Monday, February 23, 2015

Albert F. Madlener House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Albert F. Madlener House (1902) Richard E. Schmidt, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Albert Madlener house is one of those Chicago architectural wonders often referred to as "groundbreaking," making all kinds of "must see" lists. Originating from the architectural office of Richard E. Schmidt and his lead designer Hugh M. Garden, and paid for by liquor distiller and investment banker Albert F. Madlener, the house is a blend of Prairie School styling with a touch of Arts & Crafts, and a dash of Louis Sullivan.

[Albert F. Madlener House, 4 W. Burton Place, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Madlener & his wife Elisa Seipp Madlener, daughter of one of the city's wealthier brewers Conrad Seipp, raised their son Albert Jr. in the house, who, in 1963, decided to sell the old family homestead to a developer  following his mother's death the previous year. Once word got out that the Madlener house was on its way to becoming a pile of rubble in order to clear the site for a modern high-rise apartment building, a small but vocal group of architects began writing letters to the the editor of the city's newspapers in an attempt to raise awareness of the impending demolition. Charles F. Murphy, Jr. a Chicago architect and partner in his father Charles, Sr.'s firm, stepped in to save the day.

    [Albert F. Madlener House, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Murphys were trustees of the Graham Foundation for the Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts founded in 1956 from a bequest left by architect Ernest Graham after his death in 1936. The country was in the midst of the Great Depression at the time so there was no interest income being generated by the principal monies left in the estate, and it took another 20 years before the Foundation was able to award its first grant. By 1963 the lease on the foundation's Superior Street office was set to expire and Charles, Jr. thought a move into the Madlener house seemed like the perfect solution. He went to see his parents and proposed the idea, they agreed, and because of all of the bad publicity surrounding the loss of the house to the wrecking ball, the developer agreed to sell the property for $450,000.
Although the house was saved, all of the original hardware had been stripped from the interior. Prior to the sale, Albert, Jr. held an auction where the hardware was put-up for sale to the highest bidder, and the money raised was given to charity. Other than that, the house had survived the previous 61 years intact and unchanged, and has been meticulously cared for by the Graham Foundation ever since.

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