Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Charles H. Wacker Houses
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Charles H. Wacker Houses (1873/1884 remodel) /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The name Wacker is very familiar to most Chicagoans, and tourists often chuckle when they hear the word before realizing that there is no “h” between the w and a. But much of Chicago wouldn’t look the way it does today without the resolve of Charles H. Wacker’s implementation of the Burnham & Bennett Plan of 1909.

  [Charles H. Wacker Houses, 1836 & 1838 Lincoln Park West, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Although Charles became famous as a result of his 17 year tenure as the first head of the Chicago Plan Commission, and therefore having the double-decked street named after him, he became wealthy running his father’s brewery operation. And it was papa Frederick Wacker who built the house that only child and son Charles, would grow up in and eventually own.  

 [Charles H. Wacker Houses, Old Town Triangle National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Frederick got into the Chicago brewery business in the 1850s, but he was plagued by ill health and frequently left the city on extensive European rest cures. In 1873 after the Chicago Fire, Wacker built a house in the northern section of the burn district, but left in 1876 when he took his wife and son on an extended three year trip to Europe. Since he was not a healthy man, rest cures on the Continent were not uncommon in those days for the people who could afford them. Charles was only 20 years old when the journey began in his father’s homeland of Germany, with a long stays in Switzerland, Vienna and Paris. By the time the family came back to their Lincoln Park home in 1879, Frederick was on the mend and Charles was off to a career as a grain merchant with a Chicago trading company.
Frederick died in 1884 and Charles took over the brewery business. He remodeled the house on what was then North Park Avenue as well as the small cottage that originally stood behind the main house but had been moved from the rear of the lot and into the property’s side yard. He took-up residency in the big house with his wife and children and his mother-in-law moved into the cottage next door. As the neighborhood changed and original owners moved on, both homes were sold. In 1950 Otto Forkert bought Charles’ ornately carved and decorated Italianate dwelling and spent nearly 20 years preserving what was left of the original. In 1964 he purchased the house next door and once again the entire property was under the same ownership. Forkert eventually sold the big house, and in 2008 Amy Forkert sold the former mother-in-law cottage.

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