perkins, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Frederick W. Perkins was a Chicago based architect who had a very lucrative and productive career - yet most people have never heard of him. Even so, Perkins was one of the city's socially registered go-to architects at the close of the 19th century and first quarter of the 20th. And for those who may be wondering, he was not related to the more famous and achitecturally recognized Dwight Perkins. This Perkins designed homes and investment properties for some of the city's bigger big wigs like Joseph Leiter, son of Chicago retail and real estate tycoon Levi Leiter. F.W. Perkins designed Chateauesque style mansions for Philip Armour on Prairie Avenue and John Shedd on Drexel Boulevard. The Lake Forest house Shedd had built for his daughter and son-in-law Charles Schweppe was a Perkins commission, and the summer homes on Mackinac Island for industrialist Michael Cudahy and attorney Lawrence Young - which later became the summer residence of the Michigan's governor - were done by Perkins as well. His style choices were eclectic to say the least, which apparently made him a popular choice for some of the city's prominent residents. But before those jobs appeared on Perkins' drafting table, and four years after starting his private architectural practice, the Phillips Exeter Academy and MIT graduate designed one of his first major residential commissions for wholesale grocer Alonzo M. Fuller in 1890 in a style influence by the work of architect Henry Hobson Richardson with a few Queen Anne-styled flourishes added into the mix.

  [Alonzo M. Fuller House, 4832 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Alonzo Fuller came to Chicago in the early 1860s and got a job working in the fancy candies and fruits emporium of William M. Hoyt. Three years later Fuller and his co-worker Robert Bennett bought the store from Hoyt and watched their business venture go up in smoke along with a large portion of the rest of the city in 1871. They rebuilt, but in 1873 merged their enterprise with Hoyt's new wholesale grocery business and Fuller married Hoyt's sister Lotta. In 1882 William M. Hoyt & Company was incorporated with Hoyt as president; Fuller as vice-president, general purchaser and sales manager; and Bennett as secretary/treasurer. By 1890, when Perkins's house for the Fullers was built, Hoyt & Co. was generating over $3 million in yearly sales.

  [Alonzo M. Fuller House, Hyde Park - Kenwood National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Chicago's wholesale grocers supplied the food stuffs found in small grocery stores  around the city and the Midwest. Back-in-the day before the mega-corporate grocery store chains appeared on the scene, the small neighborhood market was the main supply line for meats, along with canned and dry goods products, for millions of shoppers. Due to the city's strategic transportation location, Chicago became home to some of the largest wholesale grocers in the nation- and William Hoyt & Co. was one of them. Given his stature as one of the ones who'd made it big in his adopted city, Fuller decided to build his multi-storied mansion on a very large lot on an up-and-coming street lined with other very large lots, in the Kenwood section of Chicago. Fuller's Ellis Avenue, and the adjacent Drexel Boulevard, would become the site of some of the city's largest houses, built with some of the city's large fortunes. Yet for all the energy and expense put into their "we have arrived" dwelling, the Fullers only occupied the house for a relatively short eight years when the 63-year-old wholesale merchant decided to retire from Hoyt & Co. and sell Perkins's stone-faced architectural statement.

  [Alonzo M. Fuller House, Kenwood Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The house was purchased by the very aristocratic sounding Wellington E. Cudney. Ironically - or not - Cudney was also in the wholesale grocery business as a purveyor of meat and meat associated products in and around the Midwest region. A grocer, or hotel kitchen for instance, would order sides of beef from Cudney & Company Wholesale Provisions that would be shipped-out to locations near and far from their plant at Orleans and Kinzie Streets. And although the Cudneys lived in the house for far longer than the Fullers by the time of Wellington Cudney's death in 1931, Alonzo M. Fuller's name will be forever attached to the Ellis Avenue manse because in the way of the world of house naming, it's usually whoever commissioned the job and ponied-up the cash in the first place, who gets to keep the name.

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