Monday, February 23, 2015

Bryan Lathrop House/Fortnightly of Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Bryan Lathrop House/Fortnightly of Chicago (1892) Charles McKim, McKim Mead & White, architects/ Holabird & Roche, supervising architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

As the world's attention is being drawn toward London this summer for the 2012 Olympic Games, the situation was much the same in 1892 for the city of Chicago. The Midwest hub was attracting world-wide attention as preparations were underway for the World's Columbian Exposition, and the probability that after the 1900 census Chicago would emerge as the nation's largest city, surpassing New York. 1892 was the same year that Bryan Lathrop, a man who came to Chicago in 1865 and made a killing in the city's booming real estate market, built an atypical looking mansion on the city's north side.

  [Bryan Lathrop House/Fortnightly of Chicago, 120 E. Bellevue Place, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Lathrop decided to move to Chicago at the end of the Civil War. He had spent the war years in Europe studying and once the conflict was over, decided to leave his East Coast roots behind him and join his uncle Thomas Bryan in Bryan's lucrative Chicago real estate business. Not long after settling in, Lathrop became involved in one of his uncle's investments, a cemetery venture located in what was then considered the hinterlands of the city. Plans for the transformation of large, 120-acre scrub and sand-filled site into a park-like setting for the earthly remains of the rich and famous were being drawn-up by architect William LeBaron Jenney. Working with Jenney was a young man named Ossian Simonds, the business partner, and soon to be ex-partner, of another up-and-coming architect named William Holabird. It was through this association that Lathrop met Holabird, which resulted in one of the city's most productive building-producing, landmark-making partnerships in Chicago history.

  [Bryan Lathrop House, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Enter into this many-peopled picture, Mr. Owen Aldis of Boston. Aldis represented a number of wealthy clients interested in investing their money in Chicago's booming post-fire real estate market. Peter and Shepherd Brooks, scions of an old-line Boston family, were two of Aldis's biggest clients and with a lot of Chicago-based Brooks deals underway, Aldis moved to the city to keep a closer eye on his client's money and act as their agent. Bryan Lathrop's wife Helen was Owen Aldis' sister, and Lathrop introduced William Holabird and and his new architectural partner Martin Roche to Aldis. When Lathrop decided to build a house for himself it seemed that Holabird & Roche would be the obvious choice as architects. But instead the real estate mogul chose Charles McKim of New York's McKim, Mead & White. Lathrop had met McKim while the New Yorker was in town working on plans for the World's Fair and McKim, Mead & White were a top-drawer, socially-pedigreed-firm of the highest order while Holabird & Roche, although well known for their highly regarded commercial work, their residential work was considered average. McKim's Georgian Revival design on Bellevue Place set a new standard for Chicago mansion-house construction and raised the bar a level or two. Interestingly enough though, because McKim's firm was based in New York the offices of Holabird & Roche ended-up taking on the role of supervising architects, and taking a cue from McKim's design, the Chicaog designers added a few of their own Georgian-inspired details. Soon thereafter, Georgian Revival became the style-of-choice as more and more large single family homes with 18th-century proportions began cropping-up in the wealthy north side enclave. One of Aldis and Lathrop's partners, Cyrus Bentley, who helped finance a downtown real estate venture that brought Holabird & Roche's Champlain Building to the corner of State & Madison Streets, built a Georgian Revival mansion on nearby Astor Street.

  [Fortnightly of Chicago, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Lathrop enjoyed the trend-setting house until his death in 1916. Six years later his widow Helen Aldis Lathrop, sold the mansion to a socially prominent women's organization the Fortnightly, of which Helen had been a member for the past 40 years. Kate Newell Doggett who had organized the Philosophical Club in 1872, started the Fortnightly in 1873 as a meeting place for women who were interested in socially progressive thinking and literature. An early supporter of women's suffrage, Doggett's club met every fortnight in the parlors of members homes which required more and more room for the growing number of attendees. After renting larger gathering spaces for a number of years the purchase of the Lathrop house seemed like the perfect match. And since 1922 the organization has been an attentive steward of the 120-year-old house at 120 East Bellevue Place.

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