Augustus Warner House
by: chicago designslinger
[Augustus Warner House (1884) L. Gustav Hallberg, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Augustus Warner was what you might call a jack-of-all-trades. He began his professional life in 1858 as a teacher in his home state of Connecticut then switched to surveying and map-making in the mid-1860s. In 1869 after a stint in Warren County, Ohio producing and selling maps of the region, Warner came to Chicago. This time he went into the map-making business with J.H. Beers, then married his partner's sister Rissa. Mapping morphed into publishing, and in 1876 Warner purchased the Chicago Daily Courier for the sole purpose of drumming-up support for the presidential candidacy of Samuel J. Tilden. Shifting gears once again he went to China and Japan in 1878, bought bundles of silk, pottery and other assorted Far Eastern trinkets, opened a store with John A. Spooner, and closed-up shop in 1884 after a financial dispute with his store-owning partner. That same year he hired architect Gustav Hallberg and built a house in Chicago's emerging, soon-to-be-named Gold Coast neighborhood.
[Augustus Warner House, 1337 N. Dearborn Parkway, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The Warners weren't the first family to move into a house on North Dearborn Avenue. Houses built by some of the city's upper-middle-class businessmen began cropping-up along the street not long after the Great Fire in 1871. And although the 25-foot wide townhouse Hallberg designed for the Warners would stand cheek-by-jowl along a row of adjoining houses, the social cache of the neighborhood really started to take-off after the Potter Palmer's built their castle two blocks to the east in 1882. All this while Hallberg was on his way to becoming one of the areas busier architects, building a number of houses on Dearborn and surrounding streets. He seemed an appropriate choice for the teacher/map-maker/publisher/shop owner, now Chicago Stock Exchange member. Plus Rissa Beers Warner came to the neighborhood with a founding family pedigree. Her grandfather Simon Beers, came to the city in 1837 and purchased 440 acres in and around what would eventually become 39th Street between Halsted and Ashland - which established the family's future fortune. Keeping it all in the family, in 1894 Augustus ventured-out into another money-making adventure with his brother-in-law Orrington C. Foster, Rissa's sister Mary's husband, incorporating the Syndicate Supply Company, which made among other things barbed wire. After Augustus died in 1909 at the age of 70, Rissa and their son Raymond lived on at the Dearborn Avenue address, taking-in the Holger deRoode family as tenants. The single family home would be sliced-up into smaller and smaller apartment rental units as the years went by, and in the summer of 2012 a demolition permit was filed with the city.
[Augustus Warner House, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Although the house sits in a National Register Historic District, the vagaries of landmark law do not automatically protect a property from being torn down. Once a demo permit is filed within such a designated district however, a process kicks in whereby the city is given time to review the request and see if they can convince the owner to rethink their destructive decision. The power of persuasion worked, the owner withdrew the permit, the house itself was given preliminary landmark approval, and now sits cheek-by-jowl with a similarly-sized, 19th century rowhouse to the south, and a massive, pre-preservation-district-constructed, 1970s-era apartment tower to the north.