Charles A. Dupee House
by: chicago designslinger
[Charles A. Dupee House (ca.1879) /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Charles A. Dupee came to Chicago in November 1854 with a degree from Yale University and a teaching job at Edwards Academy, one of the city's private schools. After only one term, the 24-year-old Massachusetts native decided to leave and travel abroad, but apparently the city had made an impression. On his return to the U.S. nearly a year later, instead of settling in and around the eastern seaboard, Dupee came back to Chicago. This time however he opted to teach in the city's nascent public school system and was assigned to the Franklin School located on the north side of town. Franklin grammar was one of only a handful of public schools in operation back then, and today, has the distinction of being the fifth oldest continuously operating school in the 655 CPS system.
[Charles A. Dupee House, 1314 N. Dearborn Parkway, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
He didn't stay long at the Franklin school either. By 1855 the city's population had increased to the point where there were enough students to open a high school, and in 1856 the Board of Education tapped Dupee to serve as the school's first principal. In 1860, as his 30th birthday approached, Principal Dupee switched things up once again and headed off to Harvard to get a law degree. But, just like he'd done after his European adventure, when he wrapped things up in Cambridge, instead of remaining in his native Massachusetts he returned to Chicago, and passed the Illinois bar in 1862. Now set on a career in the law, in 1863 Dupee married Jennie Wells, daughter of Chicago pioneer Henry G. Wells. The young Miss Wells, it just so happened, had graduated from Chicago High School in 1860.
[Charles A. Dupee House, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The young couple made their home in the south suburban community of Kenwood. But always itching for a change Dupee left his pastoral surroundings for a more urban environment a few miles away. After the Great Fire had obliterated most of the city's north side and the rebuilding of residential housing began to edge its way north of Division Street, prominent members of the city's business community began building elegant townhomes along Dearborn Avenue. So, by the late 1870s Dupee decided to join his contemporaries and leave Kenwood, buy an elegant 3-story townhome on Dearborn, and lived not far from the Franklin School. Dupee was on a roll. His law firm became one of the more well-connected practices in the city whose client roster boasted a number of insurance, railroad and banking institutions. Unfortunately, tragedy struck the family in 1881 when Jennie Dupee died leaving behind her husband, two teenage sons and young daughter. But never one to just sit back and lick his wounds, the 52-year-old widower married 26-year-old Elizabeth "Bessie" Nash in 1883 - and had five more children.
[Charles A. Dupee House, Dearborn Parkway, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]
The finely-honed, Athens-marble-fronted house with its elegant Second Empire mansard roof, bustled with activity. Not only were there eight children living in the house, but the Dupee's names were frequently mentioned in the society columns, attending one event after another or entertaining in their Dearborn Avenue townhouse. The law became a family tradition. The two oldest children Eugene and George followed in their father's footsteps and became lawyers, while the oldest daughter Elaine married attorney William Sidley. Then on March 26, 1902, the former educator and lawyer died in his home after a long illness. In 1908 Bessie Dupee finally packed her bags and left Dearborn Avenue. Eugene went on to become one of the movers and shakers in the city's implementation of the Burnham plan of 1909, serving as special council to the Lincoln Park Board of Commissioners who oversaw things like the expansion of Lake Shore Drive. The lawyering instinct even passed down to Eugene, Jr. who like his father and took up the bar and practiced at his grandfather's successor firm Schiff Hardin.